Work life balance is the holy grail of modern existence. Amazon’s 15,000+ results for the term shows how desperate we are to find the solution to one of the greatest problems of modern life: work is necessary to live, but we spend so much time working that we have precious time left to live.
If work life balance is an issue for you, I have some good news/bad news for you. First the bad news: Like the holy grail,
You’ll never find work-life balance
You’ll never achieve work life balance because the phrase itself implies a false contradiction.
It implies a contradiction or opposition of work to life. It implies that work is fundamentally opposed to or different from: life.
Seeking work life balance is like seeking health life balance, or love life balance. Work, like love and health, is an essential part of life that is not inherently a distinct separate domain. Work is not just what we do to earn a living but an activity that runs through every other life domain.
Work is what we do whenever we act to fulfil an objective, or more accurately: work is what we do when we act to honour our word or keep our commitments.
Healthy relationships, good health, financial wealth, spirituality, safe neighbourhoods, world peace, education all require work. Seeking to separate it, or keep it balanced with life itself sets us up for unhappiness, because it can’t be kept in a separate box. Work, like eating and drinking, is essential to life itself.
We’ve come to accept this ludicrous phrase because we’ve made a mess of work as an idea.
There is good reason to hate work.
Our day-to-day experience of work (what we do to earn money) has not been enriching for most, and is only done because we have to. Employers seek to drive us as hard as they can while paying us the least they can.
For millions, work itself mandates being at a certain place within very specific times doing work requiring no discretion or creativity; with demanding and uncaring bosses, colleagues, and customers.
Workers (human beings) learn they’ll be fired the moment they don’t meet rigid corporate standards, or whenever younger cheaper labour becomes available.
And then of course there’s the office politics and the cold, unsympathetic bosses that make up toxic work environments.
No wonder we want to keep work in check.
The good news
The good news is that what you’re seeking when you say you want work life balance is possible. But first you must be clear on what you really want from work life balance.
What you really want from work life balance is happiness and that happiness comes from (1) good health (2) the quality of your relationships with family, friends, bosses, colleagues, customers and your God (whatever that last may be) and (3) meaningful purposeful work that allows you autonomy, opportunities to grow and enough money to comfortably meet your basic needs.
In a February 2015 Inc. article Bill Carmody, the Founder and CEO of Trepoint, said “…your work, should be nothing more than an extension of your life,” and in poker parlance I’ll see his statement and raise him this: “Your work should be an expression of your life.”
You could work 70 hour weeks if you felt what you did for a living was connected to something you deeply cared about and you felt your job allowed you to make a difference.