Don't Add Weight When Trying to Achieve Work-life Balance

August 7, 2012

I think sometimes, in trying to achieve work-life balance, we add more stuff to an already packed life in the misguided hope that …everything will fall into place.

A country song popular right now has a line that is particularly attractive when I’m running late in clinic and haven’t yet finished a single note." I said I’d be back in a minute, then I bought a boat and I sailed off in it." I picture a mellow guy sitting on the back of a boat, drinking a beer, sailing off into the sunset. And, sometimes, I so want to be on that boat too.

My husband and I disagree about a number of things, which keeps our dinner conversation interesting (when we can be heard above the kids’ arguments and pleas to not have to finish some part of their meal). However, one area we definitely agree on is that it is far better to have a good friend who owns a boat (provided they invite you out on it) than to actually own one yourself.

Be it a boat or a vacation home or any one of a number of other things, what we picture in our mind’s eye is rarely reality. Sure, a boat is a lot of fun to take out on the lake on a sunny summer day. But, it’s also a lot of work. The same goes for a vacation home. They are expensive and someone has to clean them, buy groceries for them, change the sheets on the beds, and mow the grass.

I was watching a television show a few months back and it profiled a young family who seemed to be barely scraping by. However, they had their heart set on buying a condo in Florida. The show profiled their house hunting attempts. All the while, all I could think about was the strain on their budget and marriage of owning a house that was 1,000 miles from where they live and the cost of flying five people down to Florida several times per year. I predict that, unless they win the lottery (there’s a different show for that), they will soon regret this purchase.

I think that sometimes, in trying to achieve work-life balance, we add more stuff to an already packed life in the misguided hope that if only we have the boat, the vacation condo, the in-ground pool, etc. then everything will fall into place. We’ll relax and spend more time with our family. We’ll turn off our cell phones and pagers as we sail around the lake. I would guess that the majority of the time, the way we behave without the vacation home is pretty similar to the way we’ll behave with the vacation home.

This all leads to my point, which is not to avoid buying the vacation home or the boat, but rather to challenge you, just like I try to challenge myself, to start today, right now. Live the life you dream of, do the things you want to do or know you will regret not doing at the end of your life. Don’t wait and don’t "if only." The key to balance, happiness, and peace is not found on a floating raft in your background pool - it’s waiting right in front of you to reach out and claim it.

Find out more about Jennifer Frank and our other Practice Notes bloggers.