“I don’t like the word ‘balance.’ To me, that somehow conjures up conflict between work and family… as long as we think of these things as conflicting, we will never have happiness. True happiness comes from integration… of work, family, self, community.” Padmasree Warrior
Balance is necessary in so many places, isn’t it? I’ve been striving for balance for as long as I can remember. If I can balance my love of coffee with the wise choice of water and balance the starches and greens on my plate, my body will thank me with better health. To not fall off of the beam you have to have good balance, and when you learn to ride a bike you fall right over until you develop your balance. In my book, balance must be the key to a happy life, and I’ve been working toward that goal for a long time. That thinking was challenged when I shared with a friend who countered me quickly with this thought: The key to a happy, loving life is in integrating, not balancing. Sitting with that challenge for a few months, I have begun to see the good of choosing integration over balance, and it would seem Padmasree Warrior, “the queen of the electric car biz”, has found that same truth. Do you want the true happiness of which she speaks? I do!
Here’s the reason balance in life isn’t as practical as we might think it sounds: A balance (scale) has two arms with trays attached. I put some berries in one tray and it plunges to the ground, so I put some berries on the other tray to bring balance. If I want to maintain that balance, I have to leave the berries sitting there and never remove them. The fruit will begin to rot. Which is more important, to maintain balance or to enjoy the fruit by bringing it into my life through a smoothie or a bowl of ice cream with berries on top? Balance is good and is so often what we seek in life, but life doesn’t sit still once things are balanced.
Susan Sobbott, President, Global Commercial Payments at American Express, talks about a third option in the work place. The first and second options being the choice of career and the choice of family as the winner of attention in an employee’s life. Sobbott has always included her family in her work events so her children would see that she is more than a mom and her employees would see she is more than her job. Integrating work and life is how she has been able to help employees keep their jobs and not lose their families. It has worked, and it seems to me that the belief that work and life should be two separate things is finally being replaced to allow for the reality that we are not as compartmentalized as we’d like to think or as others want to demand we be.
I am a mom, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a cousin, a friend, a photographer, a web designer, a health-conscious being trying to learn all I can about caring for my own health and the health of our planet, a pet owner, a bird watcher, a scattered thinker, and so much more. If I take all of those things and put them into a 24-hour day, how can I balance those roles and still sleep? You know as well as I do that it’s impossible. The answer: Integrate. Integrate your food choices, your hobbies, your passions into your visits with friends or discussions at work. Bring people together instead of pushing them apart, compartmentalizing.
Segregating people doesn’t work any better than segregating parts of our lives if we hope to enjoy the journey we are traveling. Integrate the things that matter to you and you might notice that life becomes better.