Work-life balance. For a long time, I thought I must be doing it wrong.
People talk about balance as if it’s a noun. A static thing. A permanent condition. As if, once you attain it, all your problems will shrink into dust motes and float away while you experience a constant state of blissful nirvana.
In fact, for a long time I thought I must be doing it wrong, because it sure wasn’t working that way for me.
I feel like I’ve only achieved a state of balance a handful of times in my life (and I’ve been around for a while!). Each occasion has felt decidedly “dynamic”, not static at all.
It’s as if I’m standing on the top of a tall steeple on the tiptoes of one foot, while the gale forces pulling and pushing me from every side are roughly equal…for an instant.
Then the moment is gone, as quickly as it arrived.
It’s never lasted long enough to get used to, and certainly not long enough to start feeling smug about having things “under control.”
I’ve decided that, at least for me, balance is a verb.
In a 2021 HBR article, authors Ioana Lupu and Mayra Ruiz-Castro referred to work-life balance as “a cycle that we must engage in continuously as our circumstances and priorities evolve.”
A cycle. That resonates with me.
They laid out these distinct steps we can use with intention to hit that precious state more often.
- Stop and reflect.
Consider your current conditions so you can put it in perspective, rationally.
- Pay attention to your emotions.
Put your current life in perspective from an emotional standpoint as well. How are you feeling about things?
Notice what floats to the top for you now. You may realize that your priorities have shifted faster than your routines and habits could keep up.
- Consider your alternatives.
Your life will usually have a lot of different bits and pieces that may be able to shift around to support your new priorities better.
- Make changes.
The changes you choose could be private, such as a new set of personal boundaries, or public, such as a job change that will give you a more suitable schedule for your new needs.
VERB or CYCLE – I’ve accepted that I will only have BALANCE (the noun) when I put some intentional focus on it and take action to make it happen.
Lorri Anderson is an expert consultant to businesses and a powerful coach to individuals. After a long and rich career as a strategic HR executive, she is driven to give back by changing the Human Experience in today’s workplaces, one business or human at a time.