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Dr. Jim Ice -
In our busy lives, there never seems to be enough time to get
things done. There are too many demands on us. No matter which way
we turn, we are flooded with requests for our time and resources.
Every day there are so many urgent matters to address - at work,
school, home - and it's difficult to find time to invest in
accomplishing important tasks such as upgrading our job skills -
which we know will pay long-term dividends. How can I balance the
oft-conflicting demands of my personal life with the demands of my
job, we ask?
Forbes recently reported the results of a Harvard Business
School study that found that 94 percent of working professionals
work more than 50 hours a week, and more than half reported to be
working 65 hours a week. Most of us work for financial stability
and personal fulfilment. However, the 24/7 availability
afforded through technology - along with the ever increasing flood
of information to process in the pursuit of one's career and
personal aspirations - adds significant stress to our daily
Over the last several years, the term "work-life balance" has
become a rallying cry challenging us to learn to carefully consider
the allocation of our time and priorities at work and beyond in
order to put our life in "balance."
Is work-life balance achievable? Is it even desirable?
While the call to balancing our investment in work is admirable
(and needed) when considered within the larger context of our
complex lives, it can be quite misleading to describe our lives in
such simple terms of "work" and "non-work." Consider this quote
from the commencement address at Georgia Tech in 1991 by Brian G.
Dyson, former President and CEO of Coca-Cola:
"Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five
balls in the air. You name them Work, Family, Health, Friends and
Spirit … and you are keeping all of these in the air. You will soon
understand that Work is a rubber ball - if you drop it, it will
bounce back. But the other four balls - Family, Health, Friends and
Spirit are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be
irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even
shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand
that and strive for balance in your life."
His insight illustrates that there is so much more to balancing
our lives than how we allocate time and priorities related to our
employment. Add the challenges of mounting debt, maintaining our
physical health, a desire to upskill our professional capabilities,
community and political pressures, and the demands of maintaining
healthy relationships, and we have to become master jugglers just
to keep all these balls in the air. Our lives are more complex than
just work and non-work. In fact, we often purposefully choose
work-life inbalance - when we work overtime to generate income for
an anticipated expense, or take extended time off to care for a
loved one, or decide to invest in continuing education to enable
new career opportunities. The "right" balance also may be very
different person to person. You may enjoy working 60 hours a week,
but that level of commitment for another individual may have him or
her looking for a new job.
The reminder to balance our investments in work and non-work
activities is important for today's professional. However, we need
a better framework and practical tools - to help us move beyond
"work-life balance" to "life balance."
Well-Being: Redefining a Balanced Life
The Gallup organization, best known for polling populations to
understand trends and preferences, launched a global study
exploring the question, "What makes living worthwhile?"
Collecting data from over 150 countries, they asked hundreds of
questions about health, wealth, jobs, community engagement,
spirituality, goals for the future and relationships. From this
research, five distinct factors emerged, which they call the
"currency of a life that matters." The researchers suggest that
each of these "five essential elements" are universal across
cultures, religions and nationalities.
In their 2010 book "WellBeing: The Five Essential Elements," Tom
Rath and Jim Harter outline these five factors:
- Career Well-being: Liking what you do every day, your work
- Social Well-being: Building and maintaining strong
relationships, your personal life
- Financial Well-being: Successfully managing resources, your
- Physical Well-being: Good health and energy to get things done,
your fitness life
- Community Well-being: Engagement where you live/work, your
Although they do not define it as a well-being element, they
also explain that there is a sixth factor that drives all of the
- Spiritual Well-being: A core sense of worth, faith and purpose,
your life's mission
Think about your life for a minute. Where would you rate
yourself on each of these factors on the scale: Suffering (area of
high risk); Struggling (inconsistent, moderate risk); or Thriving
(consistent, progressing, low risk)? For most of us, we may be
thriving in a couple but struggling, or even suffering, in others.
Although 66 percent of people report to be doing well in a least
one area of well-being, only 7 percent report to be thriving across
each element. We need to recognize that our individual
well-being and personal identity is intertwined with each of these
factors - not just career and non-career.
Well-Being: Moving from surviving to
Considering life balance in terms of these six factors of
personal well-being helps us to realize the interconnectivity of
our daily lives. We carry concerns about our work/career with us in
the evening after we leave the workplace. We carry them with us in
every interaction. Similarly, we all recognize the impact that our
social or financial well-being level can have on our productivity
at work. We are constantly juggling all these balls.
This well-being perspective helps us to move from perceiving
ourselves as a victim of our busy lives to taking more control as
we create action plans to move from "surviving" to "thriving" in
each area of well-being. Even those of us who may define our
financial well-being as "suffering" can put in place processes (pay
off the credit cards every month) and tools (family budget) to help
us improve our overall financial health.
The multifaceted well-being perspective reminds us that as we
shift the balance of our time and resource investments to meet
short-term goals, we must remember to keep our eye on our long-term
wellness across each area. These six categories of well-being are
very similar to the "juggling balls" described in Dyson's
commencement speech. The level of aspiration for well-being in each
factor is unique to the individual and will change as conditions in
our life change. However, we can achieve a better life balance if
we carefully consider our goals and action plans for each of these
factors - and adjust them as priorities and life situations
This blog is dedicated to helping you learn to thrive across
each area of well-being by providing you with insightful tips and
practical tools along the way!
Learn more about getting your career moving. Visit Carlow
University's College of Professional Studies at www.carlow.edu/professionalstudies.
About the Author: Dr. Ice serves as the Dean of the College of Professional Studies at Carlow University. For more than 30 years, he’s served as an advisor to global business leaders on issues of talent strategy, workforce alignment, strategic planning, employee engagement, change leadership, building learning organizations and equipping leaders for success.
Contact: Dr. Jim Ice