Forget work/life balance; seek harmony instead.
Like so many businesspeople, for a long time I tried to find the perfect work/life balance. And as a leader, I’ve urged my people to do the same. The problem is few people I know could find the right formula. I couldn’t. It took me years to realize that I was solving for the wrong equation. It’s never been about balance. It’s about finding harmony.
We invited Ben to speak to our leaders at a recent conference, and we chatted prior to that so I could brief him about everything going on with the events industry, our company, and the pressure of ramping up client business in a compressed time frame. I explained how we are all trying to rebuild our depleted resilience, and how difficult it is to find time to invest in our own wellbeing.
This is something Ben has discovered on a personal journey that he shares in his presentation. Ben’s core message relates to the power of radical possibility, but the underpinning philosophy is summed up in the admonition we hear before take-off on every commercial flight. In the event of an emergency, put on your own oxygen mask before trying to help others. It’s so basic. Good people tend to neglect their own well-being because they are selflessly helping others. But the reality is, If we want to help others in a sustainable way, we need to take care of ourselves.
One way we can restore resilience is by nurturing and committing to our dreams, which means articulating them as personal goals. Essentially, this is a bucket list we commit to by creating accountability. Ben explains it better than I ever could, and you can watch a brief clip here.
But an interesting side conversation we had on our video chat was about how the concept of finding work/life balance over-simplifies the actual problem. Because it’s not about balancing two discrete things that rest on either side of a fulcrum. It’s not really about weighing the value of work life vs. family life, as if they are two kids that have been plunked on a playground teeter-totter and are vying for supremacy. The truth is our lives are more complex than that and there are many legitimate demands on our time and energy. So, our pursuit of resilience and mental wellbeing begins with finding harmony between all of these: our personal relationships, our desire for adventure; our professional and financial goals, our creative outlets and spiritual fulfillment, and even our social obligation to pay it forward.
Finding harmony, instead of balance, acknowledges that all of these things coexist, and that they can feed each other in beautiful ways. Happiness and wellbeing can be found in committing to specific goals that, in the process of fulfillment, feed the energy we need to excel in other areas of our lives. And that helps us give other people what they need. Even if it’s simply the encouragement to pursue their own passions.
As with musical harmony, the voices in our lives aren’t always balanced. In fact, the joy lies in the dynamic range, in how the voices come together in layers, pull apart, and frame the melody in interesting ways. Harmony creates something bigger and more amazing than the individual parts of our lives taken separately.
We’re working on a plan to help people in our company find harmony in their lives by pursuing their dreams. I guess you could say this is on my bucket list. I’ll let you know what we figure out. In the meantime, enjoy this example of harmony in the Wilson Phillips cover of Brian Wilson’s “Good Vibrations.” It’s a pretty good metaphor for what’s possible.
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