Getting Beyond the Work-Life Balance Myth to Personal and Professional Satisfaction
By Matthew Kelly
Hudson Street Press, 2011
160 pages, $21.95
To order: penguingroup.com
In fewer than 150 pages, Matthew Kelly’s latest book, Off Balance, delivers very clear guidance to help readers attain a life that is personally and professionally satisfying. Similar to the guidance dispensed in his 2002 book Rediscover Catholicism, Kelly’s recommended path to such a life is quite simple:
Set clear priorities.
Don’t let top priorities be eclipsed by lesser ones or those that fail to make it on the list.
Establish a strategy and good habits that enable you to meet your priorities.
Measure your progress and hold yourself accountable.
What began as a book intended to help readers attain work-life balance evolved into one that seeks to destroy the idea that employers can provide — and employees should expect to receive — such equilibrium.
Kelly, a management consultant and motivational coach, makes clear early on that the best way to live is often not the easiest way and that living a satisfying life is not synonymous with attaining pleasures. He eviscerates the philosophies of individualism, hedonism and minimalism “that are eating away at the very fabric of our workforce and culture, our relationships and our lives.”
As a counter, he prescribes three core principles to live the best way possible: becoming the best version of yourself, living a virtuous life and maintaining self-control. After providing this foundation, Kelly then lays out his challenge:
“Work-life balance, work-life effectiveness, personal and professional satisfaction — or whatever you choose to call it — is not an entitlement or benefit. Your company cannot give it to you. You have to create it for yourself. You are personally responsible for living the best life you can.”
Kelly uses the rest of the book to help readers evaluate their current levels of satisfaction with both their personal and professional lives and provides guidance on a range of issues, from increasing one’s energy level to evaluating and ranking priorities and forming good habits.
The book’s guidance is very helpful and practical. But Kelly does not address the very real threats and dangers possible from immersing oneself in one’s work for extended periods of time, namely, ruined families and personal lives devoid of meaning.
While orienting life around a higher aim, setting clear goals and following good habits can help avoid such pitfalls, many professionals will at some point or another need to make a choice that will impact negatively either their personal or professional life. Recognizing this reality and providing some counsel would have made the work even stronger.
Overall, Off Balance provides clear, actionable and faith-informed guidance to help Catholics of all walks of life live fuller and more rewarding lives.
Nick Manetto writes from Herndon, Virginia.