Is Slow Living the Answer to Work Life Balance?

Slow Living

Photo: Pixabay

I’ve been searching for work-life balance for a long time. I imagine you have too.

Even before I had kids, life felt tremendously busy. I just couldn’t fit it all in, at least not in a satisfactory way. Then I added a husband and children to the mix. The busyness seemed to rapidly multiply each year after that.

As a career coach and higher education professional, I specialize in working with women who are also looking for work-life balance. They are tired and harried. They are caring for children and/or elderly parents, working long hours, and trying to squeeze in relationships and hobbies. Over the years I have helped them, and myself, create more flexible and meaningful career paths to better fit with the demands of life. Flexible work arrangements can make a significant difference in one’s work-life balance, which is why I am a devote advocate of such positions. They certainly have had a tremendously positive impact on my life.

What is Work-Life Balance, Really?

But over time I began to question what we really mean by work-life balance. After all, even with a flexible work schedule, I still felt unbalanced. My many chaotic days consisted of running around tackling work and errands, replying to emails on the fly, racing children from one activity to the next, whipping up something I could call dinner, and then collapsing with exhaustion by the end of the day. I wondered, “Is this balance? Packing it all in but feeling frazzled? Watching life fly by as I go through the motions? Am I really living my life?”

If you google the definition of work-life balance, you get nearly 3 million results. Some links offer a straight-forward definition:

Wikipedia: “Work–life balance is a concept including the proper prioritization between work (career and ambition) and lifestyle (health, pleasure, leisure, family).”

Businessdictionary.com: A comfortable state of equilibrium achieved between an employee’s primary priorities of their employment position and their private lifestyle. Most psychologists would agree that the demands of an employee’s career should not overwhelm the individual’s ability to enjoy a satisfying personal life outside of the business environment.

Entire articles debate what work-life balance really means, and some posts highlight the variations and uniqueness of individuals’ thoughts about work-life balance, as in this article:

That sweet spot where you get everything done, maintain healthy relationships, a healthy mind and body, and you’re still able to sip (not chug) your morning coffee – Sarah Jacobs, cofounder of The Wellness Project NYC

The ability to be present at work and at home, keep things in perspective, and enjoy your life – Angie Schiavoni, founder of Mamajamas

To feel like I have the freedom to design my own life, at work and home – Lina Sandén, coach, singer, and songwriter

The only aspect that remains clear about work-life balance, or its cousins (e.g., work-life integration, work-life fit, work-life blend), is that it means different things to different people.

The Missing Ingredient

Two years ago, having not yet found my “sweet spot” or a “comfortable equilibrium,” I set out to write a blog series, 52 Weeks to Better Life Balance. My goal was to explore work-life balance beyond just the work side of the equation, figure out what it meant to me, and test various strategies to improve my journey. While I learned a great deal and enjoyed this process, I found myself feeling burned out, ironically, about half-way through the series. Something felt off or missing from the conversation.

Not long after, a friend shared a blog post on Facebook titled “What if All I Want is a Mediocre Life?” by Canadian Krista O’Reilly Davi-Digui (a must read!). While I had vaguely heard of the “slow living movement,” I admit I had not paid much attention. But this post made me bound out of my seat. I devoured Davi-Digui’s words with awe, as if someone had finally given voice to my yet uncovered, deep-seated needs. “I want a small, slow, and simple life too! I like the space of in between as well! It would be amazing to putter, meander, and contemplate! I wish I could ignore the relentless voices telling me to hustle, improve, compete, and grasp for more!”

I finally realized the missing ingredient in my work-life balance: slow living.

Slow Living Instead

If work-life balance is about fitting—or often cramming—the most important aspects into our lives, slow living reminds us to take it one step further and SLOW. IT. DOWN. To enjoy small moments, experience calm and quiet, be present, truly connect with loved ones, purposefully engage in our favorite activities, appreciate life.

Slow living stems from the slow food movement, which began in the late 1980s in Italy as a way to reject fast food and instead encourage the enjoyment of local meals that are good, clean, and fair. In 2004, journalist and Canadian (notice a theme?) Carl Honoré wrote the book In Praise of Slow: How a Worldwide Movement is Challenging the Cult of Speed and hence introduced the world to a new philosophy of living: more slowly.

Honoré says, “Slow does NOT mean doing everything at a snail’s pace. The Slow philosophy is about seeking to do everything at the right speed. Savoring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them. Doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible. Engaging deeply with whatever we’re doing and whomever we’re with. Being in the moment. Slow is about quality over quantity in everything from work to food to parenting.”

Fitting It In vs. Slowing It Down

It is clear now. My past work-life balance has been focused on fitting it all in. But at the same time, I desire peace and calm. A simple life that rejects constant busyness and endless juggling. One that embraces slowness and mindfulness.

Slow living indeed appears to be the answer to work-life balance, or at least mine. But is it possible? And how does one truly slow down when our world is so fast?

This next year I will set off, again, on blogging about better life balance. Only this time I will be viewing it through the lens of slow living. I’ll be revisiting my past blog series and reshaping it to incorporate this missing ingredient. I hope you’ll join me in figuring out how to create balance as well as a slower, more peaceful life in 2018!

Readers, do you already incorporate slow living into your life?

~

Join Women, Work, and Life’s Facebook page where I share articles and tips related to women, work, and life (particularly career change and transition, returning to work, and work-life balance topics). You can also follow me on Twitter @EmilySeamone. Finally, sign-up for my newsletter to keep on top of other posts and information pertaining to women and careers. I look forward to seeing you in all these places!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post Navigation