My clients used to struggle with an issue that many people face. Both those with Chief titles and those without share the challenge of demanding jobs and a commitment not to let their jobs define them. At the same time, they constantly encounter the ever-present objective of “work-life balance.” We all do.
I’ve long relied on the wisdom of the book Sequencing by Arlene Rossen Cardoza, PhD, who wrote primarily for women. Her central premise was, “You can have it all, just not all at once.” In my work today, Dr. Cardoza’s words resonate with truth for both the men and women that I work with.
The Sequencing view is a longer-term view, one I believe makes the work-life balance issue finally attainable. Over decades, it’s logical to see life as a series of chapters in which different experiences fold together to create a book of a life well lived. With a longer view, there is time for marriage, family, care of children, career, care of parents, friends, travel, and personal growth.
Conversely, when the time horizon is “today” or “this week,” the work-life balance goal loses its utility, and many believe they are failing. But it doesn’t need to be that way. In my experience, a goal shift to “work-life integration” has offered my clients huge relief from what might be considered an otherwise impossible goal.
Many people view work-life balance as unattainable, offering up an image of the scales of justice with plates on either side that seek perfect symmetry; equilibrium only attained when things are still. But things are never still. More than that, many report a feeling of being judged by others or judging themselves with an unstated standard for what work-life balance should be. There are no shoulds.
Using the term work-life integration has proven to be helpful to my clients primarily for two reasons. First, it enables people to feel better about the constant change and seemingly accelerating pace of both work and life. Second, while the term balance brings up thoughts about a law of nature, the term integration brings with it a feeling of flexibility and permission.
Could a simple word choice help you? I hope so.