Much has been said of work/life balance. This terminology has evolved over many, many years. It began as work/leisure balance and in the 1980’s evolved into work/life balance. People look at the term work/life balance differently. I look at it as work and life.
Work/life balance is a concept which includes proper prioritization between work (career and ambition) and life-style (health, pleasure, leisure, family and spiritual development). For many people, attempting to balance work and life is quite stressful. Work-Life Balance: A Guide to Surviving the Stress provides tips on how to reduce that stress.
Another source defines work/life balance as daily achievement and enjoyment in each of four life’s quadrants-work, family, friends and self.
You Should Not Attempt to Balance Work and Life
Working for close to four decades, I realized that everyone’s definition of work/life balance is different based upon their life’s priorities. Also, people think the way they envision they should live their lives, is the right balance of work and life for everyone. However, nothing is further from the truth.
I have been retired for over 5 years. It has been a great learning experience for me. I have learned lots about myself and others. I still “work” whether it is on typical office/business type activities or installing hardwood floors, digging a drainage system, or volunteering at a domestic violence center. Life should be one continuous learning experience.
I retired after working for a large accounting firm for almost 34 years. My job and my co-workers were quite enjoyable. I enjoyed learning from, and contributing to, my clients and their business. I also loved our people; they are young and bring new ideas and energy to the workplace everyday.
95% of the time I enjoyed working, and I gave my best every day. You see, I grew up in a middle class family and was always told to work hard and do your best. To this day, I love working hard – trying to achieve a goal. Therefore, I always tried to instill those same values in my co-workers.
During those 34 years I was always told I: worked too hard; didn’t enjoy myself enough; should take more time off; should spend more time with my family; and shouldn’t expect as much from others as I do from myself.
I was told I needed a better work/life balance. However, you should not attempt to balance work and life. They do not balance. They provide different experiences upon which you build a lifetime of learning.
Reflect on Comments From Others But Don’t Apologize For Working
I didn’t ignore those comments. I thought about them often and wondered was I doing the best I could for my family, friends, coworkers and my community? Was I happy with where I was spending my time? I periodically adjusted my schedule and consciously did more of one thing than another, to see if it made me or others feel better than we already did. I realized if I worked hard on all my priorities, I was most effective and most happy.
A Recent Work and Life Conversation
On a recent trip to see a country concert with my wife, I ran into a newly retired health plan executive. I was sitting by a pool reading some “work” related materials. The gentleman was sitting next to me and said “Boy, I am so glad I don’t have to interrupt my vacations reading work material anymore. I am retired, I just retired.” I looked at him and said, “So am I!”
We talked for a bit and I said I don’t mind reading “work” material. I don’t do it 60 hours a week anymore. He then said, “I thought I would take a 2-3 month vacation, then figure out what I want to do”. He was apologizing for not being productive. I said one thing I learned is to never apologize for doing what you want to do. If you do, you will be apologizing all the time and quite often you will be wondering why. You see, most people don’t understand why you want to “contribute”, “give back” or “work”. Many people try to make you feel that your time should all be spent engaged in traditional leisure activities.
The Three Parts of Work and Life
I have always looked at life in three pieces. My family and friends, my work and volunteering/ giving back by either contributing time, money or expertise. I never called the lines between those activities work/life balance.
For me, there were no lines. All three activities enabled me to experience positive feelings of: accomplishment, pride, satisfaction, joy, hope, cheerfulness, gratitude, contentment, inspiration, awe, and love. I also felt disappointment, regret, frustration, sadness, guilt, anxiety, anger and jealousy. I am sure there are other positive and negative feelings I experienced. But you get the picture.
All these experiences made me who I am and enabled me to contribute to family and friends, work and my community in more meaningful ways. All these experiences made me more motivated, accepting of others, and more compassionate.
One of My Favorite Quotes From George Bernard Shaw
Whether you are just beginning your working career, are in its prime, preparing to retire or in retirement, organize your life the way you are most happy. Let the work/life balance advocates try to balance their lives. As for you, keep working and keep learning.
George Bernard Shaw said, “I am of the opinion that life belongs to the community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is a sort of splendid torch, which I got hold of for a moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”
What do you think of the term work/life balance? And the quote from George Bernard Shaw?