In a world of scarcity, we often speak of trade-offs, a tit for a tat, a quid for a quo, and finding the right balance. In a world of abundance, we don’t think in terms of or; we look for and. I’ve long cringed when I hear the term, “Work-Life balance”, as I prefer “work-play alignment.” Of late, I have been part of numerous conversations focusing on privacy and security, as well as security and freedom. Many people engage in debate (and not necessarily dialogue) using the metaphor of the balance…the more privacy we retain, the more security we enjoy (and vice versa); the more security we have, the less freedom we retain. Despite the thoughts of many, there is not an oppositional relationship among either equation describing important aspects of life in America. It is, in fact, possible to simultaneously increase privacy (or freedom) and strengthen security, just as it is to decrease and weaken the same. Though I do feel strongly about the importance of  making informed decisions about privacy or freedom (most of us don’t even think about what we gave up to advertising agencies when we downloaded that last free app) and security (think about the security you potentially gave up with that last social media update you made that announced you were out on the town, leaving your home vacant). Parenthetically speaking, in those examples, one could argue that you simultaneously gave up both.

I’m not writing to initiate a discussion on the relationship between security and privacy or freedom (though happy to talk about it). I’m merely using the written word as a vehicle to think about how we use the balance metaphor and the oppositional way in which we frame variables in life. I firmly believe relationships between most things in life are not hardwired to and or or. It is possible to turn an or into an and and vice versa…

  • Give and/or receive
  • Work less and/or get more done
  • Make lots of money and/or be happy
  • Have fewer people in your life and/or more friendships

More is not necessarily more; Less is not necessarily less; and putting a heavier person on the left side of the teeter totter doesn’t necessarily mean the right side rises in the air (e.g., The heavier person might choose to not apply all of his body weight).

I have come to think less and less in terms of balances (e.g. fulcrums, teeter-totters, weighted scales) and more in terms of independently operated lifts (e.g. elevators, fork-lifts, scaffolding). It is possible to simultaneously give more and get more. Just as it is to give more and get less or give less and get more. The relationship between the variables is something we can influence, if not deliberately choose – the laws of physics need not be blindly applied. Most situations are not zero-sum. I don’t have to be unhappy for you to be happy…there is plenty of happiness to go around. In fact, it is more likely that if another person in my presence is visibly happy, I am more likely to choose happiness. Other people can lift me up to their level.

Think about some of the things in your life that you may believe have inverse relationships and see if you can’t reframe them…

Can you eat more and weigh less?
It depends on what you eat.

Can you talk less and say more?
It depends on the words you choose.

Can you have a larger impact by doing less?
It depends on the effectiveness of your actions, the strength of the team, and your ability to delegate.

Can you simultaneously enjoy greater privacy and greater security?
It depends on to whom you are giving up that privacy and how they are choosing to use the information you chose to share with them.

Can you spend more time with your family and have a less meaningful relationship with them?
It depends on what you are doing WITH them during that time.

  • Are the relationships among variables in your life really what they appear?
  • What or can you turn into and?
  • What teeter-totters might you turn into lifts?

Sometimes in life, when we “solve for x” the lessons we learned in algebra stifle us…we don’t have to subtract from the left side of the equation to add to the right side, we can simultaneously add to (or subtract from) both sides. The point is to be deliberate about the decisions we make and to acknowledge we can each create more win-wins than we acknowledge. Balanced or not, we can choose to be lift operators; we can control the relationship between variables.