Redefining the Work-Life Balance

By Jonathan Ruth

Most of us are familiar with the phrase “paradigm shift.” A quick search on the Internet returns the following definition, “a fundamental change in approach or underlying assumptions.” For the purposes of this blog, we’ll concentrate on the “underlying assumptions” part.

Work-life balance. We hear that all the time, don’t we? We admire companies and organizations that seem to promote healthy environments in which to work. Most of us don’t mind hard work, but we also appreciate when our managers understand that sometimes we need to remove our noses from the grindstones, as it were, in order to remain emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically healthy.

When we talk about trying to achieve a work-life balance, we need to be aware that there is a very sneaky implication hidden in the term itself; specifically, that work is on the same level of importance as life itself.

Insert paradigm shift here! We need to start questioning our underlying assumptions. We need to redefine what we’re all trying to achieve.

So how do we start to shift the paradigm? We need to change our underlying assumptions and realize that work is simply a part of life, like any other part. Granted, it’s a large part. For most of us, it takes up the better part of 40-plus hours out of the 168 hours we’re given every week. But work isn’t something you do while you hang your life up in the coat closet, and life isn’t what you do when you’re off the clock.

Work is a part of life.

Family is a part of life.

Rest is a part of life.

Exercise is a part of life.

Community is a part of life.

Laughter is a part of life.

Hobbies are a part of life.

Recreation is a part of life.

What we all need to be striving for is life balance, not work-life balance!

What’s the best way to go about achieving a better life balance? Great question! There are a lot of tools and steps you can take, but here’s one exercise that could be beneficial. Write down any or all of the following words that represent different areas of your life (add your own if you think of others that apply):

  • Work/Career
  • Community (Family, Friends, etc.)
  • Personal Finances
  • Intimate Relationship (Spouse, Significant Other, etc.)
  • Health
  • Personal and/or Spiritual Development
  • Fun (Social Events, Hobbies, etc.)

For each aspect of your life, rate your satisfaction on a scale from 0 to 10, where 0 is completely dissatisfied and 10 is completely satisfied. Give yourself the time to undergo an honest assessment. Ask yourself hard questions, if needed. Seek feedback from those that know you well. The results may surprise you.

Once you’ve rated each area, take steps to improve the areas that need the most work. Breaking down changes into small steps helps position us for success. It’s also important to find an accountability partner. We need others around us to encourage and challenge us to be our best as we make changes, especially when our desire wanes.

Focusing on the whole of our lives, not just one aspect, provides a fresh perspective. It could be that career is a low number for you when you go through the exercise. If that’s the case, it may be time for some changes. Oftentimes, however, unhappiness in one area of our lives can feed into others. It might just be that your attitude about work improves after you develop better relationships with your friends.

When we realize that work is a part of life – not something that puts life on hold – then we start to bring the balance into focus. This benefits employers, too. After all, a well-balanced employee is typically a happier, more productive one!

Jonathan RuthJonathan Ruth   Contact   Website
UT System Administration

Jonathan is a two-time UT graduate and currently works in the IRIS Administrative Support department. He’s also a life coach and has a passion for helping others. He loves spending time with family and friends and is certain he played on the PGA Tour in another life.

Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.