Brad Harrington

Personal Statement:

In Identity, Youth and Crisis, psychologist Erik Erikson recounts a story about Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis. According to Erikson, Freud was once asked what he thought a normal person should be able to do well. The questioner probably expected a complicated “deep” answer. But Freud simply said, “Lieben und arbeiten” (to love and to work). As Erikson reflected, “It pays to ponder on this simple formula; it grows deeper as you think about it.”

For me this vignette speaks to an underlying and (nearly) universal truth. That is, for the majority of us, most of our lives are spent focusing on these two domains: work and love. We share a common commitment to make a difference through our work. We seek to do work that matters, that reflects our deepest values, and that contributes to making the world a better place. We also want to “be loving” (I’m reminded of the Jesuit adage – Be attentive, be reflective, and be loving.) For many of us, this love is most evident in our relationships with our family, our friends, and our neighbors.

The challenge that many of us struggle with is how to strike the right balance between these two spheres. How do we see our lives as an integrated whole and not as two separate, unrelated worlds that compete for our time, attention, and commitment? Today, we see many examples of organizations and professions that create an unacceptable choice that lead many to conclude that succeeding in both arenas is not possible. This false dichotomy undermines our most human need to be professionally and personally fulfilled.


Like many people I spent my early career focused primarily on work and professional development. As life unfolded, however, I was reminded to not allow professional success to undermine important relationships with loved ones. Whether as a result of happy events - marriage, the birth of children, major rites of passage, or difficult ones like the illness of a parent - I am continually reminded that life’s wholeness contains both a professional and a personal dimension. Each enhances and gives greater meaning to the other.

My work at the Center has provided me with a tremendous and unique opportunity – to study, write, consult, and teach on the intersection of people’s work and non-work lives. I have the good fortune to collaborate with leading employers and HR practitioners, top-flight academics and researchers, and gifted students who are exploring the joys and challenges of living an integrated life. At the same time, I am able to be an important (albeit slightly less important than Chelsea , our family dog) family member – not simply a breadwinner. In this way, I have been provided the greatest opportunity that life can offer - the chance to do meaningful work in the context of a meaningful life.

Freud may have missed the mark with some of his theories and assertions, but on this one I think his observation was about right.


Contact Information:

Center for Work & Family
Carroll School of Management
Boston College
22 Stone Avenue
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467

phone: (617) 552-4544

Last Updated: August 26, 2013 10:58 AM