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Does work-life balance even exist?

October 28, 2014

Has Stewart Friedman found the secret to work-life balance in his new book, Leading the Life You Want?

Well maybe.

In his research, Friedman analyzed the habits of several high-profile leaders including Michelle Obama, Sheryl Sandberg, and Bruce Springsteen, and concluded that the most effective people are those who are capable of truly understanding their passions, skills, and powers, and leveraging those passions, skills, and powers in every aspect of their lives. According to Friedman, these leaders don’t separate work from life per se, but rather they know what they want, and they find authentic, innovative, and integrated ways to go after all of their goals.

The highly successful leaders he analyzed, “show how accomplishment in a career is achievable not at the expense of the rest of your life, but because of commitments at home, in the community, and to your interior life.”

“It’s a life in which disparate pieces fall into place, not every single day—that’s the impossible myth of ‘work-life balance’—but over the course of a lifetime.”

There are some good nuggets of knowledge here for us all. And Friedman’s presentation of a more holistic approach to understanding the ubiquitous work-life balance conversation presents the metaphor of a journey rather than a means to an end.

So the question is: How do you actually integrate and find strength in the different demands of our lives?

Friedman suggests that we start by considering three core principles:

1. Be authentic. Know what you want and clarify what’s important to you. Work becomes a lot less of a chore and a lot more fulfilling when you’re doing what you want.

2. Integrate. Recognize how the different parts of your life (work, home, community, self, etc.) not only affect one another but can actually benefit from integration.

3. Innovate. Once you’re clear with what you want and how the different parts of your life can help you achieve your goals, get creative by experimenting with how things get done in ways that are good for you and for the people around you.

Start every day with an intention; be mindful of what’s most important and inspires you. This is your leadership journey and no one else’s. If you’re clear about the direction you want to go, start to head down that path; we are bound to make mistakes and that is okay. Be kind to yourself, you’re only human.

So, let’s hear it. Are you working on work-life balance or work-life integration?

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