My Three Cents

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, former four-term President of the United States,  once said: “Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.”  His wealth and his track record give credence to that advice.

I second his feelings.  Nevertheless, many people in our society talk about happiness in terms of a time when pressure and stress disappear, when they have stopped working on a daily  basis, when they can lie on a beach and do nothing, spend all their time with family and friends and when multiple leisure options are theirs for the choosing.

But this flies in the face of the University of Chicago’s General Social Survey, a study of Americans conducted since 1972, which was recently described in an article, “A Formula for Happiness,” in The New York Times.  The study noted that “Americans who feel they are successful at work are twice as likely to say they are very happy overall as people who do not feel that way.”   The article points out that these differences persist regardless of income or demographics.

So, in my opinion, this puts a new face on the term “work-life balance,” which is usually intended to mean cutting work short to have more time for family and friends…all with the aim of creating happier individuals.  Who is to say that the dominance of this perspective is not itself off-balance?  Perhaps we are misinterpreting what it means, and that work-life balance is different for everyone.  Perhaps “life” (e.g., spending time with family or friends) for those who love their work can be considerably more challenging than going to the office.  Thus, “balance” can mean a better balance between what you love to do and your commitment to everything outside of work.

In the traditional sense of the term, and armed with this study, I could hear someone saying, “I (me!) don’t believe in work-life balance.” That is certainly not true. I am certainly not advocating for one interpretation or another, but this study gives me a better understanding of and support for those who are tipping the scale in favor of spending more time working –by choice —  than doing other things, truly enjoying such, and eliminating a 50-50 or 60-40 work-life ratio, in favor of one that is more like 70-30 — when it increases happiness for everyone concerned.

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