In a world obsessed with fast pace, achievement and consumerism, is it little surprise that many people are looking for ways to escape the rat race? Dreams of escaping the city for a simpler life are no longer left until retirement – many are making changes much earlier in their lives.
Greater coverage is now being afforded to those advocating a slower-paced existence. The debate continues with research into slower living and the benefits of greater work/life balance. Texts like Slow Living by Wendy Parkins and Geoff Craig (2006) point to the cultural trend of us embracing slower living and achieving greater balance and pleasure in life. Carl Honore (2005) in ‘In Praise of Slow: How A Worldwide Movement Is Challenging the Cult of Speed’ advocates slowing down as the panacea to ‘over-doing it’ in all areas including work, food, sex and conversation. However, whilst slowing down might promise retrieval of pleasures hitherto lost through the disease of Affluenza, is it the answer to attaining a more fulfilled life? Are these pioneers subject to the same cultural pressures as the face-pacers, only manifested in another form?
I believe that the concept of Slowing Down is fraught with similar problems to the pursuit of greater work/life balance. Work/life balance is fundamentally flawed since it encourages separation and fragmentation. Greater time-management and efficient goal-setting are offered as the answer to balancing this see-saw. Our efforts are expended trying to balance the disparate parts of our life which only increases our busy-ness as we try to ‘have it all’.
Cultural trends in behaviour often highlight the influence of the Group Myth – the unquestioned assumption that ‘It is better to be part of a group than be an individual’. More. Thus replacing a face-paced existence with slower living might, for many, amount to no more than allowing others to choose for us. This might operate at a conscious level as social conformity or at an unconscious one where we effectively relinquish responsibility for our own lives. The latter is what existential writers like Heidegger (1962) refer to as colluding with the ‘They-Self’ or Nietzsche (1883) as the ‘Herd’. It results in making choices from our perception of others’ expectations and social conventions. The cost is that we relinquish responsibility for choosing how to live our own lives.
In terms of attaining a rich and fulfilled life, I suggest that the solution lies in shifting the paradigm from work/life balance to work/life integration. Work-life integration implies a synergy between the different aspects of your life with everything you do imbued with values reflecting who you are as a person – not just a set of roles.
Honore, C. (2005) In praise of Slow: How a Worldwide Movement is Challenging the Cult of Speed. Orion Mass Market Paperback: New Ed Edition.
Parkins, W. & Craig, G. (2006) Slow Living. Australia: Berg Publishers
If you are interested in exploring this subject further, you are invited to join the series of teleseminars we provide on work/life integration. To learn more about our teleseminars, go to http://www.mythofworklifebalance.com/teleconference.htm Clare Mann, organizational psychologist and existential psychotherapist is a contributing author to “Awakening the Workplace: Achieving Connection, Fulfilment and Success at Work" and author of the “The Myths of Life and The Choices We Have", an Existential Philosophy-based self-help book. http://www.lifemyths.com