I recently had the opportunity to listen to an accomplished and respected leader share her 35-year journey as a protagonist in life. Her insights on work-life balance were thought-provoking. According to her, work is an integral part of life, just as much as home is. The people at work become as close as friends and family, and she feels a sense of belonging and connection in both environments. Both places, work, and home, bring moments of happiness and frustration, and she experiences stress and elation in both spheres. For her, everything is a part of life, and this perspective has led to her contentment with her achievements while aiming for bigger things ahead. Her perspective got me wondering if this approach to work-life balance could work for all of us.
What do we believe in?
The concept of work-life balance originated in the early 19th century, aiming to provide workers with ample leisure time for rejuvenation and productivity. Working hours were regulated to ensure a balance between work and personal life. However, with the rapid technological advancements in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, businesses began seeking faster growth and competitiveness, incentivizing knowledge workers to invest more time in their work.
As societal attitudes toward work changed, new challenges emerged in the workplace and families. Organisations like the World Health Organisation (WHO) and think tanks began discussing the need for a new balance between work and personal life. At the core of this discussion lies our propensity to act and our beliefs about what is right and wrong.
Each person possesses a personal compass that guides their approach to various aspects of life, such as money, time with loved ones, collaboration, and societal norms. As we journey through life and societal norms evolve, our compasses also change. Aligning our actions with our internal compass brings happiness, while acting against it can lead to inner conflict.
For instance, if someone’s compass values authenticity and modesty, they may feel uncomfortable in a work environment that promotes extravagance and self-aggrandizement. In such cases, it becomes crucial to choose a workplace that aligns with their values, or they may face a constant conflict between their beliefs and actions.
Finding a balance between work and personal life entails being mindful of our internal compass and making choices that resonate with our values and principles. This alignment fosters a sense of fulfilment and contentment, leading to a harmonious and satisfying life journey.
Do we know our strengths? Do we know how we work?
Often, we don’t have all the answers about ourselves from the beginning; self-discovery happens as we journey through life. Unfortunately, our educational system lacks emphasis on introspection and feedback gathering from those around us. Instead, it focuses on testing knowledge rather than nurturing wisdom. While this needs to change, it’s a massive task, and we must take the initiative to seek feedback and reflect on ourselves.
Everyone has unique strengths and preferences. Some excel at building new relationships, while others thrive in nurturing existing ones. Some make great mentors, while others are skilled decision-makers. People differ in their ability to handle multiple tasks or prefer focusing on one or a few at a time. Some thrive in competitive environments, while others find fulfilment in pursuing excellence at their own pace. We are all unique individuals.
Workplaces are diverse, and shaped by leadership styles and established norms. Finding alignment between our preferences and the work environment determines how well we flourish and enjoy the journey.
Acknowledging our strengths and understanding what works best for us is essential in navigating our personal and professional paths. Embracing our uniqueness empowers us to find fulfilment and success in our endeavours.
Can we change?
The real question should be, “Should we change?” rather than “Can we change?” Human potential is vast, and people can indeed evolve. However, transforming from low competence to strong competence requires significant effort and time. Instead, focusing on strengthening our existing strengths to become exceptional is a more practical approach. Addressing any minor flaws or scars and emerging stronger is also essential.
For instance, an independent contributor with deep expertise in their field must also develop strong relationship skills to thrive in an organisation. Without adequate people skills, long-term success and happiness within an organisation become challenging to achieve. Acquiring the necessary skills and knowledge to fully realise our strengths is crucial.
To experience life at home and work as a seamless whole, it’s crucial to find an environment that aligns with our internal compass, values our strengths, and respects our working preferences. When these elements harmonize with the organisation’s culture, we can thrive and find a genuine sense of fulfilment in both personal and professional spheres. By seeking such alignment, we create a balanced and enriching life journey where our true potential can flourish.