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05.24.2019 Sharon Spano, Ph.D.

Do you know the difference between integration and balance?

For most of my career, I’ve preached about the value and importance of work/life balance. But, things are different now. We live and work in a climate of rapid-fire change. One that demands new paradigms for how we do business and life.

Back in the day . . . yes, we used to talk about balance. For me, that meant that I’d set goals that supported time for work, time for family, and, if I was lucky, time for all the other stuff I enjoyed doing.

The problem with that system was that I had a jammed calendar with little white space for things that unexpectedly popped up. That system never really worked as I always wound up feeling guilty about some aspect of my life. When I was working, I felt like I should be spending more time with my husband and son and vice versa.

How’s Integration Different?

The Premise

Example: I can bring my children to a national conference and not worry that I’ll be judged for doing so. In fact, many corporate functions now offer options for participants’ children to be included in events —not just babysat, but actually included. A weekend business trip, then, can actually morph into a family vacation.

Integration is Imperative

Integration also recognizes that it’s absolutely imperative for each of us to bring every aspect of what matters to us into our life as a whole. We are whole beings. In our wholeness, we carry with us—at all times—all the many systems, to include the responsibilities associated with them, with us, wherever we go.

I don’t stop being a wife at work anymore than I stop being a working woman while at home. From a consciousness perspective, we are consistently who we are wherever we all all of the time. Not one aspect of self can be fragmented or splintered off from the other without our paying a very big price. That price is labeled burnout, and it comes in many shapes and sizes.

So, if a perspective of integration doesn’t allow space for fragmentation or guilt, what does it allow for?

The Benefits of Integration

How about flexibility, adaptability, meaningful choices, and a far higher level of response and responsibility—all of which equate to greater freedom.

What does all this mean in real life?

It means that you can integrate your family and recreational life into your business.

It also means that you don’t have to waste time beating yourself up when things go awry. You can learn to discern what’s most important in the here and now and adapt your schedule accordingly. In order to do so, however, you have to learn to be present in the moment such that you don’t fall into the wishing well of regret:

Wish I had more time to . . . with someone else, somewhere else . . . that isn’t here and now.

Are you getting this?

The difference between balance and integration is about far more than semantics. It’s really an attitude of choice absent all guilt.

There are a few things I'd like you to consider, in order for the freedom of work/life integration to effectively work:

  • Be open to adapting and responding to changing environments without guilt (this may take practice).
  • Have a clear vision for your life and your business and how you want the two to intersect. (This may take time to craft, develop, and implement.)
  • Consistently link your decisions/choices to the larger vision (miss this, and you’re dead).
  • Have clear-cut goals with some level of flexibility in how you achieve them (vacations don’t happen by chance; they are planned events).
  • Track your progress with real metrics and consistent feedback from those in your work/life circle. (Ask your kids and employees how you’re doing.)
  • Promise yourself a robust life. When everything goes awry, integrate the disappointment into a learning opportunity that allows for expansion and growth in all areas.

Yes, work/life integration allows for a robust life on every level. But, it requires that you systematically envision what you want and then implement strategies to get there. Anything short of this, and you’ll find yourself chasing time and money in ways that are detrimental to your health and well-being.

Here’s the question: Are you effectively integrating your work into the rest of your life or are you stuck on the hamster wheel of balance, guilt, and shame?


For more information on Sharon’s work, download a free chapter of her book, The Pursuit of Time and Money here.

Published by Sharon Spano, Ph.D. May 24, 2019