Work-life balance. Oy.
Everybody loves to wax on and on and on about the infamous “work-life balance.” As if it were some mystical answer to all the problems of the business world. How everyone would be happy little clams in the work-a-day world if only–if only–we could all achieve a work-life balance.
“Julie seems a little stressed.”
“You know, she doesn’t have a good work-life balance.”
“Tsk tsk tsk.”
(Both nodding knowingly.)
What a crock.
And I know, you come to blogs like this looking for information on “how to achieve a work-life balance.” I know you do. You’ve been motivated to do it. You’re searching for an answer.
And we don’t help the situation by sprinkling the term throughout our posts. We likely throw the term in, here and there, because it’s a way of describing a concept. We use it because everybody uses it.
Well, I’m tired of jumping off that bridge just because everyone else is.
Work-life balance is wrong. It’s hooey. So forget it. You’re chasing a unicorn, my friend.
You see, work-life balance is not the problem.
Yeah, I said it. Let me repeat it: Work-life balance is not the problem. The problem is lack of meaning.
Allow me to explain.
Your current dissatisfaction has absolutely nothing to do with how much time you spend at work. It has absolutely nothing to do with how much time you spend with your family. Or on vacation. It has to do with your struggle to find meaning.
Let me put it another way. You could spend 99.9999999999999999999% of your time doing things you love love love. Your favorite things in the whole wide world. This could be work. It could be vacation. It could be your family. But let’s, for the sake of argument, assume that this joyful activity is not work. Because, unfortunately, for the vast majority of the population, this is the case. Work is not the enjoyable aspect of one’s life. (Insert sad emoticon here.)
So, the 99.9999999999999999999% is something you love. Can’t get enough of it. You get to do it almost all of the time. Let’s call it “life.” You with me?
Okay. What about the 0.0000000000000000001%? This is something you dread. Let’s call it “work.”
Are you happy? Are you satisfied?
No. Of course not. Because even though get to do what you love for most of your life, you’ve still got this little cloud of dread that interrupts that life from time to time. And no matter how minuscule that commitment actually is, it begins to affect everything else. It grows. It festers. It creeps into your life.
This one little tiny meaningless activity starts to take away from the joy. And that’s the problem. It’s not a problem of how much time you spend with meaning, it’s about how much time you spend without meaning. We’re human. It’s a flaw.
Let me take a more positive spin on describing why I think work-life balance is hooey.
Let’s say you work 60 hours a week. (I know, not a huge leap of fancy, there.) But let’s say you love your work. It’s full of meaning and emotional reward. You love what you do and you make a decent living doing it. 60 hours a week of “work.” Pure meaning.
Now, this doesn’t leave you as much time for “life.” Because, quite frankly, you often get exhausted. But the time you do have for life, don’t you think you’re a little happier to be around? Don’t you think that joy comes through to the rest of your life? Don’t you think your spouse might actually enjoy spending time with you again? It’s high-quality time with meaning.
Because remember, it’s not the time you spend with meaning. It’s the time you spend without meaning.
So, please, for your sake and mine, please quit worshiping at the feet of the false work-life balance idol. Quit chasing that unicorn. Instead, spend your time looking for something that has meaning. Find an occupation that fulfills you. If you do, the rest will take care of itself.
I promise. I mean it.
What do you think? Want to tell me where I can stick the fulcrum of the work-life balance teeter-totter? I’d love to hear it.