Remember unbridled play? Going to a playground and skimming down the slide again and again? Or swinging so high you could catch a little air? Head over to the teeter-totter. There’s a life lesson there that dispels the myth of work-life balance.
Imagine two playmates climbing on each end of the teeter-totter. Both stand with their feet on the ground, the board is in balance, but there is no enjoyment for either person. It’s only fun when you’re either teetering or tottering. One person must be up while the other is down and vice versa. It is the same with life itself. To understand joy, we must experience the valleys of sadness or disappointment. To cope with sadness, we must find joy or happiness on the up side. A full, meaningful life is a series of ups and downs.
Sometimes work takes precedence, finishing that project or spearheading an event. At other times, your personal health or caring for a loved one rises in importance. You may not bring a sick child or a failing parent to work with you, but they dominate your mental state anyway. A common belief is that you shouldn’t take your personal life to work, but most employers have no problem with you taking work home.
Robert Greenleaf said, “The ability to withdraw and reorient yourself, if only for a moment, presumes that one has learned the art of systematic neglect, to sort out the more important from the less important - and the important from the urgent - and attend to the more important, even though there may be penalties and censure for the neglect of something else.” If you spend every waking hour working, when do you find time to reenergize physically or mentally? When you think about it, why is your work the only thing being balanced against everything else?
Years ago, I was working lots of hours, juggling multiple projects, attending non-stop meetings, and getting some cool things done. I went to visit my mother who observed my weariness. She offered this advice, “No one stands over your casket and talks about the meetings you missed.” It may sound cold, but I found her statement insightful and caring. From my experience, she was right.
So, consider all the dimensions of your life - professional, spiritual, physical, mental, social - and carve out time for each. Don’t seek perfect balance, seek meaning. You need others to share your joys and sorrows. Grab a friend, hop on a teeter-totter, and relish life’s ups and downs.