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Balance: Excuse for the Weak or Secret of the Strong?

Balance: Excuse for the Weak or Secret of the Strong?

My first summer job was in a restaurant. Working in the public will teach you a lot about how different people think and act! One of the most memorable “lessons” I learned that summer came from a man whose family had thrown a surprise 25th wedding anniversary for him and his wife.

At the end of the evening, after everyone had shouted “Speech! Speech! Speech!” in unison for a full minute, the man finally got up to the microphone. I remember very little about his speech, other than how it ended: “To me, having a successful life means having success in life. All the rest is only fun and games.”

What??!!? That’s how he closes his speech on his 25th wedding anniversary – basically saying that nothing matters more than being successful? I was shocked.

No time for family time?

Fast forward to today, I now see that a lot of people think like this man, except that most don’t realize it and certainly won’t admit to it out loud. We feel we have to be “on” all the time, and miss out on family time to catch up with email. We’ve grown accustomed to sacrificing family meals so we can run to our various commitments. We feel guilty stepping away from our technology, and try to tweet and text between two sentences at breakfast.

But what if spending quality time with our loved ones can improve our work performance? Yes, you read right. Work-life balance isn’t code for lazy or weak; it actually contributes to strong performance at the office.

Secret of the Strong

Here’s how it works. Research by Seligman and Diener shows that the happiest people are those who spend the most time socializing. Next, authors Diener and Biswas-Diener explain that happier individuals do better at work – they are perceived as more helpful and productive, get better evaluation reviews and are promoted more often. Think about it for a moment. What employer wouldn’t want to have employers that are positive, energetic and eager to help?

So spending more time with our loved ones contributes to being happier, which in turn improves work performance?

Precisely! Gallup has studied work teams for nearly 40 years and their findings confirm the above chain-reaction. Their research demonstrates that the most productive team members are those who consider family time to be serious business. Rather than crawl to the couch to simultaneously use their TV and laptop after work, they invest their full energy in their loved ones, which refreshes and prepares them for the next push. Say Tom Rath and Barry Conchie: “Our evidence suggests that the most successful teams have members who are highly engaged in their work and highly satisfied with their personal lives.”

So next time your kids ask you to take them for a bike ride, you’ll have no excuse not to take them. Turns out that what’s best for them is also best for your boss or business!

Want more resources on this topic?

See my article Measuring What Matters on Psychology News Daily.

Or some of my favorite recent articles:

Declare Your Independence from the “Busy Trap”, by Dan Bowling on the Talent Management blog.

Poor Wellbeing is Killing Your Business, by Jennifer Robison in the Gallup Business Journal.

Unhealthy, Stressed Employees Are Hurting Your Business, by Jennifer Robison in the Gallup Business Journal.

And to get started on the path to greater social wellbeing, or to help someone else on their way, see Leisure that Matters on p. 178 of our book.

  • This is a great blog, MJ – and a great website. Thanks for including me in your list of recent articles you liked – your opinion counts a lot in my book.

  • Wouldn’t it have been great to know how he defined success in life? I just came across this one ‘Success is using your talent and gifts to their highest advantage and contribution. Wealth may come with it, or it may not. ‘ Fred Smith Sr.

    • Well, the man was speaking French. My translation may not do it justice. But for everyone who was there, it was clear that “success in life” meant professional success and resulting wealth. It really wasn’t very fitting for the occasion.

      Although now that I think about it, you may be right, Mary Jane: maybe he did mean something different, but chose an inappropriate expression that led everyone to believe that all he cared about was money!

      Good point! LOL!

  • Pingback: 4 Free Ways to Kick-Start a Wellness Culture()

MJ Shaar – in 20 seconds

MJ is one of the most sought-after experts blending positive psychology and health promotion. She spent over 15 years coaching, teaching, speaking, researching and testing smart health habits. Marie-Josée Shaar received her undergrad at McGill University in Organizational Behavior, followed by a Master of Applied Positive Psychology at University of Pennsylvania. She's certified as a Wellness Culture Coach, a Personal Trainer, and a Nutrition and Wellness Consultant.

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