I’ve been giving this idea of pursuing work-life balance some real consideration over the past few months and having successfully completed the first year of a three year Master Degree in Applied Positive Psychology, I’m convinced more than ever, that the pursuit of work-life balance while it might sound ideal, will potentially cause you more stress and anxiety, than doing you any good.
Now, that might sound strange coming from someone who is dedicating their time to discovering and sharing scientifically validated ways for us to live more happy, flourishing and meaningful personal and work lives.
But stay with me for a moment as I explain.
You’ll potentially have read on previous blog posts where I have stated that the pursuit of happiness will not necessarily help you to ‘be’ happy. In fact, there’s a growing body of research that suggests the pursuit of happiness will potentially cause you to be unhappy, because you’re likely to create a ‘when/if’ approach to life. What this means is that you consciously or subconsciously decide that in pursuing happiness, you’ll be happy ‘when something happens’ or ‘if something happens’. The downside is that what if the when/if never happen… you’re doomed to be unhappy, and even if/when they do happen, by then, you’ll have probably come up with other when/if’s to replace the old ones.
My personal observation is very few people openly report that they have achieved the dream of work-life balance. I’m not saying it’s impossible to achieve, but what I am saying is the pursuit of it probably falls into the same category of the ‘when/if’ syndrome. “I’ll have achieved work-life balance when…” or “I’ll achieve work life balance if…”
Paraphrasing from Henry Cloud’s wonderful book Integrity, once you realise that life is not easy, and will in some way always be out of balance, it becomes easier to accept the imbalance… not to give in to it, but easier to accept that some days, despite your best efforts or intentions, stuff happens and the dream of a work-life balance goes by the way side.
This might seem defeatist, but I’d prefer to think of it as realistic.
While the information age has opened up a lot more opportunities for people to be working in jobs or careers that they for the most part really enjoy, that’s not the reality for all. There are still some bosses who are dictatorial and bullies. There are still some organisational leaders who want people to give up their personal lives or at least place them secondary to their work. There are still some jobs that are just not enjoyable, and damn hard work.
Now I don’t profess to having the solution, nor have I found research that points to a single solution. However, what I do know is a great place to start is with intention. When you’re clear on your intentions for the people you impact through your various personal and work life roles, and when you can clearly articulate those intentions, you can then make intentional promises, take intentional actions and you’ll achieve the intentional results you seek.
I am convinced that when you work on building intentional trust in your life; self-trust, trust in others and others trusting in you, you’ll be in a better position to be able to manage the sometimes conflicting goals of the demands of your work life and the demands of your personal life… perhaps not necessarily achieving work-life balance, but certainly building more trust in both your work and personal life.
And science validates that higher levels of trust in your life speeds up most of the good things happening and slows down much of the not so good things.