With September being designated as “Self-Improvement Month,” I wanted to write about a new model for work/life balance. Forget about trying to achieve some magical balancing point between your life and your work. It’s arbitrary at best. Instead, strive for life balance by balancing your needs.
According to Choice Theory® psychology, everyone is born with five basic needs. We all have them, but they aren’t created equal. The need that’s strongest in one person can be the weakest in another. Also, the need that is most salient at any given time has to do with how overall important it is to you and how well you are able to meet it in your present circumstances.
The basic needs as I have named them are Safety & Security, Connection, Significance, Freedom and Joy. Let’s say normally your strongest need is Significance and your weakest is Connection. With a low need for Connection, you may have one close friend. If that friend moves away, you might feel Connection, your weakest need, motivating you more than usual; you may feel the urge to reach out to an old friend or go out and meet someone new.
Along those lines, if Significance is your most important need, you won’t pay attention to the idea of needing more of a work/life balance. You are happy working toward your goals. If you are arbitrarily forced to stop, you will likely become agitated, not knowing what to do with yourself. Working is exactly what you are supposed to do to meet your largest need for Significance.
If Connection is your most important need, you will prioritize your relationships, even if those people aren’t prioritizing you. If you come to realize you put way more into your relationship than your partner, rethinking your investment in the relationship will be very difficult for you to do. Relationships are your jam, and you may be involved with someone who has different priorities. Maybe you are connected to a Freedom person. A Freedom person giving you 20 percent in the relationship may require more effort than the 150 percent you invest. Don’t expect the relationship to be balanced. You should be investing as much as you want to in the relationship. Should you start to feel resentful of that investment, then pull back until you’re more comfortable, which can mean ending the relationship. For you, your work/life balance will weigh heavier on the place you experience your most important relationships. If you have a family, they will be your priority. If your most important relationships are at work, you will likely spend more time there. Your heart is where your people are.
When Safety & Security is your most important need, you will spend more time planning for the things you want to do, expecting you’ll then have time to enjoy them. People in your life may tell you to stop worrying so much about what could go wrong and just enjoy life. This will never work for you. You are wired to not be able to enjoy anything until you have a plan for every eventuality. For your work/life balance, you will have more planning and less doing than most people.
If Freedom is your most important need, you will spend most of your time pushing against anything you believe is controlling or oppressive. This could mean a relationship, your job, religion, politics, or bureaucracy. As a Freedom person, you want to be able to do what you want, when you want, without restriction. Well-meaning people around you might advise you to go along to get along, but that advice will likely fall flat. Your work/life balance will be predicated on the amount of freedom you perceive. You will spend your time in the places you feel the least restricted.
If Joy is the need that motivates you most, you are constantly looking to intertwine Joy in all you do. There are three subsets of Joy: play, relaxation and relevant learning. If play or relaxation is your priority, people in your life may be telling you that you need to be more serious, buckle down and get to work. If learning is your thing, then people might say that you can stop researching, amassing certificates or degrees. You don’t want to stop because your balance depends on having your particular brand of Joy in your life. In fact, you might steer away from work where you perceive no Joy.
Work/life balance is a myth. Stop listening to the people in your life who think they know what you need better than you do. Strive for Need–Balance instead. When you are feeling out of sorts, sad, angry or irritable, survey your five basic needs and identify which one is most frustrated and then attend to it. If you would like some coaching around this idea, make an appointment for a 20-minute complimentary session to see if it will help by signing up here: .