Why You Shouldn’t Try to Balance Work and Life

3 min read · 7 years ago




Still trying to figure out how to balance your work life with your home life? Stewart Friedman urges you to discard that binary approach. It “forces you to think in terms of trade-offs instead of the possibilities for harmony,” he says.

Friedman, an organizational psychologist who is a management professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, founding director of the Wharton Leadership Program, and author of the bestseller Total Leadership: Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life, says that human existence is more nuanced.

Success comes from integrating various realms of your life in order to be meaningful and complete, he argues. Specifically, Friedman proposes that true leaders integrate those realms according to three guiding principles: “Be Real: Act with Authenticity; Be Whole: Act with Integrity; Be Innovative: Act with Creativity.”

Friedman’s new book, Leading the Life You Want: Skills for Integrating Work and Life, shows how six prominent modern American leaders exhibit those principles to live full and harmonious lives. Friedman demonstrates how each has managed to integrate work, home, community, and self.


And after showing how successful people including Bruce Springsteen, Sheryl Sandberg, and Michelle Obama have achieved what he calls the “four-way win,” Friedman goes on to coach readers in how to develop the skills necessary to do the same. 

You say you don’t care about achieving what a rock superstar or First Lady has, you’d just like to get home from the office in time to share meals with your kids? Friedman understands: “Part of the purpose of writing this book is to say, ‘You can be mega successful by external measures and not only do you not have to sacrifice, but the way people get to this is by being thoughtful about including those other parts of their lives,” he says.

The lives of people like Olympic Gold Medal soccer star Julie Foudy, former Bain & Company chief executive Tom Tierney,  and The Mission Continues founder Eric Greitens “are instructive in ways anyone can access,” Friedman says. “The emphasis is on these skills and how to develop them yourself.”

True, Friedman acknowledges, the people he profiles are fundamentally driven and disciplined. But integrating the various aspects of life doesn’t come naturally to most. “It takes some commitment to learn these skills. Like learning any craft, you have to put something into it,” Friedman says. “It requires some kind of dedication and devotion, and you have to have the capacity for that interest in learning.”

The book includes 36 exercises for developing the skills required to act with authenticity, integrity, and creativity. Friedman is also currently sharing his advice for “how to articulate your values and personal leadership vision, cultivate supportive relationships with people who matter most in all parts of your life, and continually experiment with how you get things done to better align your actions with your values — and so produce positive sustainable change” in a free 10-week online course at Coursera: Better Leader, Richer Life

He says the demand for this content among his Wharton students has increased dramatically in the last decade. “Students are very keen to figure out how to have careers and lives that are meaningful and address social problems. They’re hungry for ideas and models that address the whole person and integrate different parts of life,” he says.

Tune in to Business Radio on Sirius XM on Tuesday, October 14, at 7:00 pm EST, when Stewart Friedman interviews one of the subjects of his book, Eric Greitens, founder of The Mission Continues.