Would we all be happier if we could get the balance right?

Probably not.

We cling to the fantasy of work-life balance because it’s hard to admit that we can’t stay on top of the many demands we face. We prefer to imagine that there’s a recipe for holding it all together.

So should we lose the idea of work-life balance?


We need to realise that we simply can’t give everyone in our lives what they need, when they need it.

Our time and energy is limited. We can’t balance the endless demands from all sides especially since many of them come at us out of the blue and upset the neatly planned deadlines we set to cope with the demands we already have.

Balance means off-setting opposing weights or forces. When we say ‘no’ to one thing, we say ‘yes’ to another. So we’re constantly letting one side down as we please another. It is a competitive concept that actually adds to our stress.

We always feel fragmented and never get to be fully present in any part of our lives. If we chase the myth of work-life balance, we’ll always be defeated.

The underlying problem with the idea of work-life balance is that it is a way of life based on external demands rather than internal direction. It leaves us unhappy and frustrated, living second-hand lives as we try to be what other people want us to be, rather than being present as who we are. We develop a ‘hardening of the ought-eries’.

But, how do we deal with conflicting demands on our time?

It’s not easy, but it is simple. We need to live inside-out.

That means knowing who you are and what you need, which is a function of your values, and making choices and taking action consistent with this. Then your life will be composed of cooperative components that support and benefit one another.

Such integration is a deep, soulful action.

It begins with the examination of who we are and who we want to be. It is only possible if we take ourselves seriously and don’t base who we are on the approval of others. That means making some hard, value-based choices.

It’s easier to play the victim and let circumstances and other people decide our lives for us. But by taking responsibility for how we choose to spend our time and energy, we become empowered managers of our own lives.

Yes, but how?

  • Speak differently: Replace, ‘I have to’ with, ‘I want to’. Emphasise the idea that

everything you do is a choice. That will help you make decisions in terms of what you want the shape of your life to be.

  • Commit to coaching: A solid coaching process can facilitate choices and actions for a more integrated, self-led life.
  • Stop the clock: Go on a leadership / personal mastery retreat to reconnect with your core values.
  • Get natural: Spend some time outside with scenes of natural beauty and practice being deeply present there. The sea, trees, mountains and open veld don’t need anything from you and so help you to get perspective.
  • Be inclusive: If you’re an employer or manager, include partners and, where possible, children, in Staff functions. Of course that will change the type of function that can be planned, but that’s the point. The partners of your employees are involved in your work dynamics, like it or not, so you will benefit from acknowledging that and making them ‘part of the family’ as often as possible.
  • Don’t rescue: If someone you love has lost their balance, don’t protect him / her from the consequences by covering for them when they’re spinning. Rather help them recover direction by helping them reconnect with their core needs and values.

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