Photo by Belinda Fewings on Unsplash

As you might have guessed from past newsletters, I’m a word nerd. I’m fascinated with their history and the multiple uses in our language. While I don’t actually read the dictionary, I clearly turn to it as a starting point often. Today when I looked up balance, I found that it has two primary definitions as a noun and both are relevant for this week’s discussions. The two definitions are: “an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady” and “a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions”.

I’ve lost track of just how many times I’ve been asked about “work-life” balance over the course of my career or how many articles I’ve read. When people use the term balance in this way, I think they mean the second definition – different elements in the correct proportions. When they ask about work-life balance, they seem to be asking what the right elements are, or what the correct proportions should be. Of course, I can’t tell them that and I quit talking about work-life balance some time ago. I think it’s the wrong question.

Asking about work-life balance assumes there are only two aspects to this equation – work and life, they each sit on opposite sides of the scale, and once we get them into alignment all will be well. Even as we ask such questions, we know it’s not that simple. Going to a professional conference where you will see friends you have known for twenty years, where you will eat out, get to see a few sights, and attend professional development conferences – which side of the scale does this go on? Does it change, if your family gets to come with you? Clearly what people are asking is a more complex question than how to place two or even multiple elements in correct proportions.

Eventually, I changed the question for myself and then changed the way I answered the question. I began to talk about living an integrated life. By this, I meant something akin to today’s quote – fitting the different pieces of our lives together into something rich and complex and occasionally seamless. For me, this is a values-based process. Day by day, week by week, semester by semester, I have tried to make the best decisions I can, based on the values I hold. Sometimes, family takes precedence over work. Other times, such as the opening week of the semester, I used to say to my husband, I’ll see you in a week since I knew I would be home late every night and gone most of the weekend days. I took my vacation each summer and other days as well. On vacation, I made my best effort to disconnect – my success varied. Actually, it varied often, but over time, throughout a career, I found my version of balance.

I have tried to be a balanced leader as well. For me, that means that I bring my full self to my leadership work. I’ve worked to lead from my values, be the same person at home and at work. That’s another form of balance.

This week’s essays will be an exploration of both definitions of balance and the many lessons yoga has to teach us about this complex idea. I hope you find them interesting and helpful.

Take care,



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