Balancing Act: Is Work-Personal Life Balance Achievable?

Balancing ActBefore we talk about balancing work and personal life, I should clarify that in my brain I think of balance as a perfect symmetry. To me, balance means complete equality between all elements.

When looking at it that way, I think the answer to the balance question is no – there is no such thing as a perfect work-personal life balance. Just as there’s no such thing as a perfect balance in any other aspect of life because life is unpredictable and imperfect.

So, based on my thought process, does this mean that those of us who work and have personal commitments have no hope for ever achieving balance? I certainly hope not! But what’s the solution?

Getting Rid of “Balance”

The first step is using the right terminology, especially for those of us (okay, me) who tend to get hung up on literal meanings and exact specifications. If we can’t aim for work-personal life balance, what should we strive for?

I like to think of it as an ongoing quest for a level of acceptable compromise, because instead of balance, I think the best we can aim for is a level of give and take that satisfies all of our needs in the best way possible. Plus, by ditching “work-personal life balance” and adopting “work-personal life compromise,” we rid ourselves of a lot of the pressure that comes with achieving an unachievable balance. And it allows for the very personal aspects of what that compromise entails.

The Three Most Important Elements of an Acceptable Work-Personal Life Compromise

At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter what you call it. You simply can’t ignore the fact that you have opposing forces pushing and pulling you in all directions. Whether it’s balance or compromise, we all just want to feel like we’re present in all aspects of our life, living satisfied lives and keeping those around us happy.

In order to do this, there are three essential things we need to keep in front of us to make our struggle for acceptable compromise achievable.

Priorities

The first essential element involves taking a long, hard and realistic look at your priorities. Whether you work outside the home or have your own business, have kids or pets or aging parents, or have hobbies you’re not willing to let go of, you need to be able to rank the importance of all aspects of your life.

It’s important to recognize that your priorities will change, sometimes frequently, and if you’re not clear on what parts of your life need your attention first, achieving an acceptable compromise will be a struggle.

Flexibility

Because your priorities will change, and life has a way of introducing unexpected (and sometimes unwanted) surprises, you need to be flexible in order to accommodate these changes, regroup and shuffle your priorities, and change directions when necessary. By avoiding looking at your priorities as set in stone, you’ll gain the flexibility you need to move with the changes.

Acceptance

The last necessary element of achieving an acceptable work-personal life compromise, is being willing to accept that the level of compromise you attain will not always be ideal. The reality is that some days are better than others and some priorities will be easier to satisfy than others.

The key is to remember that with a constant give and take, and the goal of doing the best you can at any given time, you can trust that it will eventually all even out in the end.

How you do handle the inherent desire for work-personal life balance? Do you think it’s achievable?

Image credit: Kristin Smith

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  • Rachel Andrew

    I agree and think people create unrealistic expectations by thinking they can achieve some perfect work life balance at all times. As a working mum with my own business there are times when I have to expect my daughter to fend for herself as I struggle to meet some crazy deadline – however the flipside of that is that I have the flexibility to take a day off mid week to get her to an audition.

    There are weeks where it all goes wrong and there are weeks where I feel like a productivity marvel. The trick is to look at the bigger picture – what did I achieve this month in terms of the various areas of my life, rather than on a daily or weekly basis. If on a monthly view something is lacking then that’s probably a good time to address it for next month. Or perhaps to accept that this ‘imbalance’ is necessary to meet some time-specific goal (passing an exam for example) and that you’ll be able to take some time for other areas once the time has passed.

  • mhchipmunk

    I like your way of looking at it as a work-life compromise instead of balance. Even just hearing the phrase seems to lighten the weight a bit. I don’t have to be perfect.

  • Yogi-one

    This is a big subject you have touched on with a short post.

    So, first thing: I actually prefer the term “balance”. “Balance” implies that you are grounded, and that you are moving in a deliberate fashion. It implies that you are neither rushing nor dragging. “Balance” implies a natural motion. I like all that imagery.

    My definition of balance is not static, or “perfect”. My definition of balance is an ongoing, self-adjusting movement within the flow of one’s life.

    On the other hand, there many things I don’t like about the word “comprimise”. “Compromise” implies settling for less, i.e. being happy with the consolation prize. “Compromise” is not a word you want to use to describe your activites towards achieving any goal.

    Second thing: There is an alternative viewpoint to simply deciding that your work and personal life are opposing forces. In fact, I like this even less than “compromise”. “Oppsong forces” means a struggle, an antagonism, and it implies suffering. Not good for your stress levels or sense of self-acceptance.

    How about “re-inforcing” or “complimentary”. You work to make money. If the money is not coming from anywhere else, you can start by realizing that the work makes possible that you support yourself and your kids on a daily basis. Or maybe you actually work in a field that you really have a passion for. That’s even more complimentary.

    For example, I work a job and have a second music career. The job has financed my latest CD, enabled me to pay my musicians when the gig can’t (like a charity gig or local street-festival situation), given me the money to promote my music, and enabled me to travel to make music. It is, in fact, directly because of my job and only because of my job, that I was able to fund a lot of my musical endeavors. So my job is not opposing my music. In fact, it’s working together to help me achieve my goals.

    Also, jobs have a lot of secondary benefits, such as you have to learn to deal with people and situations you wouldn’t otherwise put yourself in. This develops tolerance for others, experience in dealing with others who have different values from yours, and many times the demands of a job help us find new resources in ourselves to get things done, thereby increasing our independence and self-confidence.

    So, from this viewpopint my job has helped me to gain interpernal skills, personal resources, and plain old cash to help my music career. So they work together.

    This is balance.

  • http://www.1dumbgift.com/ Mackeran

    In truth, immediately i didn’t understand the essence. But after re-reading all at once became clear.

  • basia

    Acceptance is important.
    It is necessary to accept small kids, old parents, sickness, unemployment and all another problems which come with life. Afterwards it is possible to deal with the problems.

    Greetings :-)
    Basia