Consider the Long View to Determine Work-Life Balance

Image of balancing scales

In reading an article about the recent passing of legendary news broadcaster Mike Wallace, I was struck by something that his son, Chris Wallace, said:

“The interesting thing is, he never mentions ’60 Minutes.’ It’s as if it didn’t exist. It’s as if that part of his memory is completely gone. The only thing he really talks about is family–me, my kids, my grandkids, his great-grandchildren. There’s a lesson there. This is a man who had a fabulous career and for whom work always came first. Now he can’t even remember it.”

There absolutely is a lesson there. So many folks have their careers and their identities so entwined. When there is a setback at work, it viewed as a major personal failing. If there is a layoff, it’s as if an arm or a leg has been cut off. Should our careers really have that much importance in our lives?

Not really. In fact, a nurse who worked in palliative care recorded the regrets of her patients, and “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard” was #2.

So what is the answer? In a word: balance.

Now, I’ve said before that balance is impossible, and it is when you look at things in the short term. Really, there is no way to have a completely equitable divide between work and home life in a 24-hour span. Heck, you’d have a hard time finding that balance even if you stretched the time frame out to a week. And sometimes, even a month (or six) can look pretty lopsided if you have an intense project at work. But expand your horizon to encompass years, and then, yes, you should be able to see more of a balance in your work and home life. Probably not 50/50, but the scales shouldn’t be tipping so heavily toward your time at work.

And if it does? Well, then you have some choices to make. Perhaps this is what you like to do, which is fine. I remember reading an article a while back about a man who had multiple college degrees, was an expert on many topics, and worked long hours. The thing that stood out to me was how he responded to people who ask him when he has time for fun. Paraphrasing him, he answered, “I don’t relate to them because I am having fun.” (I should note that he was also single at the time he was interviewed.)

That’s not to say that he is making bad choices for his life. Really, I applaud him for having such self-awareness that he directly is pursuing the life that makes him happy. But is this for you? I’d venture to say that people who actively choose that kind of a life are more the exception than the norm.

So, I’d suggest that you should start taking a long view at your life and see how it looks to you. Are you happy with how it looks? Or are you afraid that, at the end of your life, you will be regretting the amount of time you spent focused on work? Will you even remember your work?

Image courtesy of winnifredxoxo

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