I’ve been searching for balance long before the realities of a pandemic.
It was drilled into me that I had to find balance between my work and home life; but no matter how hard I tried, it had eluded me. When I was working, I felt guilty that I wasn’t at home. When I was home, I felt guilty that I wasn’t working. The struggle was real.
Throw the current global lockdown events into the middle of that struggle and what do you have? A hot mess!
Or at least, that’s how I assume I would be feeling now, if I hadn’t long ago abandoned the search for ‘balance’.
The truth is, I don’t feel like a hot mess at all. I’m scared like everyone else, but I also feel excited by the future that will result from this. I chose to liberate myself from the pressure of balancing my work and home life, and since doing so, have felt more grounded, less anxious, healthier, and more fulfilled at both work and home. This decision resonates now more than ever, with our work and home lives becoming even more entangled.
I was able to abandon that search when I came to the following realization: that the elusive work-life balance? It doesn’t exist.
It’s a story we have told ourselves. It’s the shackles that we drag along with us making us feel like we are not doing it right or that somehow we are lacking or not enough. It’s a pipe dream that has no relevancy in today’s world and certainly not in times like these.
Instead, I opt for work-life integration: where the boundaries are blurred and clarity is found. Integration is about creating a rhythm or a flow to your life that allows you to say AND, instead of either-or. At the center of integration is the belief that you can have it all:
- You can have work that fulfills you;
- You can have deep and meaningful relationships;
- You can have time to chase dreams and see beautiful things.
It might sound too good to be true. It certainly did for me.
Make no mistake – integration for me was not simply a matter of devoting an equal amount of time and energy to all my goals. Time is a fixed resource and we don’t know how much we will have, but we do all have the same 24 hours each day. The difference now is in how I spend mine.
I’ll be honest: I have worked at this for a long time and I continue to refine it each and every day. I’ve made many mistakes, experienced set-backs, read, purchased and consumed a plethora of material looking for the magic button; that silver bullet that would help me achieve what I wanted with ease.
All that training was a great way to satisfy my curiosity and expand my way of thinking but none of them taught me about the edge I could gain with integration – I had to stumble across it, define it and experience it myself.
So how does one go about achieving integration?
First, get absolute clarity on the roles you are holding in your life. The roles you think you occupy have likely changed in these times: parents are having to take on roles as teachers, employees are taking on roles as leaders, and we are all taking on roles of friendship and mentorship to look out for and care for one another.
Now that you’ve taken stock of those roles, reflect on the amount of time and energy that is devoted to each of them. With what is the mindset do you approach your work? Are you taking on a role because it’s what you ‘should’ be doing? Or is it something you really want to be doing? Is there room for a change in perspective? How can your shoulds become wants?
These questions are the questions that started me on my journey. In the time since I began my quest for balance, I not only learned that balance doesn’t work, but that an integrated life will change as my life evolves. Integration is a process, not an end state.
I encourage you to take inventory of what it is you want and what is no longer serving you. Accept that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Put aside the guilt you might be feeling for straying from the path of balance. Perhaps in doing so, you might discover ways to integrate in this new normal together.