The Village Family Service Center

The Challenges of Work-Life Balance (and Why We're Not Fruit on a Scale)

Date: 
Tuesday, June 20, 2017
Apple balancing on a scale

By John E. Trombley
The Village Business Institute

Work-life balance is an interesting concept. Many people have written about it, conducted research on it, and trained countless numbers of us in how to achieve it. You would think with all that focus we would all be well-balanced and happy by now, but apparently that’s more wishful thinking than reality.

If there were an “easy” button that you and I could press to make all things right, we would have pressed it already, right? A more realistic view is that for one person, being balanced is a different experience than that of another person. That is, what you consider to be balanced may not fit my circumstances at all. It’s a matter of personal priorities.

For many of us, the idea of work-life balance involves spending equal time and energy on work and on personal life activities, as though we are weighing things out on a scale, and as though work is somehow separate from life. Or perhaps for some it’s like having your tires balanced so they wear evenly and provide a safe, smooth ride. That’s all fine and dandy if you’re weighing fruit and vegetables at the grocery store to estimate the cost, or in fact balancing your tires, but you and I aren’t fruits and vegetables nor are we inanimate objects that have to fit together “just right” in order for a machine to operate.

Work and life are inseparable. Yet we sometimes get lulled into thinking that when we leave the world of work we somehow mysteriously enter into the world of life and living for a while before we have to make that toilsome journey from life back to work.

Perhaps instead of thinking that work and life are two separate entities each vying for our time and attention, we might be better off being brutally honest with ourselves about what matters most to us in the little time we have to walk this planet.

I believe it takes time to get quiet enough to dig past the surface of what other people expect us to do and what we feel we “should” do in response to those expectations. I believe it takes some heavy lifting and a willingness to be uncompromisingly honest with ourselves about how we spend our time, energy, and resources in the course of daily living.

If we say that family and friendships are truly the most important priorities in our life but then find ourselves coming home to spend time with online gaming or sitting mindlessly in front of the TV for hours at a time, then maybe family and relationships really aren’t all that important to us after all. That’s fine if they aren’t, and that’s up to you. But why do we lie to ourselves if that’s the case? We can reduce a lot of stress and the feeling of being unbalanced when we are honest about our priorities.

If we realize we aren’t living up to what we say we believe or hold to be important – that is, if our actions don’t line up with our words – we can make the choice to change the direction of our lives. It doesn’t require a quantum leap or a massive, sudden change in direction. It takes one small step and one small decision at a time.

Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States once said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” That’s pretty sound advice for finding balance in life.


John Trombley, consulting and training manager, The Village Business Institute John Trombley is The Village Business Institute’s Consulting & Training Manager and also serves as an Organization Development Consultant and Trainer. He has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Alaska, Anchorage, and a Master of Management degree from the University of Mary, Fargo where he serves as an adjunct faculty member. He is a motivational speaker with over 18 years of experience in providing training programs and consulting services in a wide variety of organization development scenarios. John is registered with the Supreme Court of the State of Minnesota as a Qualified Neutral mediator under ADR Rule 114, and is also certified in Internal Investigations by the Council on Education in Management.

Previously, John served as a Command Pilot, Squadron Commander and senior staff officer in the USAF and Air National Guard, and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel with over 6,200 flying hours.

Download John’s FREE E-Book: The Seven Benefits of Mediation