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Work-Life Balance or Life-Career Integration?

Right now, women in the workforce is a hot topic. From women struggling with finding the “right” balance between work and life to the lack of women in leadership positions – globally. To underscore this point, Time Magazine recently reported that only 5% of all corporations globally have women in leadership roles. It’s our belief that the work-life balance issue and the lack of women in leadership are closely connected; it’s one of several, but definitely a contributing factor.

But, let’s take a closer look at the notion of work-life balance. We believe there is no such thing as work-life balance. We do believe in life-career integration. Here’s why we make this distinction: Imagine you’re doing the “Tree” position in yoga (pilates or any other exercise that requires good balance). Can you feel the tension between the various muscle groups to maintain that pose?

Have you ever considered the amount of stress between your muscle groups to maintain balance no matter how subtle it may be? It’s a lot. Now, imagine your morning routine when you first get out of bed. It may have taken some thought and/or trial and errors to figure out the routine. Once you figured it out, you do it without thinking…you just do it! The point is there is no “balancing” without stress since the demands of life will always be pulling you one way or another. “Integration”, on the other hand, tends to be stress-free because you made a decision as to the sequence of your actions. There may be times when you’re reluctant to follow the sequence (as in getting out of bed), but it has become a normal part of your routine you can get stressed out about other things! Consequently, if you’re always attempting to balance your life with your career or vice-versa, you’re undoubtedly experiencing a fair amount of stress (and not the good kind). Stress can easily lead to burn-out, under-performance or, in some cases, opting out of the workforce because it becomes overwhelming. Here are two suggestions for reducing the stress that swirls around the dilemma of work-life balance. ­Suggestion #1: Replace the phrase “work-life balance” with “life-career integration”. Accept the fact, that within this context, there is no such thing as balance without stress. Here’s a quick exercise that will take less than 2 minutes. The purpose is to observe the impact the two phrases may have on your body by feeling the difference between them. Find a quiet place or sit quietly for a minute. Now, say out loud, “work-life balance” and be mindful of any changes in your body such as tightening in your stomach, shoulders or another part of your body. Now do the same with “life-career integration”. Did you notice any difference? Maybe you did; maybe you didn’t. That said, be aware of any stress you’re experiencing when attempting to “balance” everything in your life. See if it things change when you start thinking “life-career integration”. Suggestion #2: Accept the fact that there will always be trade-offs. Trade-offs are about understanding the consequences of your decision and being comfortable with the choice you make. Here’s an example: while you’re out shopping, you see a great looking pair of Jimmy Cho shoes and a fabulous Tory Burch purse. You’re torn between the two. But, does your budget (or cash flow) give you the means to buy both at the same time? For some, yes, it does. For others, it requires making a decision as to which to buy now and which to buy next week, month or year because you have other things you want to do with your money. Consciously or unconsciously you’re considering all your options, choosing a direction that best fits your current circumstances. Once the decision is made, there is no more because you just do it! We’d like to hear your thoughts on this posting. …pros/cons; agree/disagree. We encourage lively conversations!

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