I have always been fascinated with the concept of integration – as opposed to balance – in terms of time spent inside and outside of work. Gandhi’s quote, “We are one indivisible whole,” recently caused me to challenge the artificial separation that the concept of “work-life balance” implies. That challenge was reinforced by an interview between Darren Hardy of Success Magazine and Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, in which Hsieh posited that the idea of integration may make more sense and be easier to accomplish and manage than the idea of balance.
And then there is Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic strip, who has his own spin on why integration has replaced balance in the workplace. In one strip, Adams concludes that “work-life balance is no longer used because it implies that your life is important. We now call it work-life integration so it is easier to make you work when you would prefer being with loved ones.”
I actually woke up in the middle of the night last week with the following inspiration regarding work-life integration:
- Work-life integration is finding or creating a rhythm to the work-life dance that enables you to bring your full energy to the activities that matter most.
We do this by committing to regular integrated practices in the spiritual, physical, mental, and social/emotional dimensions of our lives. Stephen Covey referred to this as Habit 7 – Sharpen the Saw, and Tony Schwartz and Jim Loehr wrote about these dimensions in their book, “The Power of Full Engagement.”
Applying renewal in these areas in an integrated and synergistic way requires that we “let go” of our linear approach to life. It calls upon us to build mini-rituals and larger chunks of renewal throughout our day, balancing intermittent renewal with expenditures of energy – whether these expenditures are at work or at home. When we are able to see our life us one indivisible whole, we are no longer tempted or invited to create artificial separations between who we are and what we do … creating a life of harmony, well being and contentment.