A lot has been written in recent years about work-life balance, which promotes a valuable lesson about not letting one’s work dominate their life and shares a message to employers to remember that employees are human beings (Gee, what a concept). However, work-life balance starts with the base assumption that you necessarily have two separate entities: a “work” life and a “life” life and it is up to each person to decide what constitutes these two entities being in balance and how to handle situations in which there is a lack of balance. While this idea works for many people, I do find it a tad presumptuous to say that work and life must be separate.
Again, there is value in the idea of work-life balance, but perhaps a more modern take on this idea is the concept of work-life integration. This concept teaches that, especially in our high-tech, modern world, the lines between “work” and “life” have really been blurred. We can work from home; we can send emails from the gym; we can meditate in the office, etc. While the idea work-life integration has value, it really only works for people when both sides – work and life – are equally considered for integration. In other words, work-life integration could give employers the chance to work employees even more. If there’s an expectation that an employee must respond to emails at all hours of the day, for example, clearly that employee’s personal life has not been assigned equal value by the employer.
I don’t want to create confusion by attempting to split hairs or to play a game of “My Idea is Bigger Than Yours!” so why don’t we just start from scratch. As I mentioned in Growing the Roots of Change, it is best to first start a personal development program before you start a professional development program; it’s best to get to know yourself and grow as a person and then see how your increased self-awareness influences your career. By doing vision work, you’ll know what you want your future to look like, what you want to achieve, and you’ll begin to get an idea of how to get there, using goal formation as the real tool for success.
Once you have a real vision for your life, what your career should look like in order to enable or accommodate the realization of your vision often will become clear. Your career may be a part of your overall life direction, in other words. Or, it may not be. It wholly depends on what your vision is. If what you really, truly want is to marry a rich person so you never have to work, then fine. I’m never here to judge; I’m merely saying you need to know what you want before you can get it. Maybe what you really want is to play guitar at a nursing home for free. That sounds awesome! But you’ll still need SOME income, so some form of a job or career would likely be necessary to accommodate your dream.
For many of us, though, a career can be a primary vehicle to achieve our goals and realize our vision. We just don’t always think of it that way. What’s more, when you know what you want, you’re in a much better position to seek employment with companies that align with YOUR values, and that’s great for you and the employer!
So start with figuring out yourself, then figure out how work fits into your dream. And as with many topics that I discuss, there’s room for a whole lot of nuance, so if it doesn’t make sense or if you need help, hit me up in the comments or send me a message.