The way we do anything, is the way we do everything. If we aren’t engaged at work, chances are we aren’t really engaged at home or in our service life or with our friends. Conversely, when we step up one part of our life, the increased energy typically spills over into other areas of our life. I have been talking a lot about engagement lately and I want to see how engagement in our work life can lead to engagement in our personal life.
“The unexamined life is not worth living for a human being,” is a phrase many of us have heard. It was attributed by Plato to Socrates, spoken during a time in history when humans first developed a higher level of self-awareness and consciousness. This was the first humans considered the importance of connecting the inner life with the outer life. Life balance starts with this ability. Within the context of work/life balance however, consider this quote:
“I tell you that virtue is not given by money, but that from virtue comes money and every other good of man, public as well as private,” which is also a Socratic insight.
This reflects the realization that your outer world is more influenced by your inner world, not the other way around.
Integrity + Values + Virtue = Work/Life Balance
It could be that imbalance in our life is not so much about working too much or too little, or not being home enough. Balance may start and end with an alignment of our inner and outer life. When we say we are striving for balance, we may actually be striving for virtue. Virtue is a trait that results from staying true to your values – aligning your thoughts, words and behavior. A part of your character is defined by how you align or don’t align these things. If your values conflict with your actions, you will never find balance.
Of course, all of this reflection means little if we don’t put it into action and see its practical application.
“Integrity is honesty in action.” – Ayn Rand
To achieve balance between work and life means finding your optimal blend of career and ambition with health, pleasure, leisure, family, and spiritual development; the mix of “workstyle” versus “lifestyle”. And the key to finding this proper blend is values. Your target mix should be based on the things that you value – not what someone else tells you that you should value or what your unconscious or “shadow” tells you to value. This is what it means to be conscious, to be engaged in your life choices, and in all domains of your life. And it takes work. Humans would rather get high than do the work it takes to stay true to our values. We are constantly tempted to escape life by over-working, drinking, thinking, eating, or shopping.
If the things you believe in are in conflict with the things you do, your life will never be balanced. If you’re always fair and honest with your employees yet cheat on your life partner; if you lie to clients yet are honest with friends; if you always pay your suppliers on time yet lean on the contractor building your new home; if you tell your kids to be disciplined and you party to the max on a regular basis; if you say you’re the greatest yet have to keep succeeding and performing to prove your worth; the internal conflicts that result from your contradictory behavior will eventually tear you apart.
Congruity of thought and action is the key to finding balance in life. Only by staying true to your values can you find peace and happiness.
How much time do you dedicate to slowing down and checking in with yourself? Are you living an examined life? Or are you too busy? The hard work is in looking at those areas of your life where you are out of integrity with yourself. This could be the ultimate balancing act.