Got Balance?


When I was growing up, I’m sure my parents and most others who were working adults struggled with what we now call “work-life balance.”  My dad had a full-time job and worked part-time on weekends.  My grandmother worked in other people’s homes, and my mom worked outside the home, off-and-on, but mostly kept our home.  I didn’t hear them talk about balance.  They just kept doing what they were doing, until our family, shall we say, re-organized. 

In a recent training session I learned that the news media mentioned work-life balance only once in 1986, more than 30 times in 1996 and close to 1,680 times in 2007.  Today, we are awash in the topic.  Achieving balance is a front-and-center topic for us women and, more and more, for men.  It is something we covet, continually seek and sometimes achieve.

You may be balanced if…

  • You’re in good health or managing your conditions;
  • You secure in or wise about your relationships;
  • You’re continually learning and achieving; and
  • You are spiritually centered, living with integrity. 

Although we may never achieve this particular nirvana, we know when things get too far out of whack.  We start planning for change, and that’s when things get really interesting!

What our trainer suggested to us, and what I had not considered before, was how personal values affect and guide balance.  These are not so much the values we hold dear and live by; instead, they relate to what we value…what is most important.

The news here, I think, is that it’s possible for us to bring our values to the workplace, to express them and live them in a way that is not unreasonably disruptive to others.  We learned about a man…let’s call him Tom…who’s boss asked him to attend an important staff meeting during the weekend.  Tom already had commitments on which he placed a higher value: his church and his family.  Eventually, the meeting was set for a time suitable for everyone, including Tom. 

Not everyone has the influence, the courage or the work environment to get this kind of result.   But it makes me think about airing out my assumptions.  Play to my strengths, live to my values?

What are my values?  This is an intensely personal question, with answers subject to change with the ebb and flow of our lives.  Things to consider include:

  • Identifying personal and professional roles and attending first to the roles that last a lifetime;
  • Figuring out what you do that gets the most results and doing that most often;
  • Doing only what you can do, while delegating, outsourcing or neglecting the rest;
  • Planning what you can do; and
  • Deciding how you want to be remembered.

This seems radical to me, but worth a try.  It’s my life, after all, that’s in the balance.


Toni Messina is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Patrick Fiorenza

Loved this post. Last year on a call with a mentor she just asked me: “What’s your why?” It was about 30 minutes into the call – and I honestly think she knew the answer more than me, and could tell I was swaying to far from my “why.” Once I figured out, or more defined what my “why” is, my work-life balance re-aligned to what I actually found valuable, rewarding, etc. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Russell Irving

Toni, kudos. A great piece regarding a super-important issue. By maintaining that balance we might forego promotions and the latest smartphone (LOL), but we could gain positive family relations. Or evenfocus on our own needs be they ohysical, emotional, and spiritual.