The Fallacy of Trying to Bring One’s Personal and Professional Lives into Balance

The Fallacy of Trying to Bring One’s Personal and Professional Lives into Balance

For years so many, myself included, have talked about the importance of trying to find a healthy balance between work life and personal life as a way to take care of one’s self. Those who tried and succeeded did so believing that, once there, all would be good with the world. I’m not buying it anymore, and with this post, I am publicly stating I will never encourage anyone to try to find a healthy work-life balance again!

Why the change? It’s a fair question. The reason is that with all the focus on attorney wellness of late, I have been thinking about the word “wellness” itself and words matter. The use of this word is intended to direct one’s self-care efforts toward trying to achieve an overall state of well-being. Contrast this with the phrase “a healthy work-life balance.” Use of this phrase comes with an implicit assumption that there is a difference between everyone’s work life and personal life by presupposing that everyone’s work life is always going to be unhealthy to some degree and everyone’s personal life is always going to be the healthier of the two. I’ve come to see the fallacy in this because it simply isn’t true. And, of course, how in the world would finding balance between two separate parts of anyone’s life make one healthy? In my mind, walling off some aspect of anyone’s life by using the word “work” and then telling that person to find a way to bring balance into the equation so that the unhealthy aspects of work can be made tolerable is just plain nuts. How would that lead to a state of well-being? It won’t.

Segmentation and finding balance aren’t the answer. If you’ve been trying to find balance in your life or told to start trying, stop, just stop. As I see it, there’s no inner peace at the end of that effort. If you actually were to successfully balance that seesaw, at best you might find you have the energy and will to deal with whatever isn’t healthy at work, at least until it falls out of balance again; but that’s not the same as achieving a state of well-being in every aspect of your life.

I wish I had a simple answer for what to do in place of trying to find a healthy work-life balance, but I don’t. And if you ever come across someone who says they do, do what I would do. Ask them if they forgot to take their medication today because wellness isn’t a quick fix kind of thing. It’s more of a lifelong day after day journey centered around developing and maintaining physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health in every aspect of your life, work included. If you add to this investing in personal relationships with others who are on a similar journey, I feel pretty confident in saying a state of well-being will eventually be in play.

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Since 1998, Mark Bassingthwaighte, Esq. has been a Risk Manager with ALPS, an attorney’s professional liability insurance carrier. In his tenure with the company, Mr. Bassingthwaighte has conducted over 1200 law firm risk management assessment visits, presented over 550 continuing legal education seminars throughout the United States, and written extensively on risk management, ethics, and technology. Mr. Bassingthwaighte is a member of the State Bar of Montana as well as the American Bar Association where he currently sits on the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility’s Conference Planning Committee. He received his J.D. from Drake University Law School.