Written by: Zachary Gabriel Green, Ph.D.
AABLI Adjunct Faculty
Clinical Psychologist, Professor, and International Social
University of San Diego
When we speak of work/life balance, we create the illusion that our work and our lives are somehow separate. What may be more appropriate is to consider how work and life can be better integrated.
Think about it. If your work and life feel out of balance, isn’t one influencing the other? Obviously, if we do not take on the responsibilities of our various professional roles, we may not have those responsibilities for long. Similarly, when we do not attend to the relationships most important to us, we will experience distance and alienation from those we love.
While there are many ways to approach work/life integration, these few steps may help us develop practices that change the ways we address such situations.
- Reflect on our current values
The challenge of finding work/life integration has a lot to do with our values. If we are living according to our values, what we call “work” and what we call “life” may seem to be out of balance at times. The bigger issue is that our current values may shift based on where we are personally and professionally. At certain moments in our lives, we may need to put more emphasis on professional and academic attainment. We can view such an emphasis as creating an imbalance, but it could as easily be valued as an investment in our future.
- Make the people we love a priority
When we choose not to make the people we love our priority, work/life integration fails. We know the difference. It is when we choose to work later hours, stay engaged with our flat screens and schedule that conference call during times that are important for friends and family. The absence of integration has one clear distinction. It is when our actions are indeed choices. An urgent deadline or an important deliverable at the workplace is not the same as a self-imposed deadline. When we act as if all things at work have equal importance, we rob those we love of our presence. Eventually, in ways subtle and direct, they will learn to live without us.
- Love our work
When we love our work rather than experience it as a job for a paycheck, the distance between work and life dramatically diminishes. While it may take months or years for our work to align with our deepest values and truest love, the closer our work is to our purpose and passion the more likely we are to live in the space of work/life integration. Finding this intrinsic love of our work is elusive but well worth the pursuit.
- Love ourselves
Our capacity for work/life integration often is related to our relationship with ourselves. When we have some distance from our values and ideals, it is easy to let either issues in our work or challenges in our lives disrupt the potential for integration. If work is a chore and life is a bore, it is ample evidence that we are far from integration.When we love ourselves, we are treating ourselves with gentleness and kindness, doing our best to live up to who we are. Most of us prefer to avoid the sometimes difficult work of knowing ourselves and loving ourselves more fully. But do take on the challenge: it’s worth it.
Love of self is also a practice. Not to be confused with narcissism or egotism, self-love is characterized by respect and care for one’s body, mind, and soul. Imbalance in any of these three areas suggest that there may be gaps in self-love. Addressing such issues is a lifelong process that can begin with sufficient attention to work/life integration.
From the perspective of AABLI, board service means that integration (in every sense of the word) is perennially at issue. Our racial identity adds another level of complexity, and actually offers even more reason to bring work/life integration to our daily practice.
You do not have to do this alone. Finding accountability partners and mutual support makes all the difference in moving work/life integration from passive awareness to sustained action.
This blog is not written by aabli.org or The African American Board Leadership Institute. The author is solely responsible for the content.