Most of us struggle with maintaining a sustainable life balance – but have we really considered what that means or how that pursuit affects our lives? With stressful schedules, family obligations, and our own personal needs, it seems as if there just is not enough time or energy to do it all…
Maybe that’s the point – there ISN’T enough time or energy.
David Sedaris wrote a fascinating article in The New Yorker explaining his understanding of work-life balance with a unique allegory of using stove burners to represent four areas of life that we all struggle to maintain – and his philosophy has since become known as the Four Burners Theory.
There are four main areas of life that we try to balance:
Each of these four areas are represented by a burner on a stove – and we know this stove must have a power source. It’s this power source that is the limiting factor in making sure that all four burners can function simultaneously. Of course, we cannot plug into the power grid – our power source is the time and emotional energy we have day-to-day.
If we attempt to truly balance these four areas, each ‘burner’ can only function at 25% of its capacity. That may be enough, but no one area will be able to reach its full potential.
With good time management practices and self-care, it is possible to extend our power source, but ultimately it is still a limited resource.
To be successful, we need to be able to identify our core values and what is truly important to us. We need to reduce at least one of those burners (and likely even two) to power up the rest.
Essentially there are two choices – do we maintain a true balance across all areas of life, or are we willing to make sacrifices to excel in certain areas? While this question may be incredibly difficult to answer, it is not an answer that is constant throughout our lives.
Our priorities shift and change over time.
It is arguable that finding life satisfaction far exceeds that of life balance. By allowing ourselves to focus on what is most important during any given phase of our lives, we are far more likely to succeed in these areas.
We can always change our minds and adjust whenever life takes us in a new direction…