About six months ago, I sat in a presentation on resilience with Mr. Johnston Barkat who at the time, was an Assistant Secretary General and head of the United Nations Ombudsman Office (Internal Conflict Resolution & Mediation) in New York. He shared a personal story about the importance of having balance in our life that really resonated with me.

A few years ago, when I started my current job, I used to leave early to work every day, and stay late every night. My life was my work. After a year or so, I started to notice my happiness and wellbeing were dependent on how things were going at work. If things were going well, I was happy, but if things were not going well, my whole life didn’t work. I found that when my happiness was dependent on one area of my life, when that area is not working, then things fall apart. From that point on, I started to focus on making time for my hobbies and other things that brought me joy outside of work. Then, when things were not working in one area, it had an impact, but did not throw my whole life off. 

The story reminded me of a few important lessons:
Over the years, there has been a great deal of talk about work life separation, work life balance, and now work life integration. Mr. Barkat’s story reminded me of three of the most fundamental, and often overlooked, components of balance:

Balance is not a place we reach. It is a commitment we make, an awareness we choose, and a world we maintain with our every action and choice we make each day.

Having balance in life does not mean we never waver, it means when the scales lean in one direction, we have other areas of life to keep us from tipping over.

Like a balanced diet, a balanced life has variety, experiences that ignite all aspects of our emotional, physical and creative self.

There will always be deadlines, health issues, family demands, and unplanned circumstances that will claim our physical and mental energy. There will be times when each part of our life will require greater attention and time. The key is to always keep a pulse on where our time and energy are being spent so we can consciously make choices to balance the scales.

Do you have a major deadline or trip coming up? Is it likely you will lose sleep/family/workout time this week? What is your plan to make it up next week?

Follow Up Action:

This week, take 20 minutes to do a Time & Energy & Personal Balance Audit. Here is a link to a tool I created to help you take a critical look at how you are currently spending your time and energy. Right now, download and print out the form and put it on your desk. Today at lunch or tonight when you get home, take 20 minutes to complete the activity and commit to some simple follow up actions.

We can’t always forecast what will happen, but with self-awareness, we can get better at predicting and planning ahead.


  • Christopher Littlefield

    International Speaker, Employee Appreciation Expert and the Founder

    Beyond Thank You

    Christopher Littlefield is an International and TEDx Speaker specializing in Employee Engagement. He has trained thousands of leaders around the world how to understand what their people really want and need to be at their best. His clients include Accenture, Boston Medical Center, Lebanese Postal Service, Reserve Bank of Australia, Novartis-Sandoz, Salesforce, the U.S. Army, United Nations, and more.  His work has been featured in Forbes, New York, Mindful, and British Psychologies Magazines, and profiled in Harvard Business Review.