Work is life and life is work

Christina Wanke, 20. August 2015

Recently buzz words such as ‘work life balance’ or ‘work life blended’ have caused many of us to search for that perfect state of harmony between life and work. Be honest: do you really believe that one day you will happily exclaim ‘heureka’? Or to put it this way: don’t you live while working? Instead you might just live actively and find a way to define work in such a way that makes your life worth living.

Your work definition is a key ingredient of your mindset and the view you look at life. Whether it is implicit or explicit, it may have a significant impact on your quality of life. Does any of these definitions resonate with you?

Work is performance… Work equals doing, doing it well… Work is learning from experience… Work is being assigned an area of responsibility and getting the job done through others… Work is for the joy of participating in a highly valued purpose… Working for grades: survival and success depend on performance appraisals…

The way you define work defines you

I found a work definition that I find very worthwhile not only in an individual sense, but also in the context of leadership.In his book ‘The inner Game of work’ Timothy Gallwey looks at work as a triangle which consists of three interdependent components: performance, learning and enjoyment. What strikes me is the dynamic view (I therefore slightly modified his original triangle chart to visualize this dynamic interdependence). If learning were increased, would it affect performance and enjoyment? Likewise, if enjoyment were decreased, would it have a negative impact on both learning and performance results?

When you start thinking about work in this way, it will transform how you live your days. Moreover as a leader, the way you create a working space that makes a real differene to your employees.

Some pivotal questions to ask yourself in the context of your workplace then might be:

  • Which of these three aspects of work are most emphasized by the culture in which I work?
  • In what ways does enjoyment emerge?
  • What significance does ‘learning while working’ have in my working environment?
  • As a leader: In what ways do I emphasize these three aspects in my area of responsibility? What are the implications?