“There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences.” – Jack Welch
There have been a multitude of articles and books written to explain work-life balance, how to achieve it and how it will make our lives better once we have it.
As a society we have bought into this ideal of having “balance’ in these two areas of our lives, because without it we are living a sub-par life, we aren’t succeeding, there is something wrong with us and the list goes on.
Balance implies that a level of imbalance must first occur or be present. Is this really the case for you? Or is it something you believe to be true because of the beliefs that society has on how things should be in these areas of our lives?
Is there really such a thing as work-life balance or is it about making choices and the consequences they have?
Are people striving to achieve something that doesn’t exist and by doing so only creating more stress and anxiety in their life than is necessary?
Are we chasing some mythical existence that really adds no value to our life or work for that matter?
Why have we separated work from our lives?
Work has built a negative stigma about it, that there is suffering, and pain involved with earning a living. You must feel this pain and suffering else it can’t be work. You must hustle if you are going to get anywhere in life. You have bills to pay, so work is what you do to pay the bills, it doesn’t have to be enjoyable. Right?
We also seem to be okay with spending a large proportion of our lives doing work we begrudge, hate and despise while waiting for life to happen. We burn out, our health and relationships fail while we sit waiting for that life, we want to live to finally arrive.
The harsh truth is, that separating out work and life provides us opportunities to make excuses about how life is for us, it allows us permission to stay stuck, to explain away why our dreams haven’t manifested yet, to excuse our poor behaviours, to remain unhealthy.
We have turned it into something we need to aspire to and achieve in life, this elusive work-life balance. We also have the propensity to use it as punishment when we feel we fall short or haven’t achieved balance in our lives.
Richard Branson talks about work and life being the same thing. “Life’s too short to waste your time doing things that don’t light your fire.”
Work and Life is all just Life
Somewhere along the way, we created the duality of work and life, as being separate demands in our life that need some form of balance. We then chose to use this concept as a means to our happiness and satisfaction in life. If work and life are not balanced, then something or someone is to blame based on our preconceived ideas and the beliefs we have formed around work and life.
The separation and duality of these perceived parts of our lives are no more than an illusion we have created and fed over time. We have spent so much time and energy trying to bring these parts of our lives together in a more integrated way, that we have forgotten, that it is all just life.
An article by Jae Ellard says we need to stop calling it work-life balance. She describes that “most people share a simple and similar desire to create easy joy and meaningful engagement between the interconnected roles, relationships, and responsibilities that make up their lives.”
What we have are commitments, responsibilities and relationships that we choose to maintain.
Every person has a different view for how they want to live their lives, what makes them happy, brings joy and meaning. Different commitments, responsibilities and relationships and different ways to interact with them and make them interconnect and come together in life.
Identify the commitments, responsibilities and relationships you have and choose to focus your attention on them with the level of intensity and meaning that you decide to give it. Not what someone else may have you believe.
There will always be compromises and continual shuffling of all those things in your life you deem as a priority. Trying to balance it all is just introducing additional anxiety and stress that is unnecessary.
You always have a choice.
Decide what is important to you and accept the consequences of the choices you make.
If you choose to stay late at work to finish a project, then commit to that and accept responsibility for the choice you have made.
If you are not happy in your job, then make decisions around how you could be happier in your job. Quit, change roles, ask for a project, do something, anything at all to get you unstuck. And if you choose to do nothing, accept and take responsibility for that, and the fact you will likely remain unhappy in your job.
If you want to spend more time with your family, then spend more time with your family. You have a choice.
Acknowledge and accept that at times you will be spending more time on one or two areas of your life than others.
Remember You control, Your life.
Forget Work-Life Balance – just live!
Work-life balance is an illusion we have created. It is not something that needs to be attained, retained or maintained.
Life is always constantly moving and changing and so will every aspect of your life – your priorities, your passions, your beliefs, your work, the people you spend time with, relationships and what you find meaningful.
Make time to check in regularly to see if the life you are living is still the one you choose to live.
You just have a life, so do your best to live it!