Busting the Myth of Work-Life Balance
There comes a time when words and phrases become so mainstream and we continue to use them without thinking about the true meaning.
That’s how I feel when I hear the words “work-life balance.”
Hardly a day goes by when we don’t hear or read about why we should have this in our life. I hear it in interviews, I hear it with coaching clients, and I hear people spew the words freely because they think it is something to which they should aspire.
But, there are three issues with “balance” that can derail you.
First, balance infers equal weight is given to all areas of our life – equal in amount, significance, and value. Here’s the problem with that – not all things are equal and not all things are of equal importance. Yet, we have been brainwashed to believe that we need to strive for balance.
Frankly, what does that even mean? Does it mean that everything in life is 50/50? Balance is an individual quest. It will mean different things to different people and that’s okay because life is rarely 50/50.
Secondly, work-life balance has become an idyllic notion that only ends up creating feelings of inadequacies when we can’t make it work in our life. Let’s not confuse balance with boundaries. If you are overworked in your professional life at the risk of your personal life or your health, set (and maintain) boundaries so that unhealthy and stressful activities do not encroach on your personal life.
And, lastly – and this is the big one, being out of balance can help you reach goals. You may be confusing balance with satisfaction. If you are striving for a constant level of satisfaction, remember that satisfaction is often temporary.
If you look at satisfaction as a fulfillment of a current desire, then you begin to understand its temporary nature.
Let me explain. Let’s say you’re having a fantastic dinner. Perhaps you are enjoying a juicy filet mignon accompanied by a glass of the finest cabernet. At that instant you feel full and satisfied (balanced). But the need that has been filled is only temporary. When tomorrow comes, the hunger surfaces once again.
But that’s not so bad.
You see, the same holds true with the fulfillment of goals. Goals are met and needs are satisfied, at that moment.
Think about life’s journey, whether personal or professional, as a series of desires that are transformed into goals. Each goal acts as a single step in that journey. Every step walked inches us a bit closer to our desired result. When you meet one goal, it may not be the end destination. That’s why you still keep peering down the path to see what lies ahead.
“Restlessness is discontent and discontent is the first necessity of progress.” - Thomas Edison
If you’re feeling some sort of discontent, then congratulations. Even if you can’t articulate exactly what it is you are trying to achieve, this sort of healthy discontent means you have a yearning to grow. Before we become excessively critical of dissatisfaction or being unbalanced, it’s good to know that discontent has a positive use.
So, the next time you say that you want to achieve more work-life balance. Be clear on what specifically that means to you. Understand that it is not necessarily the imbalances of life that hold you back —it’s doing pointless things that aren’t adding meaning to your life. The more you pursue what you love, the more harmony you’ll create and that is “balance” to many.
When you do what you love, your energy is magnified. And when your energy is intensified, you’ll feel less out of sorts and you’ll stop worrying about being balanced.
Stop worrying about perfecting a balanced life or a perfected life. Maybe one day your career takes precedence and maybe the other day, it’s something else. You should feel free to define how to combine the percentage of effort that goes into your work and life.
Don’t let your quest for balance derail your plans for greatness. Do what you love and do what is meaningful.
Johnston Osburn is a Career and Life Coach who helps people turn dreams into realities. After years as a Global Talent Acquisition Professional, she realized how frequently people limit themselves because they lack belief in their abilities. They are afraid to dream, let alone dream big. [...]