Strike a Balance

How to Integrate the Competing Demands of Business and Personal Life

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How to integrate the competing demands of business and personal life is a hot topic right now.  The topic has become center of attention in the past two decades for researchers from many disciplines and professions world-wide, resulting in fragmented awareness of one another’s work.

The majority of researchers tend to conclude and assume a positive- negative or a win-lose correlation between personal life and work. They often focus on work-life conflict, based on the belief that we only have limited time, energy and resources to give to our many life roles and responsibilities. This perspective assumes that multiple role demands and responsibilities are mutually incompatible and produce negative outcomes such as dissatisfaction and distress

Greenhaus, J. & Beutell, N. 1985 (Sources of conflict between work and family roles. Academy of Management Review, 10: 76-88.) wrote one of the original academic articles on work-family conflict. They described work-family conflict as a type of inter-role conflict where work and family roles are incompatible and seen as competing for an individual’s time, energy, and behaviors on and off the job.

The problem with this perspective is that it limits us from what is possible. It keeps us locked into the conclusion that work and family interfere with one another, instead of seeing that work and personal life can and do help each other.  As long as you have the point of view that “your work interferes with your family and personal life”, you really don’t have any choice. This point of view locks you into having no choice because it evokes a binary opposition between work and life. It creates a sense of competition between the two elements. You have no choice under those circumstances.

Have you ever wondered why some people are able to manage competing demands between their personal life and work with more ease than others? They do it because they are able to achieve better integration between work and the rest of their life. They function with the awareness that work and personal life are not competing priorities but complementary ones. In essence, they never lose sight of the fact that their personal lives have an impact on the way they approach their work.  Striking a balance could be expressed as achieving coherence between work and personal life.

Whether you work in a large corporate environment, a small business office, a store or at home, you are responsible for the choices and decisions that affect your work-life. It is all about managing both work and other life priorities in a way that allows you to thrive. You can start by choosing to see your work and your personal life in a different way. Take the time to get very clear about your priorities at work, with your family, your health and the rest of your personal life. How do you define “work”? Do you love your work? Do you get up each morning excited about what you are doing and what the day will bring? Or do you wake up hardly able to wait until the day is over?

The most happy and successful people are those who have an ability to allow their work and personal life to enrich and complement each other. This is not about work life balance. It is about creating a life style that gives you whatever it is that you need in your work and personal life. It’s about finding the combination of work and play, business and pleasure that works for you. One way of integrating your work and your personal life is to do work that you thoroughly enjoy, that makes your heart sing, that is generative, that enriches and enhances your life.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a professor at the business school and the author of Evolve! Succeeding in the Digital Culture of Tomorrow, says that the happiest people tend to be those facing the toughest—but most worthwhile—challenges.

To integrate the competing demands of business and personal life you must cut through the charade about priorities. Begin by making your work priorities crystal clear, and describe them in terms of possibilities, choices and priorities. The target is to have a clarity about both the business and your individual priorities and then to construct a plan for fulfilling all of them.

Acknowledge that work and personal life are not competing priorities but complementary ones. Be open to all possibility and be willing to look at what you can do that will generate different possibilities. Be willing to be vulnerable and to stay open to the new, the unfamiliar, and the unknown.

Steven and Chutisa Bowman have been CEOs of major organizations, Chairs of Boards and senior executives in multi-million-dollar global corporates. They now run 7 global businesses, including a consultancy business that assists organizations to become aware of their priority and vision, and to use this strategically. They are Access Consciousness facilitators for its specialty programs, including Wealth Creators Anonymous. Learn more about their work at,

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