I was recently asked to be part of a panel of business leaders for the New Bedford Chamber of Commerce’s South Coast Young Professionals Network (SCYPN). I was completely flattered to be asked, not only as a business leader, but also for being considered “young.” As part of the panel, there were a lot really great questions, but my favorite one was about work-life balance. We hear a lot about the subject and there’s one thing that always bothers me about the discussion. But before I delve into that, let me just say a little about SCYPN.
My fellow panel members were extraordinary specimens of entrepreneurial prowess that impressed the hell out of me. But they weren’t the only ones. The members of SCYPN in the audience were equally impressive. If you are a young person (or young at heart) who is at all interested in meeting, being inspired by, making connections with, or absorbing vicarious positive energy from other young people in the South Coast, this is a group that you should check out immediately. Not only do they do really cool events, but they are made up of young, hungry, enthusiastic individuals who are approachable, welcoming, ambitious and smart. Whoa, that was a lot of adjectives. But seriously, have you ever attended a “regular” business meeting only to find yourself stuck in the corner, nibbling crackers talking to no one? Or awkwardly making conversation with the bartender just to experience some form of human contact? SCYPN isn’t like that. It is an opportunity to sharpen your networking skills in a non-judgey place with people who are trying to figure out how to network effectively, just like you. It’s pretty cool.
Anyway, back to the subject at hand… In the business world, you hear a lot about the concept of “Work-Life Balance.” Experts are always blathering on about achieving this mythical balanced state of being, like it’s a goal or destination you can reach if you plan and/or work hard enough at it. In my experience, balance is an ongoing activity, not a static thing.
Think of walking across a tightrope… To remain balanced, you have to be actively engaged. Balancing or counter-balancing at all times. That fraction of a second in which your balance comes together, is just a brief pause before you start to sway the other way and have to work at re-centering again.
It requires constant effort and focus. You have to look ahead, but not too far ahead. You have to be aware of your body, your surroundings and the direction that you’re going. No matter how great at it you are, there’s always some amount of teeter-totter. Constant action and reaction. Sometimes more pronounced than others, but it’s always there.
Work-life balance is the same. A constant push-pull between work and family, care of yourself and care of others, crisis and response. And that’s OK. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. You cannot live a balanced life without some amount of effort and struggle between the push-pull of work and home.
So when you feel yourself teetering back and forth, it’s not because you have failed at balance. It means you ARE balancing. When you’re doing it well, you feel less dramatic teetering, but it’s always there. So stop beating yourself up for not “achieving” balance. It is not something that can be achieved. It is an activity that you engage in. The fact that you’re thinking about it and constantly striving for it, means that you’re already doing it. So keep on keeping on!