Problems of work/life balance can be very real. That’s one of the reasons why we work with people individually, to figure out career paths that fit with your life. It’s one of the reasons the University has invested in a truly wide-ranging Employee and Family Assistance Program.
Work/life balance issues can also be self-imposed. One of the downsides of our awareness of the importance of balance is that it can lead us to scrutinize parts of our life that simply aren’t currently that important to us. Personally, I am a fan of the well-used coaching wheel of life. It can alert you to things you’ve been neglecting, and can remind you of things that are meaningful to you, but that have just slipped out of view.
That said, it can also give the impression that you have an obligation to have everything in perfect condition, all at the same time. After all, a bumpy wheel is always less functional than a smooth one, right?
As it turns out, even engineers are willing to accept a bumpy wheel now and then. In the design-thinking career book Designing Your Life, the authors apply their engineering-focused problem-solving approach to careers. In doing so, they recommend a stripped-down version of the coaching wheel: a four-part dashboard in which you assess your life satisfaction in terms of work, play, love and health. On the one hand, they note that the dashboard “can sometimes warn us…that it’s time to pull over and figure out what’s wrong.” On the other, they caution that “There will be an appropriate mix for you…at whatever stage of life you are in…perfect balance is not our goal….Only you know what’s good enough or not good enough.”
If you do a dashboard or wheel of life activity – or just think about the things you “should” have in balance, perhaps try out a quick exercise from Christina Lattimer’s blog, in which she points out that you can have an inner best friend along with your inner critic. Your best friend wouldn’t lead you astray by wanting you to ignore something important; that friend wants you to reach out to resources, get the help you need, and thank yourself for your self-care. On the other hand, your best friend does not want you to exhaust yourself meeting standards that don’t matter to you. Everyone gets to say no to something; ask your inner best friend what that could be.