Balance Without Limits? No Such Thing!

rushingMany themes have arisen from peoples’ responses to the book SPEED.  During a recent radio program, the interviewer opened the tender cultural topic of “balance” as it relates to men and women. Do problems with SPEED fall into gender patterns?

What a daring question, which no one had yet asked, even though the issue of work-life-family balance is at the center of our culture “wars” and is often a key issue in any work setting. People still ask “how does anybody, especially a woman, figure out how to do it all?” In talking about SPEED, that is the wrong question.  I’m saying nobody, man or woman, does it all; thinking you can do it all, without limits, is the problem.

In my early research I found that the process of addiction – the experience of being addicted – is exactly the same for women and men. The loss of control is exactly the same for both sexes. But the meaning of being addicted is different. The same holds true for SPEED. The 20 Questions (Are You Hooked on Fast?) are the same for men and women. But if you ask what does it mean to you to be addicted to a fast pace, men will say it means a failure in a competitive race to win, making it to the top, usually in relation to other men.  Being FAST is a strategy for success and a road map to the top. You shouldn’t lose control; just try harder, work smarter.  But it won’t happen. You are bound to lose control if you believe you have to keep going and you shouldn’t have any limits. There is no stopping point that isn’t failing.

In reflecting on their challenges with SPEED, women talk much more about balance, about wanting to find a way to do it all – family, work, and everything else – without having to face the reality of limits. Finding balance has always been a women’s issue. Dealing with the often-competing demands of children, partner, home, and work has been at the core of women’s struggle to rise to the top in the work world and find gender equality at work and home.

Occasionally, people will say in talking about SPEED, “finding balance is not only a women’s issue.” What they mean is it shouldn’t be. And, it is beginning to change. As men and women begin to see that they are out of control with SPEED, they also realize it is not a question of maintaining balance while still doing it all. It’s an acceptance of limits; an acceptance that there is no such thing as balance without limits. This is the new idea and it fits for both women and men. Nobody can do it all and find balance.