I can’t tell you how many years that phrase served as my personal mantra while I tried to figure out why my life wasn’t as fulfilling as I thought it should be. After all, things seemed pretty good. I had a good corporate career, an amazing partner, and a happy home life. Somehow the equation just didn’t add up though. Something was missing. At some point I decided that if I could just juggle the major aspects of my life, giving each part equal time, I would achieve that elusive balance, and find success both personally and professionally. I would be able to live happily ever after. Simple.
So I had my goal, and I had my mantra. Unfortunately, there were a couple of basic flaws in my plan. Perfection is not a reasonable goal–not even for a Type A personality. The other problem is that balance is temporary. Once achieved, it cannot be left unattended, and it is unrealistic to think that all matters can be given equal attention at all times. But that is what maintaining balance implies, so that was what I was going to do.
I suppose it’s no surprise that I failed miserably.
No matter what I did, I never reached that perfect equilibrium, that point where the different aspects of my life coexisted seamlessly and flawlessly together. I don’t want to give the impression that I was obsessed about this, but I belong to a generation that was told we could have it all, and everything is possible. More than anything I was frustrated. It didn’t seem like an unreasonable request to me. I couldn’t understand what I was missing that kept me from striking this balance.
It wasn’t until I realized that I was searching for a Holy Grail that things changed.
I finally stopped striving for a work/life balance. I discovered that it is much healthier to nurture the concept of work/life integration. After all, work is a part of life, and a part that can bring a great deal of satisfaction. It shouldn’t be regarded as a separate entity. Things happen at work that ultimately effect things that happen at home, and the opposite is also true. Trying to balance the two, in essence keeping them separate but equal, just doesn’t make sense to me anymore.
After I gave up the quest for balance, and explored the idea of integration, a funny thing happened. I am now able give the important aspects of my life, whether personal or professional, the attention they deserve when they require it. At times work takes precedence. Other times home becomes the concern. I am able to focus more fully on whatever priority may be at hand. I no longer worry about making sure my time is divided equally so everything is perfectly balanced.
I may not always feel my life is balanced now. In fact, I would say it usually isn’t, but that no longer seems to be an issue. Work/life integration doesn’t make life any easier, but it does make more rewarding. I get more satisfaction out of each day, and feel like I have made a contribution to the people who are important to me.
In the end, I think that is what a fulfilling life is really all about.