I’ve never been the best at balance. Whether it’s the ballet barre, binging on babka, or bearing my soul before the Barolo arrives on a first date, I’m an all or nothing type of girl. So it’s no surprise that I’m baffled by the frustratingly over-used term “work-life balance.” In a recent conversation with a group of women, a friend said, “There simply isn’t enough time for balance. Everything is important and everything is urgent.” To this I replied, “if everything is important and urgent, then nothing is important or urgent.”
Self-help junkies (myself included) spend a good deal of time looking at whether their priorities align with what they truly want. One such person, Brian Dyson of Coca-Cola, was asked a question about balancing his needs and the needs of the world around him. To this he responded, “Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling five balls in the air: work, family, health, friends, and spirit…Work is a rubber ball; if you drop it, it will bounce back…Family, health, friends, and spirit are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.”
To this I respond:
Dear Mr. Dyson,
I am not a juggler. And balls do not only come in rubber or glass. Some are plastic, some are silver, and some are simply paper that’s been crumpled into a ball-like shape before swiftly being tossed into the trash.
So, sir, I have balls. Big ones.
Many ones. Some, like my family, are made of silver and while they may get scratched and tarnish, are pretty freakin’ resilient. Others, like my hobbies, are made of whatever tennis balls are made of. They are brightly colored, make me happy, and sometimes get stuck in tall trees. I don’t need to engage in a life of juggling. I’ll take each ball off the shelf and return it safely to its proper place when I’m done, trusting that it’ll be there when I’m ready for it again.
Now, I could go on my soapbox and discuss the importance of prioritizing, but that’s not what this post is about. It’s about knowing that your priorities aren’t set in stone. There are moments when work helps me to find meaning and contribute to the world, and there are times when focusing on my work is just plain wrong. Sometimes a glass ball turns into a rubber ball. And that’s okay.
So here’s the Takeaway:
Work-life balance isn’t about committing to your priorities for the rest of your life or even for the next 3 month. It isn’t about maintaining a perfect ratio of kids: work: personal time. It isn't about over-thinking and over-stressing and over-asking yourself whether or not you feel balanced. It’s about recognizing that everything ebbs and flows. And that a perfectly measured approach might make for a perfect babka, but not a perfect life.
So the next time a friend asks me about work-life balance, here’s my response: Do whatever feels right, know that it won’t feel right for long, then adjust accordingly.