Monday, December 06, 2010

The Ghost of Work-Life Balance

I’ve always loved “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. It’s a salutary tale with a timeless relevance.

The Victorians never had the term work-life balance of course, but it’s clear from the story that Ebenezer Scrooge didn’t have much of a life – so consumed had he become by his business and the hoarding of wealth, that he had little time or inclination for anything else.

You may not consider yourself to be a “scrooge”, but in a prevalent culture of overwork, overstress and over-demand, it’s all too easy to be so consumed by what you have to do, that other importances, including family, relationships and community can unwittingly take second place.  Excess pressure and demand, can often have the effect of rendering important things unimportant, and unimportant things important. People virtually always say that family and relationships are more important than work, but in terms of where people devote their best energy and time, the reverse is often the case. 

Ebenezer was fortunate to be visited by the ghost of his former business partner, and by the three Christmas ghosts.  The Ghost of Christmas past reminded him of the vitality, innocence and goodwill of his youth. The Ghost of Christmas present prised his focus away from his self-obsessed concerns to the wider needs of the community. The piece de resistance was the Ghost of Christmas yet to come, where he was forced to confront the consequences of what he had become.  It was enough to cause an instant transformation and he went on to become the embodiment of generosity, compassion and kindness.

None of us will likely have the benefit or uncomfortability of such ghostly visitations, but it well worth taking the time to reflect.  Scrooge never set out in life to be a miser, it was circumstance that led him there.  We are all shaped by what we do, and the question is - are there unintended consequences?  Does the pressure of work cause you neglect things that are more important? Has the cut and thrust of how you have to be in business, affected your humanity and human values?  

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