Achieving a Balanced Life
I’m sitting down to write this after a long week at work – a week of 5am meetings and 11pm emails. A week where I found myself spending more time working than I would care to. A week that was not sustainable. And sitting down right now to write about “work-life balance”, I was starting to feel like a fraud. I stopped to think what exactly it was about work-life balance that I wanted to discuss in this piece, and the more I thought about it the more I realized how much I actually dislike that phrase.
There are two main reasons that I dislike the phrase work-life balance. The first is that it assumes that “work” and “life” are two separate and mutually exclusive ideas. That life only exists outside of work, which I believe is an unhealthy way to think about both work and life. The second is that it suggests that both sides carry equal weight. That to be balanced we must spend as much time and energy on work as we do on everything else in our life combined. It uses “life” as a catch-all for everything that is not “work”, which I believe undervalues everything that goes in the non-work category.
As I pondered ways to talk about achieving a balanced life without using the phrase “work-life balance”, I remembered an article I had recently read by the Center for Creative Leadership about holistic leadership. The article used a button as a metaphor for the four facets of holistic leadership. The idea was that leaders achieve holistic balance by prioritizing self, family, career, and community. Just like buttons use four holes to keep them affixed to clothing, leaders use these four facets to hold balance in their lives.
The metaphor can be further extrapolated to think about what happens when some of the threads start to come loose. If one hole on a button starts to lose threads, the other three can usually keep the button attached. But if multiple holes start losing threads, or if loose threads go too long without being repaired, the entire button will slowly lose integrity and eventually fall off. This is the same with the four facets of holistic leadership. We don’t need to always have perfectly equal balance between the four facets. If one dips low from time to time, the other three can still provide a sense of balance in our lives. As long as multiple facets don’t dip low at the same time, and as long as there aren’t any facets that are permanently low, we can still rely and lean on the ones that stand strong.
The four facets of holistic leadership can be used as a guideline to help us keep our lives in balance. They are a checklist to remind us what is important in life and that no singular aspect of our lives is paramount or worth completely sacrificing other aspects. Through the ebbs and flows of daily life, different aspects may be more prominent than others at certain times, but all four are required to work in harmony to keep us truly balanced.
As I reflect on a week in which my career was prioritized, I’m reminded to make time to connect with my family, focus on self-care, and engage with my community. That’s precisely what I intend to do this weekend and in the coming week. There’s nothing wrong with having a week that is heavily focused on your career – just as there is nothing wrong with having a week that is heavily focused on your family, your community, or yourself. What prevents those types of weeks from throwing your life off balance is remembering the importance of holistic leadership and taking the time to intentionally strengthen the other facets of your life.
*Meet the Author*
Morgan has worked with Leadership Inspirations for five years. He has a B.A. in Integrated Educational Studies and an M.A. in Leadership Development from Chapman University.
Favorite quote: “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end” – John Lennon
Fun facts: 1) I once trained my pet goldfish to play basketball 2) When I was little I wanted to be a Disneyland parking attendant 3) I’m a big Justin Timberlake fan