It is about time that we learn to reconcile career and family ourselves - This book offers a path to a healthy work-life balance.
There is an increasing demand for practical solutions to solve the conflict between the modern business world and family life. This is especially important for young working couples in their "rush hour of life" when both of them have a career and are needed in the upbringing of their children. Walter Schmidt has discovered the reasons for the apparent incompatibility of the values and attitudes. He has developed a new model to achieve a healthy work-family-balance by transferring the concept of Salutogenesis, introduced by Aaron Antonovsky, and that of Servant Leadership, coined by Robert K. Greenleaf, to the reconciliation of family and career. He believes that the key to the solution lies in a fundamental change of behaviour of the persons involved. The most important factor is the Sense of Coherence: The belief that we live in a world that is generally comprehensible, offers resources to solve problems, and rewards efforts. This sense can be developed and fostered by consciously dealing with one's own emotions and relationships as well as through exercises introduced by the author, such as the "partner maps".
Walter Schmidt was born in Weiden (Bavaria, Germany). He studied business economics and conferred a doctor's degree in economic sciences in Vienna and Innsbruck. After his career in diverse management and leading functions in marketing and sales at worldwide known enterprises, he worked for one of the largest business consulting companies in Europe. In 1987 he founded InterMedia as a management and HR consulting company. In 1993 he was a founder member of SearchNet International - one of worldwide operating networks of HR consulting. His special issue is education, training and life shaping of female and male managers. His scientific work embraces development of management skills. In 2009 he completed his second doctorate in Philosophy at the Catholic University of Eichstaett. As a visiting Professor at the Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University of Warsaw, he gave lectures on the subject "work - life balance" during the summer semester 2014. In December 2016 he was appointed Professor of the Faculty of Family Studies at the Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski University. Since March 2017 he gives lectures on the subject "Rush Hour of Life". He develops and manages scientific projects. His goal is, to educate young people to learn how to balance career and family life, which will be a target for their adult life.
The Sense of Coherence
Antonovsky determined in his explorations that healthy people possess a certain spiritual global orientation that he called "Sense Of Coherence (SOC)". We will use this term (the sense of coherence)79, since it exactly expresses our sensory perception in conjunction with our thinking and feeling and especially individual issues of life orientation, as well.80
This Sense Of Coherence which healthy people possess to a markedly great extent takes centre stage in salutogenesis. To say simply, the people with strong sense of coherence can manage their lives better. They are "good swimmers" (if we use Antonovsky's river metaphor). They feel themselves fit for challenges and solving problems, find their ways in their world and searching for the meaning of their lives.
In in-depth interviews and, later, by standardized questionnaires Antonovsky searched for typical characteristics of good coping in life histories of the respondents. His main question was what really matters for fates and destinies. His research suggests that in the given conditions some individuals and groups felt better than the others. That was the mystery which he searched for. The focal point of his research was not the question what are the problems to be solved, but how to do it. He determined three factors of behaviour patterns and lifestyles and summarized them to a term called Sense of Coherence:
"The SOC (Sense Of Coherence) is a global orientation that expresses the extent to which one has a pervasive, enduring though dynamic feeling of confidence that
- the stimuli deriving from one's internal and external environments in the course of living are structured, predictable and explicable;
- the resources are available to one to meet the demands posed by these stimuli;
- these demands are challenges, worthy of investment and engagement."81
The SOC can be measured and recorded by means of questionnaires developed by Antonovsky that withstood scientific examinations. When evaluating the protocols of the investigated groups Antonovsky came across three recurring issues considered by him as three focal components of the SOC.82 Thereby the sense of coherence shall not only be understood as a mere feeling, but as a perception and estimation pattern. The SOC includes:
People possessing a strong sense of coherence experience the world as orderly, predictable and explicable. The same applies to their internal experience. Healthy people with a strong sense of coherence also have a feeling that other people understand them, too. Antonovsky assigns this comprehensibility to the cognitive part of the person's experience.
Manageability is a belief that you generally have the resources necessary to solve problems and take challenges and that all difficulties are manageable either by yourself or with the help of others (spouse, colleagues, God, the Nature, or a physician - anybody whom you trust in). Manageability is allocated to the cognitive part of the person's experience, too.
People with a high sense of coherence believe that their lives, life histories and deeds are really worthwhile. This third dimension of the sense of coherence shows how strong your confidence and feeling is that your life has an emotional meaning and your challenges are worth to invest energy in them - no matter how the things will turn out. People with a high sense of coherence see their lives as interesting, worthwhile and wonderful. Antonovsky sees this meaningfulness as an affective motivating component in the salutogenic model. According to Antonovsky, this element is the most important of all.
Antonovsky does not consider The Sense Of Coherence as a criterion for the person's typology. This term only describes a dispositional and outlasting orientation, i.e. a stable pattern of the person's perception of himself and of his environment. The Sense Of Coherence has nothing to do with moral. People acting beyond the rules of ethics can have a high sense of coherence, too. Moreover, The Sense Of Coherence does not relate to the whole world. As determined by Antonovsky, we all draw border lines. We are not so much concerned about what happens beyond them - it is not so important for us whether we can understand or manage it or discover its meaning. One with a high SOC can also be a philistine or a couch potato. However, drawing such border lines does not mean that we are not influenced by external factors. An absolutely apolitical person can also get a military draft and be sent to the war where he will be killed.83
According to Antonovsky there are some areas of life which are absolutely essential for a high SOC and can never be excluded from that. They are:
- the person's own feelings;
- direct interpersonal relations;
- the person's most important own occupation;
- existential vital issues (death, unpreventable failures, his personal mistakes, conflicts and isolation).
"Too much of our energies and a large part of our Self is so inevitably connected with these areas of life that we cannot ignore their significance. If you ignore it you have a low degree of meaning - as per definition. If you realize how they are important in your life it is still a question whether they shall be perceived as a challenge" [.] "It can be so that you do not really enjoy your work, e.g. housekeeping, going to school or to serve in the army. But if you are confident that your work has meaning (supporting your own family, looking after the children, preparing to your career, or defending your own country) you can still have a high SOC."84
The limits of importance attached by the person to a problem are not constant. Making them sometimes narrower or wider depending on the situation can even be an expression of a high SOC. In the first case you avoid getting stuck into your excessive demands and in the second case you broaden your horizon to gain new experiences.
Antonovsky also points to the limits of the coherence principle. "I have the feeling that in some way it would be wrong to assume a strong SOC in the person who asserts that there is always a solution for any problem, that he understands almost everything and shows no tolerance for doubts."85 He also points out that there can be an extremely high SOC which is, however, not authentic on closer inspection; such SOC acts as a program that the persons learned or got prescribed by a higher instance, but not experienced by himself. For example, it can be religiosity transmuting into fanatic optimism because of not being sufficiently grounded in life experience (a highly topical reference at the beginning of the 21st century).86 According to Antonovsky, a healthy sense of coherence cannot be of a hundred per cent; SOC is always situated in an area that also tolerates doubts, unanswered questions and human insufficiencies. His practice of research eliminated values to a certain extent.
As per Antonovsky, a healthy person possesses an arsenal of resistibility with which he comes up against problems, stresses and difficulties. Antonovsky calls this arsenal of resisting power Generalized Resistance Ressources, GRR:
"At the most general, preliminary level, I defined a GRR as any characteristic of the person, the group or the environment that can facilitate effective tension management."87
Those resisting power is a significant health protective factor. Although these resources do not directly influence health Antonovsky underlines their decisive importance for health. Stressors and tensions resulted from them can cause illness if they anyway coincide with already existing pathogens or physical weakness. However, the resources facilitate coping with tensions which are bad for health. Generalized Resistance Resources (generalized because they are effective in situations of any kind) are not by far the body's defences only. This term of Antonovsky describes cultural and social skills and abilities to solve problems and to manage difficulties. The GRR also includes financial safety, ego strength, intelligence, practical managing strategies, as well as genetically dominated und organic factors. Development of these resources especially takes place in childhood and adolescence. Deficits arise if early experiences are inconsistent, i. e. the children's or adolescents' environment overstrains or under-challenges him/her, or if they cannot participate in decisions.
Stressors are another component of the salutogenic concept. Antonovsky incorporated still applicable stress models of his generation into his concept. Factors potentially capable of trigger stresses are primarily neutral stimuli. They do not become stressors before they cause stress reactions. It can be so that one person does not perceive a certain stimulus as a stressor at all whereas the same stimulus cases severe stress reactions in another person. What underwhelms one person can set another one off. As per Antonovsky, the "stress reaction" term is also neutral. Stress reaction initially means simply a situation in which an individual does not know how he should react. He is "unbearably helpless"88. This reaction induces a physiological stress condition. Then the challenge of the organism is...