Balancing work, life strengthens identity

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — As the Air Force focuses on resiliency for our Airmen and their families, concepts like work-life balance have received renewed consideration.

The health benefits of maintaining a balance between our career identity and our “true self,” the one typified by the activities we engage in outside of work, has led to special attention on finding the happy medium.

Members of the military have one of the strongest work identities forged through shared experiences starting in basic military training and continuing through deployments, routine missions, daily life in a common uniform and speaking a common language.

For those who serve, our work identity is so closely tied to our true self that the lines between work and everything else become blurred. Our friends and our colleagues are one in the same; we live mere steps from the office and we devote so much of ourselves to the mission that its success becomes a singular driving force in our lives.

In addition, we like it that way. We love our profession, and we are what make us the world’s premier fighting force.

That love and drive for the Air Force, however, can overtake our true self. When we lose what makes each of us unique and strong individually in the pursuit of our common mission, the entire organization suffers. We all must find a balance in how we pursue professional excellence, while remaining true to our other identities.

For many of us, that balance is in being a parent. For others, it’s being a friend, sibling or a child. It might be connected to a hobby. For some, it’s all of those things — and in the end it doesn’t matter. The “life” in work-life balance is whatever you do outside of work, and it’s important.

If there is any question as to the weight the Air Force places on work-life balance, consider the diversity and inclusion and force of the future policy initiatives our Air Force leaders have implemented in the last year. Programs targeted at recruiting and retaining America’s best and brightest are demonstrating there is more to being an Airman than just work. The life part of that balance is critically important to ensuring that we achieve and maintain a margin of excellence.

We will never attain a perfect 50/50 balance between work and home life, but we as Airmen should strive to find an equilibrium that allows us to perform at our best. The Air Force is making room for it. As hard as it may be to slow our own personal ops tempo down, it’s critical to the success of the mission.

For me personally, being a good mother, wife, friend and athlete takes time away from my squadron, but that side of my identity is an important source of strength and resiliency. By spending some time on those aspects of my life, I am undoubtedly a better Airman at work.

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