I've come to the conclusion that work-life balance is fundamentally flawed. As a concept to govern your life it should be discarded.
I think another more helpful analogy is that of seasons. A season is a relatively brief period of time, around 12-13 weeks. Take the example of a farmer. His priorities depend on which season he is in. Spring is for planting. Summer is for ensuring his crops remain healthy, weed and disease free. Autumn is the time of harvesting. Winter is the time for the ground and the farmer to rest and recuperate in preparation for the repeating cycle.
By way of contrast think how ridiculous it would be if the farmer ignored this and did not respect the seasons. So rather than planting in the spring, he did nothing at all. He relaxed through the summer and then tried to work incredibly hard during the autumn, planting seeds and trying to force his plants to grow for a harvest in just a few short weeks. It sounds so ridiculous. I know you are not a farmer (at least I don't think you are!).
But isn't this something like how we try to rush and have everything instantly in our technologically driven world where so much can be made available immediately? We pay the price for this in terms of stress, burnout and even depressive thinking.
Here are two fundamental characteristics of seasons:
- Seasons require timing.
Writing about 3000 years ago, King Solomon who has been described as the wisest man who ever lived, wrote:
There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth:
A right time for birth and another for death,
A right time to plant and another to reap,
A right time to kill and another to heal,
A right time to destroy and another to construct,
A right time to cry and another to laugh,
A right time to lament and another to cheer,
A right time to make love and another to abstain,
A right time to embrace and another to part,
A right time to search and another to count your losses,
A right time to hold on and another to let go,
A right time to rip out and another to mend,
A right time to shut up and another to speak up,
A right time to love and another to hate,
A right time to wage war and another to make peace.
Or to put it another way, doing something out of season can not only be wrong but have disastrous consequences. Getting priorities right in terms of work and the rest of my life is a matter of understanding context and timing.
2. Seasons require maturity.
What do we mean by maturity?
It is the ability to make decisions based on a long term perspective and the big picture. In other words. to suppress immediate gratification and choose an action that will be better in the long term. A child so often has a 'I want it now' view of life. Those who have grown up in their thinking can patiently wait.
Here is how John Maxwell helpfully expresses maturity:
"Maturity is the capacity to face unpleasantness, frustration, discomfort and defeat without complaint or collapse. The mature person knows he can't have everything his own way. Nobody wins them all. He can defer to circumstances, to other people and to time."
What are some practical consequences of this?
- Respect the season you are in and give it your full attention. It is so easy to wish I was in a different season of life. or to look at others and wish you were in their context or particular season of life.
- Understand that anything of lasting value tends to come gradually over time. Or according to David Jackman, leader of Above Bar Church in Southampton that I was a part of many years ago, 'When God ripens apples he isn't in a hurry and doesn't make a noise'.
- It is vital to build in cycles of focussed activity, rest and brainstorming (seed planting!) into our lives.
- Being holistic beings we have a body, mind and spirit. We are all also in relationship with others. Hence we should seek to ensure that all of these different aspects of our life over the course of an extended period of time (like a month or 3 months or a year) get an appropriate level of attention and focus.
How does the concept of seasons resonate with you?