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The Balanced Life: How to have it all

Sounds impossible doesn't it? How can you excel on the job and at home? Something has to give, right? In fact, one theoretical model explaining the relationship between work and non-work, the Compensatory Model (Wilensky, 1960) suggests that it is quite difficult to excel in both. This model argues that a deficiency in one domain will drive the individual to compensate for the shortcoming by engaging in positive activities in another domain. Thus, one could expect a negative relationship between work and nonwork factors. Well, not so fast. Several recent studies have shown that work and non-work roles may actually be mutually interdependent. Terry Orlick and Nadia Towaij from the University of Ottawa explored the relationship between excellence in job performance and quality of life. Participants in this study represented a wide range of high tech-related employment levels from high tech employee to members of the executive group (vice presidents). All participants in this study were identified by their employers as having "excelled" in their particular job. All of these participants identified "balance" as being extremely important to their success on-the-job. Balance was defined as including the following domains: (a) family, (b) work, and (c) physical fitness. Factors that were identified as contributing strongly to quality of life were (a) making a commitment to a balanced lifestyle, (b) having supporting relationships, (c) participating in physical activity, and (d) being highly effective in work roles. Participants in this study strongly believed that increasing their "quality" of life also increased their productivity at work!

Another related study (Anderson and Hammermeister, 2002) found similar results with intercollegiate athletes. This study examined the role that wellness (or lifestyle "balance") plays in the development of positive psychological profiles for sport performance. The results of their study showed that athletes who were scored highest on the various dimensions of wellness (i.e., physical, emotional, social, intellectual, and spiritual) also scored highest on a variety of variables important for sport performance. The more "balanced" athletes were (a) more coachable, (b) could concentrate better, (c) dealt with adversity more effectively, (d) were better at setting goals and preparing mentally for competition, and (e) were more free from worry than their less "balanced" counterparts. In short, the most mentally "tough" athletes were also the athletes who paid attention to their quality of life outside of athletics.

So, it appears that there truly is a "spillover" effect from work (or athletics) and one’s personal life. This has some important implications for all of us! Don’t suppress the importance of your "at-home" activities for the sake of being more productive at work. The results of these important studies show that you’ll probably end up doing just the opposite!

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