Work/Life Balance – Answering the Wrong Question is ironic in the sense we seek a middle ground vs. the best for quality of life…

In a time where we are seeking holistic solutions to a variety of challenges; from the food we eat to the medical care we receive to our children’s education, that we still maintain a non-holistic, dualistic perception of work and life, as if these were two competing forces in clear opposition requiring a negotiated settlement to achieve a peaceful co-existence.

Think about it; is life so shallow that it can be so easily compartmentalized? Of course not, so why do so many people and organizations use this terminology to help their associates put some order around time management? Because too many of them live in the dualistic mindset of “either/or,” when the goal should be “all.”

So, how do we get there?

Well, the only thing worse than having the wrong answer to the right question is to have the right answer to the wrong question, and the question of “work/life balance” must be re-framed into the question of life integration.  Life integration addresses the fragmentation of daily living and seeks a more unified and holistic approach to promote mastery and confidence.  Years ago, I had the pleasure of working on a cultural change project with a prominent Organizational Psychologist. A key takeaway was that everyone should do a “goal-value” analysis to determine if they are in the right place to control the stress associated with fragmentation and contradiction. This analysis reveals gaps, which can now be addressed holistically.

To illustrate, I rode the train into our office in Boston not long ago and was amazed and disheartened by the number of people complaining about where they were going. Then, on the way home, many of the same people were complaining about what they have to do when they get home.  How do you recover from this set of competing negatives? Oh wait, that is where you take “work,” put it out of your mind and focus on the “life” side of the equation. So, when you get home all will be fine: Very misplaced action, it cannot work. You may be able to dim the day just enough to be functional in the other aspects of your day, but you will never be fully present on either side of the equation, thus never fully performing to your ability on either side. This “work/life” balance thing has some real consequences.

Does any of this sound familiar?

We can all get caught in this trap. In fact, I used to be the poster child for promoting “work-life” balance, that is until I began my entrepreneurial run and soon realized it was not even worth talking about.  Entrepreneur or not, this transformation is possible in multiple work settings, and even more so with the new move to a distributed workforce.  Establishing a reflective and integrated approach to our current state and the ability to make the best of it without restricting ourselves to believing it is work vs. life is the more reasonable alternative.  So, what do I tell clients or people I coach? It is simple; live with integration, enjoy what you do or don’t do it and be true to your belief system.  If you can accomplish these simple items and be true to them, you will be amazed at the renewed energy that follows:

  • Align yourself with positive people.
  • Focus your energy on goals that contribute to something bigger than yourself.
  • Ensure that what you do at work supports your personal goals.
  • Don’t hide your personal being from your professional being, integration and transparency is freedom.
  • Be inclusive and allow for true collaboration in your life.


Is this common sense? Is it simple? Yes, but it is not easy. In order for this to take hold you must be dedicated and expect that not everyone will understand at first. You also have to be willing to make changes and there is a possibility that things won’t immediately align.  However, in the end, you will not need any “balance” since you will have one goal, one life, with multiple and fully integrated components; a prism of colors derived from one source – you!

So, start asking the right question!

Explore More Research

Written by Phil Ventresca, MBA, and Frank Ferrante