From Life Balance to Life Integration

The next several posts are going to recap the BYU-Idaho All Employee Conference that I look forward to every year. During the day, I am taught by inspired leaders from the University on varying topics. The nature of these posts will reference a tie in of faith-based principles that I believe in and identify with as it pertains to leadership, service, and self-reliance.

Social Justice 2Janell Greenwood, a Health, Recreation and Human Performance Faculty member presented on the topic, Choosing the Better Part – Our Best Can Be Good Enough.

She started the presentation using a picture that is typical when discussing balance – a weighted balance scale. When talking about ‘life balance’ it is rare that the weighted balance scale is ever perfectly aligned. Greenwood studied and researched this topic, and introduced the terms of “life integration,” and felt this was something people can relate to and something that appears more achievable.

I like the term life integration in place of life balance for the exact reason that integration is something that can be worked on over time – line upon line, precept upon precept. It isn’t like I need to have all of this life stuff figured out all at once, or else my weighted scale would be off all the time, and I would feel like a failure. As mortals, we simply cannot do everything at once.

Elder M. Russel Ballard in the talk O Be Wise said, “Therefore we must do all things “in wisdom and order” (Mosiah 4:27). Often that will mean temporarily postponing attention to one priority in order to take care of another. Sometimes family demands will require your full attention. Other times professional responsibilities will come first…..Good balance comes in doing things in a timely way and in not procrastinating our preparation or waiting to fulfill our responsibilities until the last minute.”

Elder Dallin H. Oaks in the talk Good, Better Best, said, “Most of us have more things expected of us than we can possibly do. As breadwinners, as parents, as Church workers and members, we face many choices on what we will do with our time and other resources. We should begin by recognizing the reality that just because something is good is not a sufficient reason for doing it. The number of good things we can do far exceeds the time available to accomplish them. Some things are better than good, and these are the things that should command priority attention in our lives.”

Greenwood identified several things that have helped her with life integration.

Defining Purpose

It is typical when thinking about life integration to think in terms of priorities. However, Greenwood focused on how, even before we think about priorities, we must think about purpose. When I find my purpose, I can more easily anchor my priorities to that purpose, which helps me achieve life integration.

Flexibility

The most common group that struggles with life integration are women. Greenwood found that the number one reason women leave workforce is because of lack of flexibility between life and home. There is a syndrome that women “leave before they leave,” meaning they already make plans before they enter the workforce about their role. Due to cultural norms, and current trends (some that we have been reminded of in recent weeks), there is a misconception about women in the workplace that influences what a woman thinks. Most commonly, women tend to think (and some research proves this theory), they will be looked at differently in their role at work once they have children. They think: I will choose to work until I have children, then once I have children, I will quit, because we all know how corporate America treats women with children. In this regard, women have already stopped progressing and therefore “leave before they leave.” They are closing those opportunities to grow because they feel like they can’t.

Part of having life integration requires that I determine what works and doesn’t work, and create a safe space to discuss flexibility in all aspects of my life (home, family, work, social). Just because I have children, doesn’t mean I can’t contribute at the optimal level I am already. It means I need to find how this life change impacts my priorities and learn to be and create a more flexible and reasonable environment.

Boundaries and Expectations

In order for life integration to be successful, I need to keep looser boundaries. This goes back to the idea of temporarily postponing attention to one priority in order to take care of another. The more rigid I keep my boundaries, the harder it will be for me to give 100%. The same goes for expectations. If I expect to be 100% in everything I do, I will not be successful. I need to create realistic expectations, again, geared around the priorities defined based on my purpose.

I liked the idea she discussed of, “Sometimes you have to eat grilled cheese sandwiches.”

Don’t Miss the Big Stuff

Greenwood discussed this study done by someone awesome, whose name I don’t remember (I just captured the note Hartley, 2011), but is legitimate. A group interviewed young children about what they wished they had more of from their mom and dad. Greenwood posed the question: what do you think it was? We all guessed “time.” Interestingly enough the children said that they wished that mom and dad were less stressed and tired.

Takeawayslife journey quotes (11)

Life integration will not happen all at once…. it is a journey. The best thing for me to do is remember my purpose so I can prioritize the “better” things in life In this changing world, I may need to have hard conversations in order to achieve full life integration. I also need to be aware and cautious of the risks associated with those conversations, and expectations I have. In the end, everyone has a different purpose that drives what priorities are in their lives.

In this faith-based discussion about life integration, I thought about my priority of being more like Jesus Christ – the perfect example and leader. It is different for everyone, but I believe that when I am centered on the example of Christ – my purpose and priorities are anchored…and that will help me achieve life integration.