Our many thanks to Steve Wittry, Director, Human Resources, Carter’s | OshKosh B’gosh, for this very insightful guest blog post.
Typically, I don’t give a lot of thought to the concept of work-life balance. Until presented with the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion on the topic, I don’t know that I ever even took the time to define or articulate what ‘work-life balance’ means to me.
As one of the panelists, I was presented in advance with a list of questions that might be asked. The first question, the one I spent the most time reflecting on, was ‘What does work-life balance mean to you?’ Great question, it intrigued me and became the catalyst for a lot of much needed personal reflection on the topic.
I find ‘work-life balance’ to be an odd term or phrase – as though work isn’t a part of life. Taken literally, in order to balance two things they generally must be separate, two different things with opposing purpose – slow & fast, hard & easy, rest & activity, far & near, etc. I can’t say how many people actually look at it this literally, but my sense is that many do.
A holistic work-centric view of life
Over time I’ve developed a holistic view of my life - my life is work-centric. I’ve stopped making any effort to separate work life and personal life. It would be like trying to not use my arms if I’m using my legs or vice versa.
That’s not to say that my life is all about my work, but my work life and my personal life are inextricably connected, they feed off of and are related to each other.
There was a period of my life when work started where personal ended and personal started where work ended. Looking back, there wasn’t much rhythm in my life then and I don’t remember feeling very fulfilled – seemed I was always searching for something I hadn’t defined and which, of course, made it very elusive.
With all the starting and stopping, the separating one from the other, my life in my workplace and outside my workplace both lacked momentum. Without that momentum, I was working so much harder to be impactful in whatever I was doing.
So as I prepared for the upcoming discussion, I spent a lot of time thinking about what’s changed. I’m very much at ease with myself and with my life – the direction, the velocity and the momentum.
Shifting to relationship-centric
My focus has shifted, and to a large degree, intentionally – and I’m a much more fulfilled person for it. The last 10 years have brought a significant growth spurt – spiritually, emotionally and intellectually.
I spent a lot of time earlier in my life focused on being ‘successful’, although I never took the time to really define what that meant either. My focus has shifted to being significant - adding value to others. Consequently, I’m finding that my life has changed for the better, has a great deal more value – because my work life, just like my personal life, is relationship-centric.
The focus in my work has shifted (intentionally) to relationships – developing them, growing them, restoring them, to learning to do the things well that support relationships. This is ‘why’ in my work – it’s what makes my work sacred. The focus isn’t on results first, but relationships first – the driver of results.
This spills over into my time away from my workplace – but my work continues because the ‘why’ that makes my work sacred never changes. It’s a thread that runs through my play, my community involvement, my solitude, my exercise time. The skills I’m developing and wisdom I’m gaining by being more intentional in my relationships are most frequently experienced in my work environment. The only thing that really changes apart from the activity I might be engaged in is who I’m engaged with.
I want the ability to engage – genuinely, passionately, honestly, consistently – to be at the heart of everything I do. I’m committed to growing that ability, to being better at relationships to drive better results. I heard John Maxwell state, “You weren’t born to be average, you were born to be significant. You have no right to be average.”
To the degree that I’m successful in adding value to others, the results in every endeavor we’re engaged in are improved and enhanced. There is nothing to balance.
What are your thoughts or quandries on work-life balance? Is this something you seek or have attained? Please comment below.