Don’t aim for Work Life balance, try Stress Peace balance instead

There are many books, articles and blogs on the topic of work life balance and suggestions to strike the right balance. In today’s highly connected world, is it really possible to have this distinction? The boundaries of work and life blurred long back with the advance of technology. It’s common to carry work home and home to work.

Proponents of work life balance argue that working long hours is the problem. When you work for long, you definitely are going to ignore to some extent other aspects of your life – family, friends, hobbies, health  etc. Working long hours will bring stress and other issues. But will it really? Some would disagree. It’s not work that causes the stress but the desire of the greener grass on other side that causes it. If your work is boring and uninteresting, it will cause stress but what if you love your work – its in-line with your passion, then there is joy and not stress in those long hours. Entrepreneurs are known to work long hours and they love it because they are working towards their dream. That is not tiring at all. On the other hand, just because someone has a 9-5 job and has a lot of time for personal life, does not mean there wont be stress. Martha is a talented and ambitious woman who quit her job and became a homemaker. They were in a new city with no family or friends to provide a support system to take care of the kids. There is possibility of stress there as well though she now is completely focused on her personal life.

So the problem is not work – abundance or lack of it. Life cannot be compartmentalized like this. It’s a complete package. The parts make the whole. We need to look at each part individually and retrospect whether it creates stress.

Peace is the fundamental thing we are looking for when we try to strike that ever elusive work life balance.
Don't aim for Work Life balance, try Stress Peace balance instead

We want to go on about our life happily – in both of those areas – personal and professional.Then I would rather term it as Stress Peace balance and not work life balance.

We need to try to maximize the parts that will create peace and minimize the parts that creates stress. This is easier said than done. It sometimes would involve difficult choices that need to be made and acceptance of the reality of the life that you cannot have the cake and eat it too. You need to choose based on what’s more important to you in the given situation and be happy about it. Going back to the Martha’s example, when the kids are younger, she had two choices. First to leave her job and take care of the kids herself. Second to seek professional help and continue with her job. Based on what she thought was more important and made sense to her, she decided. Now this does not mean that she is completely happy with that choice but that was the best option possible given the circumstances and her priorities in life. That reality needs to be accepted to reduce the stress. Meanwhile she should explore other options that increase the peace in her life like pursuing hobbies or getting higher education in her leisure time.

Whether work adds stress or not, also depends on many other factors like the life stage you are in, financial situation, aspirations and many others. In the early years of Rohan’s career, travel was a big motivator because as a bachelor he wanted to see the world. That was a priority then and he would go after projects and roles that involved lot of travel. Over the years after a lot of globe-trotting and settling down in family life , today travel needs to be “planned”. He cannot just travel at the drop of a hat as sudden travel can generate stress. So Rohan needs to choose projects and roles accordingly.

At the end of the day, its boils down to one simple thing – what’s important to you in a given situation at the point of time. That dictates your choices. The more choices you make that add stress and reduce peace, the more imbalance you will create and viceversa

Choose Wisely.

Hrishikesh Karekar

Hrishikesh is an enterprise agile coach with interests in varied disciplines. Frequently writing on Agile and Lean related topics, he also occasionally ventures into other stuff like Artificial Intelligence as well..