We all strive for the elusive utopia of “work – life balance” (WLB) dangled before us by professional development gurus like a golden carrot. How many of us have quietly berated the boss, pointed a guilt-laden finger at the client or cursed the job for robbing us of this well-deserved harmony?

Let’s face it, as a sales professional, it’s unlikely you’ve ever experienced the joy of a 9-5 work schedule and a 5-9 life.

Around the clock e-mails, weekend catch up and crazy deadlines are the norm.

From years of listening to people’s angst on this subject, I’ve concluded that the quest for this hedonistic state causes more stress than the lack of balance. And that the solution to this issue has less to do with outside pressures and more to do with the choices we make. Starting with how we choose to define WLB.

The word “balance” suggests perfect equilibrium between two distinctly different entities – our work and our life. It puts us on a hunt for perfection, a quest that inevitably results in self-induced stress and disappointment. Years ago a colleague introduced me to the term “work-life integration.” I immediately liked it because ‘integration’ recognizes that work and life co-exist. It makes more sense in a world where technology has shifted the way we work and play, and where the home and workplace, for many, are one and the same.

So what if we stop trying to separate the two and find ways to make them work, and serve, together?

How you integrate depends on you and it can be small but impactful choices. For example I use energy-sucking airport wait time as an opportunity to send long chatty e-mails, or Skype, to my family in the UK. It breaks me away from work, eliminates the stress of juggling time zones in the few hours I have at home between trips, and brings me immense joy.

Integration on a daily basis is doable. Daily balance, for many of us, is an impossible goal. << Tweet This!

I choose to look at balance from a longer term perspective. I put in gruelling hours at certain times of the year but am ruthless about scheduling and ‘protecting’ vacations and work-free weekends for undisturbed play time with loved ones. It horrifies me to read that over 50% of North Americans fail to take time off.

Studies continue to remind us that this is essential if we want to remain mentally sharp, nurture our most important relationships, and avoid physical burnout. Equally frightening are those of you who spend more time on vacation bonding with your laptop than with your family or friends. My clients have shown nothing but respect, and perhaps a tinge of envy, at my pit bull commitment to removing myself fully from work for short periods throughout the year. It’s not easy. It takes forethought, careful planning and it starts with making the choice that this is what I want.

In the sales profession there will be times when you start at dawn, work late, or fire off a late night e-mail. But if you find yourself doing this all the time, here’s some tough love. Are you burning the midnight oil, forgoing vacations, or chained to that laptop because you’re knee-deep in the muddy rut of habit? Is it possible that your late night e-mail binge is driven by your craving to be connected rather than the expectation of the client? Is ego blinding you to reality? You know who you are, “I’m the only one who can get this done.” Newsflash: You’re not. And if you answered yes to any one of these questions take an objective look at the choices you make and what’s driving them.

So what’s my point?

Each of us have our own individual work, family and personal priorities. There is no “one size fits all” solution to the WLB challenge. The key is to define and execute the work-life “whatever you choose to call it” that’s right for you. When did you last sit alone and reflect on your definition? Are you open to the possibility that your imbalance may be self-driven by the choices you make? Like so much in life, WLB is not something bestowed to us by others. It is something we create.

My final word is to those of you who lead. Be willing to hear and encourage each person’s individual definition of the WLB model that supports their circumstances while satisfying company goals. More importantly be the shining example of an integrated and balanced boss. << Tweet This

Good selling!