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Work-Life Balance: Harmony over Balance


Finding a satisfying work-life balance can seem like an impossible task – what if we strived for harmony instead?

Work-Life Balance: Harmony over Balance

Finding a satisfying work-life balance can seem like an impossible task. Life can seem chaotic at times; we all juggle responsibilities and relationships, along with our own needs. These demands sometimes pull us in completely different directions and prevent us from living our best lives.

In the midst of this chaos, we strive for balance between two specific and contrasting domains: work and life. With the advent of modern technology, the concept of work-life balance has become an even more relevant and desirable goal. But also more elusive.

However, there is no practical way to find a perfect balance between each of the facets of our lives. Instead, we can choose to embrace the transformative power of harmony.

Rather than seeking an elusive balance of time, effort and emotion on work or life, we can strive for life harmony.

A Harmonious Work-Life Balance

To understand the concept of a harmonious life, let’s look at the meaning of the word harmony. The etymology of the word derives from the Latin harmonia, which means concord. In general, this concord refers to music, when a pleasing composition has notes that complement each other tonally and aesthetically.

And yet, a positive concord can also be applied to many areas outside of music. It represents a step up from balance which has a more concrete and neutral meaning of equilibrium and parity.

If we were to define a work team as balanced, it may imply that it is comprised of a good mix of people and skills. But if we were to deem a team harmonious this would mean that the team works well as a unit and flourishes.

Just like in an orchestra, or within a harmonious team, each facet of our life plays a significant role; they can complement each other. They are also not required to be in total equilibrium, because our needs may change over time, or we can focus more on specific roles.

But how do we do that? How do we create a life that mimics an orchestra – a harmonious symphony? The answer lies in understanding our needs and tailoring them to achieve higher satisfaction, fulfillment and overall wellness.

If we choose to seek psychological, physical and emotional satisfaction across our various life domains, we can achieve harmony. Some needs may be satisfied in the family and leisure context while others might be more easily satisfied at work. This perspective can free us from thinking that each of our domains must be in balance and provide optimal satisfaction.

Understanding that none of our roles has to satisfy all of our needs or compete with other roles is key. Each aspect can add complementing notes to the symphony of our lives.

What if we treated our life like a symphony of parts?
Photo by Manuel Nägeli 

Understanding our psychological needs – The DRAMMA Model

Psychologists have provided various models that aim to describe our basic needs. One proposed by Ed Diener, is particularly helpful within the context of understanding how to achieve life harmony:

  • Detachment represents the need to disengage from effortful tasks we are responsible for completing. To experience detachment, we need to stop performing demanding activities and also take a mental break from them. Focusing on the present moment, switching off from demanding or worrying thoughts can free us to fully engage in something else, such as relaxing.
  • Relaxation is the need for periods of low activation and arousal. During this time, we seek activities that require little effort or place few social demands. Watching a movie, listening to music, reading a book, walking in nature can provide the necessary oasis we need to truly relax.
  • Autonomy describes our need for ownership of our thoughts, choices and actions. This need is deeply ingrained in us, and it is noticeable from an early age. We want to make our decisions, pursue our own goals and be self-governed rather than being controlled by external factors.
  • Mastery is our need for learning, achieving and feeling competent. Activities that satisfy our mastery needs generally involve effort and help us obtain knowledge and skills that provide fulfillment and a sense of pride. When we seek mastery, we seek to improve and enjoy the process even more than the achievement itself.
  • Meaning represents our need to gain something valuable or significant from the activities we perform. This meaning can come from any of the domains of our life. We can find meaning in helping others and also find meaning in accomplishing something at work. Meaning can be different for everyone, but it provides purpose, which is an essential component of a fulfilling life.
  • Affiliation is our basic need for connection, to care for and felt cared for by others. All of our relationships, at home, at work, within our community, help to fulfill our need to feel part of something bigger than us. Building and cherishing positive relationships enhances our wellbeing and provides yet another complementing aspect needed to achieve life harmony.
Mastery and Meaning are two of our most basic psychological needs for a harmonious work-life balance.
Photo by Ian Schneider

Needs-based Crafting

Having discussed the fundamental human needs, you can now assess how well you are addressing them. This simple test by the University of Groningen can help. After you receive your scores, you can then take an audit of your activities and routines to determine where and how your needs can be best served to set you on the path to a harmonious life.

Proactively seeking to satisfy our needs has been recently defined by researchers as needs-based crafting. The term describes how activities and routines can be shaped to address our fundamental needs instead of the other way around. This is a great way to reevaluate your work-life balance perspective into work-life harmony possibilities.

You can begin the process of needs-based crafting in the various facets of your life to achieve harmony between all your roles and achieve a higher sense of wellbeing. It is worth focusing on those needs that may be currently unfulfilled, it does not matter in which role or domain of your life you can satisfy those needs.

Taking a holistic view to strive for need satisfaction across any area of your life is the way to a harmonic life.

It is important to note that needs-based crafting cannot always happen in isolation. Some needs you may be able to address on your own while others involve and affect people around you. In addressing your need for relaxation, for example, you may find it difficult due to family obligations or significant workload.

Other people can play a key role in enabling you to focus on those activities that will bring you harmony. You can ask your partner or a friend to take care of your children or talk to your colleagues about an efficient way to divide tasks. In both of these instances you may even, inadvertently, be helping others with their own needs. They may have been seeking the meaning that taking care of children might provide or may have been looking forward to more challenging responsibilities at work. This social need-based crafting is a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Needs-based crafting is a strategy to actively get your needs met for harmonious work-life balance.
Photo by Alexei Scutari

Strategies to Achieve a Harmonious Work-Life Balance

Here are just a few strategies to remind you of applicable ways you can tap into harmony in your work-life balance:

  1. Identify your priorities, pursue your passions:
    Perform an audit of your activities and assess how they address your needs. Once you have established your priorities, you will be in a better position to allocate time and resources to those areas that provide satisfaction, fulfillment and meaning. By aligning your actions with your passions, you can tap into your true potential.
  2. Set boundaries:
    Once you have clearly identified your priorities, you can set boundaries that allow you to concentrate on those activities that meet your needs. Learn to say no, to delegate and to not overcommit.
  3. Manage your time:
    You can use to-do lists and reminders and set deadlines to take care of your priorities. Using your time wisely will allow you to dedicate time to other facets of your life and to nurture yourself.
  4. Take care of yourself:
    Incorporate exercise, meditation, healthy eating and quality sleep into your routine. These will rejuvenate your body, mind and soul. Taking a holistic self-care approach will promote joy and harmony in your life.
  5. Foster positive and uplifting relationships:
    Cultivating and nurturing healthy connections is essential for a harmonious life. Seek to make meaningful connections in the various facets of your life. Connect with people who support you and uplift you. These relationships will satisfy your need for meaning and affiliation, for being part of something bigger.
  6. Embrace mindfulness, joy, compassion and gratitude:
    By focusing on the moment and paying attention to your thoughts, emotions and sensations as well as the world around you, you can become more aware of your own needs and how your actions and choices are impacting those needs. This self-awareness can also help you to find joy and gratitude in the world around you, your relationships, and life itself. In turn, this gratitude can enhance your capacity for compassion and acceptance of your own limitations and others’. It will indeed become a positive cycle in the symphony of your life.
  7. Adjust and adapt:
    Recognize that living in harmony is an ongoing process instead of another of your obligations. Learn to move with the ebbs and flows and seasons of life. Embrace change, accept challenges and failures and adapt. This will help you gain wisdom and resilience. Remain open to reviewing your priorities and relocating your time and effort as circumstances change. Harmony is not perfection but the search for concord, fulfillment, satisfaction, meaning and authenticity.

The Benefits of a Harmonious Life

As long as our many roles satisfy our psychological needs, we are likely to achieve the harmony that will result in a more fulfilling life. Here are just a few benefits of a harmonious work-life balance:

  • Enhances holistic wellness – When you strive to live a harmonious life, you find the time to nurture your body, mind and spirit. This then allows you to enjoy life to the fullest and discover your authentic self.
  • Improves productivity – Managing your time, delegating and allocating time for those activities that fulfill you and give you a sense of mastery and meaning, allows you to become more productive. Time then becomes your friend, instead of your enemy. You feel grateful for the opportunities to divert your attention to where it is most needed.
  • Strengthens relationships – As you identify and foster relationships that support you and uplift you, your bond with those around you becomes stronger and more meaningful. The feeling of affiliation gives a sense of belonging and nurtures your soul.
  • Allows for self-discovery and growth – A life lived in harmony allows for personal growth and for a deeper understanding of your potential. This understanding can be a powerful tool to pursue new interests and broaden your horizons.

At the BEE ME Project, we have the knowledge, tools, techniques and practices that can help you experience the transformative power of harmony. Partner with us in work or at home to unlock and orchestrate a beautiful symphony in your own life.