Famed tightrope walker Tino Wallenda and his family, the Flying Wallendas, have been walking on high wires without nets for nearly a century. When asked how he maintains balance on a wire with nothing but earth beneath him, Tino gently corrects the assumption: “The reality is that you are never actually balanced; you are constantly making small adjustments—moving back and forth—and it’s those constant movements that keep you on the wire. The truth is, if you stand still, you fall.”
The same is true of harmonizing our personal and professional worlds. You are never actually balanced, nor should you try to be. To ensure a more harmonious existence, you must keep yourself moving— carefully teetering and tottering between work and life activities. Like a tightrope walker, you must regularly make adjustments back and forth to keep yourself standing. The key is being purposeful, having sound reasons for everything you do.
Many of these purposeful adjustments are small and require mere acts of personal discipline. For example:
Leaving work at a set time each day
Carving out thirty minutes every other day for a jog
Reserving one lunch a week for connecting with friends
Occasionally, the adjustments are bigger and require greater sacrifice. For example:
Finding a new job with a shorter commute
Cutting back to part time to be a better parent
Taking a new position within your company in exchange for a more flexible schedule
The point is that both big and small adjustments are inevitably necessary to maintain work/life harmony. Instead of aiming for equitable division of your work/life time, strive for purposeful give-and-take. Give more time to work this week since that report is due on Friday, in return for more time for your personal life next week. Or, give more time to your personal life during the next two months—to be with your new baby—in return for more time for work during the following months.
Eventually the season will change, and you will return to some of the things you were forgoing. But something else will always come up. This is the natural flow of harmonious living: giving and taking, back and forth between personal and professional activities. Thus, purposeful imbalance—not perfect balance—is the only way you can achieve a gratifying work life without decimating your personal life, and a gratifying personal life without abandoning your career aspirations.