Why We’re Better Off Fit Versus Balanced
Article Date: Monday, April 09, 2012
Written By: Adrienne Gilman
I have always thought of myself as a late-bloomer.
I was the type of child that would get into the pool using the stairs, at the shallow end, very slowly. Some children, such as my husband, never had to learn to swim. They just swam. They cannon-balled into the deep end and tried to make the biggest splash. Somehow, we as a society are okay with children growing and developing at different speeds. This is normal and acceptable. An inch one year, five inches the next. Some of us took to sports, other to music or maybe chess. As we grow older, society is less eager to allow us the time to enter the pool slowly or try a new instrument just because we feel like it. All of sudden, instead of just life, there is work and life and they come in that order.
This concept has always mystified me. Work and life. This implies there is work on the one hand and life on the other. We seem to believe theses are separate things. We use such terms as “work-life” and “real-life” as if we are not really living while at work and the weekend is the only time we are truly living (assuming we don’t work weekends). Some of us adapted as we grew up by replacing life with work. Yes, there is potential for burnout and fatigue, but at least you do not have time to realize what you are missing. Others of us felt obligated to sacrifice one for the other. There are, after all, only so many hours in the day.
I don’t think I’m alone in searching for a better solution. I know this because I’ve often heard the term “work-life balance.” This term invites hope and possibility. It allows us to admit we can’t have both work and a personal life all the time but also challenges us to figure out a way to have both some of the time. The term conjures up images of the scales of justice. Yet, even this concept is not quiet as satisfying as it may seem at first.
The term work-life balance was actually first used in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s. We began using the term work-life balance in the United States in the mid-1980s. Some other terms that were thrown into the conversation were technology, globalization, and of course, gender equality. Flexibility in the workplace became a right rather than a privilege. Now, Generation Y considers social media at work a right not a privilege. My have times have changed!
More recently, a new concept has emerged. The new buzz term is work-life fit. Cali Williams Yost, co-founder of the Families and Work Institute, wrote a book in 2004 entitled Work+Life: Finding the Fit That’s Right for You. There is even a website, www.worklifefit.com. As I understand it, this term is better illustrated through a Venn diagram rather than a scale. One example of the diagram could be two circles, work and life, overlapping in different ways for different people. I prefer to think of life as the big circle with a smaller work circle inside the life circle. The work circle expands and contracts at different period of our lives. There are also circles for hobbies, exercise, relationships and other aspirations. I do not like to think of the circles in terms of time. I believe the circles grow and expand at different rates. They overlap and blend, creating exciting new patterns like a kaleidoscope.
The work-life fit model encourages a holistic, strategic approach to planning our day, week and life. We’re not dancing from one side of the scale to the other. Gaining on one side of the scale should not necessarily meaning loose something on the other side. Some days or years the work circle is pretty big and dominates the picture. Other times, it will be another circle that comes to the forefront. There is no blame or predetermined outcome. There is no right answer. This goal, at least, seems a bit more satisfying and realistic. We’re not forcing pieces of a puzzle together. Rather, we can focus on the process and not the appearance of a particular outcome. If we accept these new rules of the playground, then we are free to grow in ways that fit us best. We can choose to tiptoe through the shallow end or cannon-balling into the deep. •
Adrienne Gilman is co-chair of the Wellness Committee and practices with McAngus, Goudelock, and Courie in Charlotte.
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