I was recently invited to give a ten minute presentation on the topic Work Life Balance at a conference hosted by 3rd Year BA students at JCU. Finding Work Life balance is a challenge to many of the students I see in my work as Learning Adviser.
It is also something I have struggled with for a number of years.
Several days earlier I had been reading through an article by William Shannon on the teachings of the great Christian thinker Thomas Merton. Thomas Merton was a Trappist monk who did much to raise awareness of the power and importance of contemplation. He was also outspoken in his opposition to the Vietnam War and a great support to many Christians in the US who were opposed to the war.
In the article Shannon quotes from TS Eliot’s poem “Choruses from the Rock” (1934)
“Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information”
These words are very pertinent to us who live in what has been called the Information Age. There is a lot of information out there and some have estimated that it is doubling every two years. I came across one suggestion that in several years data will be doubling every 11 hours!
But are we any wiser? I do not think so. I decided to make the topic of my conference presentation “Work life balance for what?”
We might be striving for Work/Life balance but for what purpose? Michael Shannon, reflecting on the work of Merton, suggests that wisdom should be our life goal and that what we need most is that wisdom which puts us in touch with the deepest Reality.
Merton said the fact that an idea is new and exciting does not make it true. He believed truth to be important and saw the whole purpose of thinking to be able to tell the difference between what is true and what only looks good.
I wanted to be able to offer the graduating students a way or seeing life/work balance in a wider context – to remind them that striving for wisdom should not be lost in the pressures of establishing careers, family etc etc.
In my own striving for a work/life balance I have been helped by the ideas of Stephen R Covey in his book “The 7 habits of highly effective people”. Covey draws on age-old wisdom and modern insights to suggest 7 habits that are important for people to develop if they are to lead effective lives.
Covey suggests that it is important that we keep in balance the four dimensions of our lives: spiritual, physical, mental and social emotional.
It is the spiritual that is sometimes easy to forget. And it is the spiritual dimension that Thomas Merton reminds us is so important if we are to find the wisdom that helps us discover what is real in our lives and not lose Life through our living.