22 May A perfectly imperfect way to a perfectly balanced imbalance
Balance. It’s the word on everyone’s mind these days. From diet and exercise to career advice, the word ‘balance’ is thrown around constantly. It seems to have replaced society’s long-standing obsession with the terrible p-word; perfection. ‘Balance’ claims to be the opposite of the tiring strive for perfection. To the outside world it looks like an Instagram feed filled with Saturday morning breakfasts, days spent at the beach and stories of coffees and books in trendy cafes. Society seems to tell us that this is what perfect balance should look like but when we delve a little deeper, is this image of balance just as unattainable as our old friend, perfection?
After attending the ‘GUMS Work Life Balance: How to Raise a Family and be a Doctor’ evening, I came away convinced of this. Balance, in its ideal form, is unattainable. Before me that night stood two extremely successful doctors and parents. Bravely, they both admitted to that they had never in their lives achieved this elusive, perfect 50-50 balance between ‘work’ and ‘life’. It’s impossible. However, balance is an important aspect of life. Enjoying a well-rounded life of exercise, leisure and socialising is proven to lead to a happier and healthier life. Surprisingly though, their lives of constant imbalance did not take away from the wonderful, loving families and rewarding careers they enjoyed. The truth is that the 50-50 model may not apply to medicine but that doesn’t mean we can’t have both. Doctors deserve to be healthy too.
The complex, multi-faceted life of a doctor warrants a complex, multi-faceted equation to accommodate it. This means rethinking the concept of balance, moving on from the simple two-sided scale that require equal weights to a more realistic approach to our lives. Yes, it’s a cold, hard fact that our future careers in medicine will be demanding and require more of our time and energy than other facets of our lives but that is not the end of it. It is also a fact that, for most doctors, medicine means more than just ‘work’. It is a rewarding endeavour of passion. It brings purpose and makes life meaningful. This is not wrong, nor does it give us a ticket to neglect ‘life’ for ‘work’. It means that there is room for ‘life’ within our work.
As a doctor, the 50-50 model doesn’t fit, and balance doesn’t always look like Saturday brunch because sometimes it looks like a Saturday shift instead. In the true sense of the word, balance is about living in a way that allows for flexibility and accommodates for the times when ‘work’ requires more energy than ‘life’. It is giving yourself the space and grace to do the things that fulfil you as a whole person and knowing that the joy you find at work does not mean you are loving life less. What I am starting to realise, is that imbalance is not failure and that embracing the imperfect imbalance is truly the way to achieve the “perfect balance”.