Does ‘balance’ exist?

When it comes to a work/life balance, I see 2 groups of people:

  1. Those who say a balance is possible
  2. Those who say there is no such thing as balance

The first group of people may have found their balance or, if not, are looking for it.  The second group of people may feel generally happy with the mix of their workload, but don’t consider it as balanced.

This is confused.  The problem lies with defining what a work/life balance is.

photo by stuartpilbrow

photo by stuartpilbrow

The Oxford Dictionary of English defines ‘balance’ as:

  • noun: mental or emotional stability: the way to some kind of peace and personal balance.
  • verb: counteract or equal the effect or importance of – “he balanced his radical remarks with more familiar declarations.” – establish equal or appropriate proportions of elements in – “balancing work and family life.”

As a noun, stability is a major point in understanding balance.  Balance doesn’t necessitate two equal halves.  It can be found no matter how skewed the plan looks to an outsider.  Balance is personal stability.

As a verb, however, the tendency is to view things in equal measures.  And since we often refer to balance as a verb, such as “balancing coursework and social time”, we rely too much on the assumption that a mental balance requires the same proportion of everything.

Such a strict measure is unrealistic and not usually quantifiable anyway, which means many argue that ‘balance’ doesn’t exist.

The purpose of a work/life balance is to be aware of your lot and make sure you’re not missing out or working yourself too hard.  Balance certainly doesn’t mean you should be taking equal doses of work and fun.  Unless, of course, you want to!

Don’t assume hard work and social life are entirely separate forms.  We mix business and pleasure, networking can be fun even though we’re ‘on the job’, we keep study groups entertaining and relaxed.  See why balance can’t easily be quantified?

For those who argue dispute the existence of balance at all, how about looking at the concept as a definition of happiness?  Do you feel content or are you under pressure all the time?  Ask if you feel the need to change the mix in your life before you can find greater happiness.

A positive mix of events and a lack of stress may be all that is needed before a ‘balance’ can be achieved…whatever you call it.

At the beginning of this new academic year, be mindful of what you’re going through over the coming months and don’t be scared to drop some activities if it all gets too much.  Whether it’s your study, social life, part-time job, relationship, and any other regular activity that forms part of your life, be aware of how it’s going as you live through it.  How does it fit in with everything else you’re doing?  If you let life happen without thinking about it, you face the problem of having to recover at a more difficult point.

Okay, some events are impossible to predict.  From a perfectly organised perspective, your plans can be turned upside down.

Whether these events are welcome or not, right now is the time to consider how the events will impact upon everything else you’re doing.

I’m posting this today because I’ve had some of those ‘impossible to predict’ events happen recently and they altered my sense of balance.  It’s not an issue, because I’m aware of the situation and I strive to return to a suitable position of ‘balance’.

To do this, I will:

  • Analyse how much time these new events take up in the day;
  • Find ways to speed up regular processes;
  • Consider if I can/should stop doing certain tasks in the day;
  • Reduce the number of times I focus on the regular tasks that I still need to complete.

I’m not prepared to ignore what’s going on, living in hope that things will sort themselves out on their own.  They never do!

With a bit of planning (and acceptance that unexpected things happen), I believe that balance is possible and never too far away.  And perhaps you still don’t like the word ‘balance’. But when you find peace and a personal contentment, you’re pretty balanced, whatever you want to call it.  That’s the main thing.

photo by Alex Barth

photo by Alex Barth

One comment

  1. One thing that I think is important to remember when trying to “balance” your life is that it’s a job that is never finished. Life will throw everything at you, and you’ll just have to figure it out each day. You’re bound to screw up, prioritize wrong, and leave things out, so accept it now and just work towards becoming better.

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