It’s too easy to get caught up in the working side of life, and to let it overpower other equally important parts. Perhaps because I have tendencies in that direction, I often find myself thinking about how all the different parts of life fit together, particularly work and family life, as the holidays are upon us. That’s why today’s blog is a rumination on the virtues of balance and perspective where people strive to better themselves by seeking the former, and trying to maintain the latter where the former is concerned!
At any rate, as I found myself assembling various more-or-less-challenging children’s toys yesterday in the wake of a frenzied gift exchange and marathon unwrapping session, I also found myself pondering the work/life balance. I have a nearly-five-year-old son, who “needed” his slot car race set, a couple of cool but poorly documented Hot Wheels stunt sets, a modular set of marble raceway blocks, and a 125-piece parking garage set-up put together yesterday. Some of these tasks were pretty straightforward and just required mechanical assembly; others required visual analysis of operation, so that vital adjustments could be applied (one of his Hot Wheels stunts involved a battery powered race cage, triggered by a car arriving from a another stunt; it took me about half an hour to figure out that rocking the car launch forward in its mounts was the only way for the car release trigger to work properly).
As I chugged through these exercises, sometimes solo, and sometimes with the welcome participation of my sharper-eyed wife, Dina, I couldn’t help but think about this kind of work (the kind that helps families bond, creates good memories, and turns boxes of parts into precious playthings) versus the other kind of work I’d probably have been doing on just about any other Wednesday during the year (the kind that pays the bills, requires thinking about career and personal/professional development, and planning for continued employability and viability).
My ruminations led me to some interesting realizations:
- It’s far too easy to devote too much time, energy, and effort to working life, without always recognizing that “the other life” (family, leisure, personal and spiritual growth, or whathaveyou) has to suffer in that exchange.
- It’s also far too easy to believe that effort on “work work,” especially for those who work very hard and seek to better themselves, their families, and their life circumstances, provides some kind of exemption for the “life work” side of the equation. Alas, it doesn’t, and far too often getting ahead professionally or materially also means falling behind in other areas.
- Building and improving quality of life involves much more than what we do for a living. Stressing work over the other parts is sometimes inevitable, but can’t become an exclusive focus or even a partial obsession.
As we plan and plot out our working lives, and seek to climb the next rung, master new subject matters, and better ourselves and our situations, it’s important to remember this means expending thought, energy, and effort outside the work domain as well as inside its boundaries. Today, I’m thankful for my family, for the crazy and energetic paroxysms of competing goals and objectives, and for the love that suffuses the interactions and play that family life with small kids involves. Going forward, I want to protect and nurture those things as much as I want to keep the work and cash flowing into the working part of my life. That’s what represents balance to me: I hope you’ll think about what it represents to you, and seek to strike a better equilibrium in the year ahead.