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  • Writer's pictureGuest post by Lisa Graves, MS, RD, LD

Reimagining Work-Life Balance

A scale depicting work-life balance

When you hear or read the phrase “work-life balance” what comes to mind? Does it conjure images of a balance scale where work responsibilities and the demands of life are separate elements on each side of the scale?

In this image, the balance scale always seems to tip in one direction or the other, such that our work affects our personal life and vice versa, often in a negative manner. You might ask yourself whether achieving work-life balance is even possible.

Perhaps it is worth reimagining the ideal of work-life balance by considering how your life at work can benefit your personal life and how your personal life can benefit your work.

In my work as a nutrition professional and throughout the seasons of my personal life, I have found many instances where work and life enhance each other. Not only providing balance but creating synergy.

Work-Life Synergy

I know that I operate best when I strive for work-life synergy. When work and life combine, they yield success that is greater than the sum of work and life as separate elements.

My life experiences and interests outside of dietetics shape who I am as a dietitian. In turn, I continue to learn things in my professional life that benefit me in my personal life. After all, it’s kind of hard for that not to happen when you’re a dietitian and food is an essential part of life.

Life Benefits Work

One of my personal interests is running. Training for long-distance races provides you a lot of time alone with your thoughts. I’d like to think some of my best and most creative ideas for work have manifested on training runs.

Running has also taught me to push beyond my comfort zone to achieve goals I never thought possible. Knowing what it feels like as a runner to reach outside the comfort zone has helped me when I’ve needed to do this as a nutrition professional.

I think back to the early months of the pandemic when I had to work outside of my comfort zone and alongside other Cooperative Extension professionals to adapt the delivery of an in-person, community-based, diabetes program to a virtual format.

Stretching the limits of the comfort zone has opened opportunities for educational programming with new audiences that we might not have otherwise reached. Thus, my personal interest in running has had a positive, synergistic effect on my work.

Work Benefits Life

Synergy extends the other direction as well where work has benefited my personal life.

When my youngest son was born 5 weeks early, my knowledge of infant nutrition and the ability to consult with the dietitian working in the NICU were both so critical for my son’s early growth and development.

As an RD, I was also able to advocate for my son and contribute to the decisions on his overall health in ways that I wouldn’t have been able to if not for my background in nutrition.

The skills I’ve learned as a dietitian I’ve been able to apply in my personal life in other ways, like planning nutritious family meals. I believe my background in nutrition has had a positive, synergistic effect on my family’s overall health.

Reimagining Work-Life Balance: Your Turn

How has your life at work benefited your personal life or your personal life benefited your work? How have you been able to create work-life synergy?

Reflect on your responses to these questions. You may find yourself shifting your thoughts about how you perceive the work-life ideal from being a balance to a synergy.

Get to know Lisa Graves on our Community Page.

A quote that motivates Lisa:

“The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.”

~ Theodore Roosevelt

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