Is it possible to find that elusive work-life balance so many seek? We think that’s the wrong question. However, there is something you can do to focus your energies on what you truly need. It works for organizations, and it can work for individuals too.
I want it all, and I want it now
Our reality is becoming increasingly complex, not simpler, and that’s where our life choices have to be the wisest we can make. Some articles suggest that balance is perhaps neither attainable nor desirable, like ‘We crave balance in the chaos of our lives. But is it overrated?’ and thought leaders like Arianna Huffington have changed their minds about what allows us to thrive.
Advertising and much of the media would like us to believe we can have everything. After all, we’re worth it, aren’t we? We’re entitled to success, aren’t we? The problem is, advertising and much of the media is about convincing us we have needs that we really don’t have.
Figuring out your true needs
Over the years of working with organizations and the individuals within them, a pattern has clearly emerged and it has been captured brilliantly by Dr. Eli Goldratt in one of his Thinking Process Tools (see core conflict cloud). At our deepest level, we all have two fundamental needs and these are what drive us. Once we become aware of them, it’s a lot easier to figure out what we really want. It will take some mulling over to verbalize the two needs, but it’s well worth the effort. One need is based on our fears and represents a need for control. The other need is based on our desires and represents a need for growth and vision.
For some people, fear has to do with financial certainty, for others it may be connected to social acceptance, whereas for someone else it may be to do with feeling protected.
The nuances are as varied as our physical features. Examples of a need connected with desire, on the other hand, may be for prestige, or learning, or self-determination. Whatever these needs are, they are uniquely our own, formed through our personal life experience, and they will influence how we feel about every choice we face.
Unbalance your life and feel the benefit
The effort we have to make, then, to improve our lives, is to find harmony in our life with these two needs, because they are never going to leave us. They are a basic tenet of our nature. And that’s not a bad thing. Our two main needs are as personal to us as our fingerprints, and they are part of our makeup. That’s why we should make an effort to understand what they really are, and not what we think they should be, or what others would like them to be. Then we can ‘unblance’ our life around them.
So it’s not about deciding to block off a certain number of hours for “me time” or a certain number of hours for “family time”. It’s about consistently figuring out what are our two basic needs (fears and desires) and the mental models that we create around them. Every time we’re in a dilemma about what’s best to do, we can think back to those needs and check our assumptions against them. If something we intend to do does not correspond with either of those needs, then it cannot lead to our personal fulfillment. Recognizing this fundamental truth can free us from a lot of unnecessary effort, and set us on a path towards much more harmonious lives.
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About the Author
Angela Montgomery Ph.D. is Partner and Co-founder of Intelligent Management and author of the business novel+ website The Human Constraint , so far purchased in 23 countries around the globe. This downloadable novel uses narrative to look at how the Deming approach and the Theory of Constraints can create the organization of the future, based on collaboration, network and social innovation. She is co-author with Dr. Domenico Lepore, founder, and Dr. Giovanni Siepe of ‘Quality, Involvement, Flow: The Systemic Organization’ from CRC Press, New York.