I have a children’s song stuck in my head.

One grey elephant balancing, Step by step on a piece of string, He thought is was such a wonderful stunt, That he called for another, Elephant!

And so the song goes on – 2, 3, 4 grey elephants all implausibly balancing on one piece of string, until…

5 grey elephants balancing, Step by step on a piece of string, All of a sudden the piece of string broke, And down came all the elephant folk!

What a perfect analogy for Life Balance. Let’s say the piece of string is you, and the grey elephants are the load, or responsibilities, you carry. How many “grey elephants” can you balance before you “break”?

In preparation for this article, I put out a call for help. I asked…

Work-Life Balance –

How do you define it?

Is it attainable?

Do you have it?

How do you make sure you get it?

Here’s what I learned. Some people had never heard the expression. Some felt it was elusive and indefinable. Some enjoyed their work so much they found it hard to separate work from the rest of their life. Dee Le Blang joked that “it is the fine line between insanity and being able to smile each day“. Interestingly, no-one defined being “out of balance” as having too much “life” and not enough “work”, always the reverse. It seems to me “work-life balance” is a subjective term with as many interpretations as there are situations.

I was encouraged to hear the great majority felt work-life balance is attainable. Far fewer, though, believed they currently achieved a satisfactory work-life balance. On further examination, a pattern emerged.

Those who were dissatisfied

  • often felt overwhelmed
  • felt they had no control
  • felt they took on too many responsibilities
  • rarely took time off

Those who were satisfied

  • worked at achieving that satisfaction
  • planned their time off
  • spent time winding down
  • pursued hobbies and interests outside work

Now it’s over to you. Let’s hear your ideas on Work-Life Balance and how it can be achieved. In other words, how many elephants can you balance? And how do you keep that string strong?

And I’ll keep singing…

One grey elephant balancing…


This article was originally published at The Calm Space.

  1. Janet Barclay 13 years ago

    There are people who have work-life balance issues where people have too much life and not enough work, but they usually get fired.

  2. Janet Barclay 13 years ago

    In answer to your question, once I gave up my outside employment to work for myself full time, I decided that I would maintain regular working hours and keep the majority of my evening and weekend hours for personal and family activities.

    As the saying goes: No one on his deathbed ever said, ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the office.”

  3. natalieconrad 13 years ago

    I love the elephant on a string analogy! For me, the number of elephants, I carry varies from week to week. There are some weeks where I am Wonder Woman and then other weeks where one elephant is too much. I have finally realized that I have a rhythm, my own unique rhythm. Paying attention to it allows me to have greater balance in my life. Great blog post – thanks! (p.s. found you on the PO Blog Carnival!)

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