Reconceiving Balance

By Betsy Jacobson
Abstracted from
Reflection, The Society For Organization Learning Journal

Balancing work and family has been on organizational agendas for years,
yet it has been miscast as a time-management issue. As employees, we typically
look to organizations for permission to be a whole person and assume that
we can solve work-and-family issues on a day-to-day basis. Balancing work
and family is a juggling act only if we look at it that way.

Each of us needs more self-esteem, a greater sense of personal accountability,
and more resilience toward life and in issues of trust. These are mindsets,
not policies. They are deeply rooted in our individual sensibilities,
and cannot be resolved by having more time available for more activities,
on the job or off it. Life balance is not an either/or issue. Balance
is both an experience and a feeling sustained by our ability to reflect,
feel appreciation, and set boundaries. It requires us to become more accountable,
but we may be able to live better that way.

The ability to reflect means pausing, slowing down, and looking at recurring
patterns in our own behavior. Balance means “to bring into harmony
or proportion, equalize, to bring into equilibrium.” Our equilibrium
is deeply rooted in our patterns of behavior and belief. Reflection is
an opportunity to self-correct our course in terms of our thinking, feeling
and actions. It combines introspection and “mindfulness,”
which means being fully aware of what is happening in the moment.

A corollary to the ability to reflect is the ability to feel and express
appreciation. Appreciation is key both for our self-esteem and in order
to continue giving. Feeling appreciation requires willingness to see that
coworkers, bosses, and direct reports are making good faith efforts. It
means acknowledging all ideas, because the good and bad ones together
make for the ones that are breakthroughs.

Part of boundary setting is making and keeping commitments, and then
letting others know what those commitments are both at work and at home.
Setting boundaries for individual quiet time creates a time to reflect,
time to feel and notice what and whom you appreciate. It is time for the
“me” that is otherwise missing.