By Joshua D. Drake and Amanda Nystrom
This is not yet another article where someone informs you that you need better balance in your life or you’re going to burnout and fall apart. We all know we have to have balance. We all know that the personal side of the stick tends to end up with more mud/shit on it than the work side because the work side allows us to do all the personal things and keep roofs over our heads. So instead of telling you what you already know, we wanted to propose a new way of thinking about the whole thing (Because quite frankly - if someone says work-life balance to me one more time, someone is going to become the meme where the computer gets thrown out the window.)
The definition of Work-Life balance from Wikipedia is:
Work-life interface is the intersection of work and personal life. There are many aspects of one's personal life that can intersect with work including family, leisure, and health. Work–life interface is bidirectional; for instance, work can interfere with private life, and private life can interfere with work.
Let’s consider the language we are using. When we use the phrase “work-life balance,” we are inevitably giving precedence to work over life. When we put work first, it creates an implicit battle between what we usually feel is more important (life) and what societal pressure says should be our primary focus (work).
The conflict that is created from putting the word “work” first presents a cognitive dissonance between the opportunity of work and life. It creates frustration with family needs, work requirements that affect home life, personal needs, vacations, friends and everything in between. Instead of celebrating and creating a positive inclusivity of the differences, the language of “work-life balance” fights to keep these important facets of your life separate.
When was the last time you took a day to not do anything and didn’t feel guilty about it? The need to be constantly productive is not a natural thing - it is a toxic demand that stems from consumerism and the “laziness” lie.
A change in perspective
To be truly successful in life, we must have an equilibrium. We must balance desire, learning from success and failure, fear, exhaustion, passion, employer satisfaction, relationships, children, personal ambition and growth, tee-ball games, disappointment, ballet classes, illness, client management, and unexpected events. How can we manage all of these tasks when we try to put everything into two separate boxes? We can’t and that is why people get burned out.
A life balance exists when we embrace everything in our life, for good or bad, hard or extra hard. A balanced life includes work; it is part of everything we do. It is work to have a good relationship with a friend, partner, or family member. It is work to schedule time for the kids' sports games or keep the house clean. It is work to make sure we perform in our career. It is work to become a better person. If all of these things are work, then how can we have a work-life balance? How can work be separated from our life as a whole?
While it is true that sometimes our work that comes with a paycheck takes more from our family than it should, our family is capable of doing the same. The key is this: We are the ultimate project manager when it comes to our life. It is up to us to be able to say no, to communicate our needs, and to set boundaries. It is up to us to be leaders of our life and make sure we’re in the right jungle instead of letting others make that decision for us. We must demonstrate our values and show authenticity in order to find a path that is truly rewarding. It may seem crazy or completely against the mold, but that’s why it’s a mold and not a supply chain. Be present in every part of your life now before your work-life balance kills you.
It is not the purpose of this article to discount the difficulties that can arise when trying to manage a life. There are bad employers, unfortunate circumstances, and days when we feel terrible. Life can often not live up to our expectations and that is why life is work. It is impossible to separate the two. It is, however, possible to start making changes now that support the life you want. Take a moment to listen to “On the Flip Side” which discusses the importance of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.