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In a TIME magazine article on work-life balance (2 April 2014), the following statistic was highlighted: “From 1986-1996 work life balance was mentioned in the media 32 times. In 2007, it was mentioned 1674 times.” The ensuing seven years have, if anything, further added to the information flow; a Google search of the term “work life balance” nets over 8.8 million hits in .38 seconds, and in .57 seconds you can add 106 million books that refer to the subject.

The subject has become a numerologist’s fodder. There are 5 Steps to better work life balance in TIME, 5 Tips on Web MD, 10 Keys on, 10 Things You Can Do Today to Improve Your Life at, 14 Steps to Achieve Work Life Balance on, and for those Type A’s who look forward to a challenge, lists 27 steps on the road to this state of balance. I even came across a company named WORKLIFE Balance in Atlanta.

From my 33 years as an Army leader and subsequent years being an executive coach and leadership practitioner, I’ve come across some thoughts I’d like to share.

“If You Caught This Balance You Are Pursuing, What Would It Look Like?” This question usually starts my presentations to groups or individual interviews in a coaching session. But no matter where I give this presentation or to whom, the room echoes painful silence after I pose my question. After the silence becomes unbearable, a meandering series of word bombs bounce off the walls: “Control?” “Time for my family?” “Ability to focus?” are some of the ones I hear routinely, and they are usually in the form of a question to me rather than a definitive statement from the one who is seeking this balance. Take some time and effort to think through your answer, and ask your significant others this question. Begin the process of getting your head into and arms around this amorphous subject by defining it for yourself.