Work-life balance has become some kind of a cliche, and the more it figures in our talks, the less we seem to have of it.
To begin with, the expression itself is a misnomer. Work is a part of life, how can we balance a part with the whole and is it not vain and futile to even try to do that? What is actually aimed at is a work life-personal life balance.
But even that becomes unnecessary when we have the right attitudes, rooted in right values, which create right perceptions. We do not need to get the happy balance in our lives, we merely have to remove the unhappy imbalance that is there in our minds. Stephen Covey knows it when he says, ‘the way we look at the problems, is the problem’.
Imagine senior managers being taken out to some natural resort and made to play some childish games, to develop team-spirit; or people writing slogans to develop the so-called work-life balance! We should realize that so long as people do not get along with themselves (which they won’t until they take time to know and like themselves), they can never get along well with others.
It is all about self-awareness. It is also a major clue to the problem of rising attrition. Nor is this balance about distributing hours. With long working hours topped by an insane commuting time, how many hours can be spent with family anyway? But love and care are matters of hearts, not just hours; two people can stay together for a life time and remain strangers. The key is, where quantity is lacking, quality can surely compensate.
Let us remember that it is not how long we work that stresses us, it is the reluctance with which we look at it and our inability to enjoy it with a happy role-playing detachment. Like the ocean in turmoil at the surface but calm and serene deep down, our outer activity has to be anchored in an inner tranquility. Our technology is giving us a crazy speed; the inner sense of direction has to keep pace with it.
Unless we learn to do that, even our personal life, which we are trying to side with, in the name of work-life balance, will be a stressor – like at workplace, we shall have conflicts in personal life as we already do. Then, where shall we go? Are we solutioning or escaping ? Unless we have balance in our values, balance in our mental attitudes, there can be no balance in our lives. We indeed become what we think. Unless we choose balance in our thoughts and aspirations, i.e. within us, how is there going to be one outside? We indeed live ‘inside out’.
Work, like love, is probably the most beautiful expression of life – rightly done, it can be liberating. That can happen only when we bring our heart to our work and enjoy what we do – no matter how modest it may be; that’s when the barriers between work and family will melt away; conflicts may occasionally surface but they will always be manageable for a mind that is anchored within.
Life, my master taught me, is a joyous battle of duty and at the same time a passing dream. We take our roles too seriously, with a crippling sense of doership, so we fail to play them well. To consider work and personal life as opposites, and then try to balance them out, is a fallacy. It defeats itself.
We must stop working like slaves merely slogging for livelihood, which will inevitably happen when we work just for money. Money is not evil, but to work for money alone, certainly is. With that attitude there can neither be happiness at workplace, nor in personal life, nor can there be any way for a balance between these two negativities.
Work life and personal life are complementary to each other, not opposites. We do not need to balance them; we need to balance our minds. Cheers!
Hans is a chemical engineer who worked in sales/marketing for 28 years. Thereafter, for the last 8 years, he has been a motivational speaker, yoga coach and corporate trainer. In his personal life, he has been practicing yoga-meditation for close to 25 years.
Watch Nigel Marsh’s TED talk on How to make work-life balance work