A friend of mine asked me to watch a video and make some comments. The video is by Nigel Marsh and can be seen here. Nigel Marsh is an author and lecturer who speaks about balance in life.

I agree that “finding the balance between work and life is an ongoing battle.” Regarding my own balance in life, I have changed careers twice to try to find a better balance and have made some progress. I think I am winning the battle but the battle is not yet complete.

When we look more generally at society, I would say that “finding the balance” at a cultural level is and will continue to be a battle as well. Moving from Calgary to Vancouver has allowed me to see the differences of subtle changes in attitude. Calgary has traditionally been more of an entrepreneurial city while Vancouver has a larger history of labour unions. Thus, Calgary is a little more economically right (capitalistic) and Vancouver a little more economically left (socialistic). Both cities and our country as a whole are seeking to find the balance between (or more accurately, living in tension between) an emphasis on hard work with little time for self-actualization versus an emphasis on self-actualization with little time for productive work. There are quite a few Calgarians who work excessively to the detriment of relationships, community, and self-fulfillment. There are quite a few Vancouverites that have chosen to retreat from excessive work and seek personal fulfillment without contributing to a productive city. They become consumers and not contributors to the things that sustain a city and a society. Of course each city has its share of each of these types of persons but there is an overall skew one direction or the other. (I realize that I am making gross exaggerations for the sake of discussion.) Living in appropriate tension between “work and life” will always be a battle.

Another issue in this discussion is the way it is framed. Marsh sets up an artificial dichotomy between “work” and “life.” He makes it seem like we must choose one or the other; and who would logically choose work over life? Perhaps the battle is about balance between – work and life in community – or work and life without community.

Nigel Marsh suggests a perfect day and then quickly points out that he has not had any, or very many, such days in his life. His perfect day would only be attainable occasionally, with a lot of cooperation from other people (not the least of which would be his wife). This is another indication that we are really talking about a distinction between work and life in community or work and life without community.

What do you think? Are we seeking to live in tension between productive work that is lived out in community versus productive work that is attained without much community? For a good article on work/life balance, see Rebecca Moses’ article, “Work-Life Balance: A Guide to Surviving the Stress,” at GroomandStyle.com.

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