Is the “balance” for which we strive a reality or an imagined ideal? Can we even define what that balance means for individuals?
People often refer to “balance” in life or in work as if it were something predetermined and concrete; a line in the sand or a clearly defined goal that once reached, would produce such imagined “balanced” state of well-being.
The problem I have with this is that to me, the concept of “balance” isn’t fixed; rather, it is an ever changing “living” component of our individual lives whose definition is as diverse as we humans are, and thus, any discourse about this “balance”–like with art–really is a highly subjective matter.
Who is to say that someone’s hectic and seemingly exhausting life isn’t really perfectly balanced… for them? Or that someone else’s highly organized seemingly moderated and diverse lifestyle isn’t really a nightmare of control and blandness to be avoided at all cost… for others?
In the past few years as “work-life balance” vision, objectives, and words found their way into corporate statements and our own wistful vernacular, I have come to consider such as “unbalanced”; superficial “flannel,” which does little more than add noise and possible dissent into our corporate and private lives.
It is a relatively modern trend to view “work” as something singular and different from an individual’s “life,” but I’m reminded and offer that there should not be such a clear distinction between the two; that they are in fact interdependent, each an integral part of the other and each–at times–requiring that more focus be given to one over the other.
For I can’t imagine living, in balanced ways or otherwise, without actually working at producing something in real time; be it the pollen a flower produces for dissemination by bees and wind, to everyday necessities we acquire by the application and exchange of our life skills, to the contribution we make as we guide our babies to hopefully grow into the next generation of productive people.
All are subject to daily external influences which impact and alter our lives; how we may have to modify our reactions to engage and deal with such influences moment by moment.
The idea that these and all other “productive life” components which together contribute to an overall life-on-the-planet balance of sorts, should each have and follow some form of prescribed self-balance—even if we could actually agree on what that “balance” should be for us as a species—is flawed and unreachable.
Have we—in our relative affluence—grown softer and more demanding of what is “due to us”?
Do airline pilots, typically regulated to fly about 40 hours per month, have more “balance” in their lives than the average Western individual working 60 hours per week, or a person working 18+ hours per day in an Asian factory? For which amount of work vs. “work-free” time, and/or level of balance within ourselves should we be striving?
What about our poorer and distant neighbors, the folk elsewhere in Africa and India, for example, scouring nearly around the clock for the means of basic survival such as finding relative safety, drinkable water, and food of any kind that we, with our self-induced complicated lives, take for granted as a basic given? Do they need or even think about “work-life balance,” or is having the gift of actually waking up for yet another day, hopeful of being able to make it all the way through to the evening with the chance some improvement, balance enough?
Perhaps our search for balance is a distracting cause; the wrong value to use when assessing ways to enhance our human existence holistically and in a sustainable productive manner. For all of us still breathing, in all of our wondrous diversity, manages to achieve our own reality based version of a “balanced life” if not on a daily basis, certainly over a period of time.
Remarkably, I believe our existential needs remain largely unchanged over the thousands of years our animal species has been around, regardless of gender and varying levels of modern day complexity, and we are basically a “caves & commons” species, requiring security and solitude for self-reflection, healing and survival, as well as communal engagement and interaction to give and take, lead and support, fight and love, reproduce and evolve to live another day.
The fact we may believe this ought to happen more gracefully or in a more even manner, albeit interesting, does not determine the overall worthiness, but rather the blended achievement occurring in our current everyday lives, however “imperfect” we may think it is.
Photo by dleel/Flickr