It’s Time to Re-Work Your Work-Life Balance Beliefs

December 24, 2017


Do you ever feel that your life at work and at home, is all work? You may find yourself doing only the things you must do at work rather than spending time on something about which you are truly passionate—and then you get home and feel the same way. While this lifestyle may have purpose, it often lacks joy and rejuvenation.

Every morning as I turn on my laptop, my 2017 annual goals practically stare me down. There is one I fail to achieve every year—‘Improve work-life balance,’ so I would usually simply add it to my list of New Year goals. A recent Forbes article entitled, The Crucial Thing Missing from the Work-Life Balance Debate,’ gave me new perspective and filled me with hope.

The author cites the prototypical discussion in which ‘“work”—a person’s professional pursuits—is something to be held at bay lest it consume “life”—a person’s family time and personal pursuits.’ The underlying assumption is that it’s human nature to prioritize professional responsibilities over personal duties, and that the “things that really matter” are those other than a person’s career pursuits. The model is flawed because in reality, some people choose to prioritize family over career pursuits during certain stages of life. In addition, not everyone pursues a career solely for the purposes of professional and financial gain so as to ultimately provide for a family.

The article’s author practices Dale Carnegie’s 21st Human Relations principle by, ‘Throwing down a challenge,’ imploring readers to rethink their definition of work-life balance. He proposes a new framework for flourishing which is a matrix with ‘Life: what we want to do’ on the horizontal axis and ‘Work: what we have to do,’ on the vertical axis. The continuum for life is anchored by ‘joyless’ and ‘joyful,’ and the continuum for work is anchored by ‘purposeless’ and ‘purposeful.’ When both joyful and purposeful sentiments are attained, a person will feel fulfilled; and when they’re not, the person will feel miserable.

Having job responsibilities like lengthy meetings and PowerPoint presentations may always be an aspect of person’s role, however if they’re doing what they love and/or understand how their individual output contributes to a greater whole, they are more likely to feel both fulfilled and joyful. Likewise at home, I have plenty of responsibilities that are joyless—running errands; meal planning, laundry and constant cleaning, etc. When I focus on the fact that the purpose of all these activities is my family’s happiness and fulfillment, I actually derive joy every time I complete one of these necessary tasks.

Dale Carnegie said, “It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.” As the end of the year draws near and you set goals for the New Year, consider which goals correspond to feeling purposeful or joyful—and reconsider any that fall short.

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