The Meaning of Balance
One of the phrases that has caught hold in corporate culture is “work-life balance” or the art of balancing the demands of work against having a happy and productive home life. This concept is very easy to talk about, but becomes more complicated when people try to put it into action. The most important thing to understand when talking about balance is the effect of trade-offs.
What Balance Really Means
Life is a collection of trade-offs. When you seek to get one thing, you frequently end up giving up something else. When balancing work and life against one another, this principal comes into light very quickly. In order to maintain a healthy home life, there is a certain amount of time and attention that needs to be devoted to your family. This means that the time and attention is not available for other endeavors such as working to get ahead in your career.
Most people will respond that family is more important than moving faster in your career, and I would wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment. However, it does not change the fact that pursuing a balanced life ostensibly means that there will be a limit to how much time you can devote to other activities such as career advancement, active investment, hobbies, etc. The reason why this realization is important is because many people hold onto this notion that they can “have it all” by multi-tasking.
Multi-Tasking is a Fool’s Errand
The idea of multi-tasking has become very popular as people attempt to do more with the same amount of time. The problem comes from the fact that multi-tasking almost always involves doing multiple things in a poor to average manner, instead of doing something else well. Most of us would like to think that we can be highly effective at many things simultaneously, but this is simply not true. We can give the appearance of being successful at many things simultaneously, but we cannot devote the focus and attention that true excellence requires while attempting to do everything at once.
In this way, many of us allow ourselves to go around thinking that we have the “secret” to success by juggling everything in our lives, when the truth is that we’re simply one mis-step away from a personal, professional, or financial disaster. Spending every day close to the edge of losing control means that the smallest problem can send all of our elaborate plans crashing down. It can mean a sudden spike in our stress levels that cause us to lash out irrationally at people whom we care about, or who have done nothing to deserve our criticism.
Focus on What is Most Important
The alternative to multi-tasking is to focus and prioritize. What this means is to think deeply about what is most important in our lives, focus on those things so that they receive the attention they deserve, and let go of the rest. This can be remarkably difficult to do when we are tempted to try and do everything, but it is critically important if we want to live a balanced life.
It may mean that the next promotion takes longer to achieve. It may mean that we have to walk away from some investment or business opportunities. It may mean that we have to delay some of our hobbies for the sake of other things that are more important. In all of this, we must come to understand that we set our own priorities, and should never apologize for prioritizing what is most important in our lives. What we do should match what we say.
In the end, we should learn to be contented with placing the highest importance on the things in our life that are the most important. There is a consistent drumbeat of pressure from fictitious mirages of perfection on television that don’t exist in reality, but become real in our minds. Chasing after this mirage is an exercise in foolishness that most of us would be well advised to avoid. The path of balance is headed toward a destination of personal, professional, and financial success. It is built with the notion that all three are required elements of a successful life, and neglecting any one will eventually impact the others. Each of us is tasked with the responsibility of building the life that we want to live. Make sure that the life you build is a good one.