The Myth of Work Life Balance

What if it was possible to simply stop looking for work/life balance?

Now, what if the reason we could stop looking for it is because it just flat out doesn’t exist?

I know that’s a big claim.

After all, there are over 10o,000,000 search results for the phrase “work life balance” when you do a google search.

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You’ll find tips, pictures, videos, research, statistics, books, courses, planners, etc., all trying to convince you that you can achieve work/life balance.

Problem is, you can’t.

And you can’t because work/life balance does not exist.

There, I said it… work/life balance does not exist.

How does that hit you?

Depressing? Exciting? Confused? Relieved?

So if work/life balance is a myth… now what?

Seems to me the next question you might want answered is WHY do I believe it does not exist and why should you care?

Why I believe Work Life Balance is a myth is the purpose of this post.

Why you should care is because if you get what I’m about to share, then you can relax knowing that you need not worry so much about something that is impossible to achieve.

And oh yeah, there is a solution to the problem too. We’ll cover that as well.

Ready?

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As Ryan might say…”All right, dim the lights… here we go…”

In her classic work, Atlas Shrugged, author Ayn Rand wrote,

“Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.”

I’ve come to the conclusion “Work/Life Balance” must be a contradiction because so many people find it so tough to pull off – many might even say impossible – especially if you found them balled up in the corner with a glass bottle of wine… or vodka… or maybe even a jug of milk and whole pack of Oreos after trying to make it all work.

And as far as “balance” goes, I agree – ’tis impossible.

However, not for the reason you might be thinking.

Isn’t about time we found a better, more effective way to get all the parts of our lives working together?

I think so.

After all, the best, most effective solutions are a result of getting clear on the real problem.

So let’s define a key word in the above quote then I’ll share my beliefs on why “work/life balance” does not, and will not, ever exist.

By the end of this post, you’ll either agree with me or think I’m crazy and move on about your day no worse for the wear.

Let’s start with asking the question, “What is a premise?”

According to dictionary.com, premise as used above is “a basis, stated or assumed, on which reasoning proceeds.”

In other words, when drawing conclusions, we often start with a presumed belief about how things are and we develop our reasoning from that point.

If my car doesn’t start when I want it to, I am operating under the premise that the car should be starting if for no other reason than it has always started in the past.

If I change my premise from “my car should be starting” to “there is a reason why my car isn’t starting”, then I open up new possibilities for starting my car other than turning the key one more time or banging on the steering wheel.

Instead I begin to ask, “What are the reasons my car isn’t starting?”

Gas? Battery? Wrong key? Wrong car?

So, premise matters.

That’s cool.

It’s how our brain works.

And it usually works quite well because it saves our brain time and energy.

The problem comes when we keep operating from the same premise even though we’re consistently finding a contradiction.

What is the flawed premise in “Work/Life Balance”?

I’m glad you asked…

The Fatal Flaw of Work/Life Balance

To make this crystal clear, and because all we have to work with here is language, let’s look at the definitions of work, life, and balance.

Work: exertion or effort directed to produce or accomplish something; labor; toil.

I think a premise we can agree on is that you and I… or someone, ie., a human,… does the exerting or the labor when we talk about the work in Work/Life Balance.

That’s part one.

Next is…

Life: the general or universal condition of human existence.

Again, I’m going to use the premise that you as you are reading this are a part of the human race (sorry little google spider bot)… that you exist… and that human existence means everything you experience as a human. In other words, life is being human and being human is life. 

That’s part two.

Finally let’s look at…

Balance: a state of equilibrium or equipoise; equal distribution of weight, amount, etc.

That’s part three.

All righty… now we’ve defined the three words in our coveted and much ballyhooed phrase, “work/life balance”.

By the way, are you beginning to see the contradiction and how this idea of balance may actually be setting you up for failure?

If not, I think you will soon… and then, won’t it be wonderful to know there’s a better, more natural way to make it all work?

Here’s what I saw and how it changed my life…

Work as defined above is a human experience.

Therefore, work is not separate from but it is an integral part of life.

Now when you can see work is simply a part of life then the idea of balance no longer makes sense.

It’s like trying to balance the egg whites on one side of a scale and the yolk on the other side of the scale while the yolk and the egg whites are still in the shell.

You can’t balance, as defined above, one complete unit against the parts of itself. You can’t balance a part of a whole against the whole that the parts came from.

Therefore, you can’t balance anything with life because life is, in and of itself, whole and complete. As mentioned above, “life” is the human experience… all of it.

Now, I know what you might be thinking… Isn’t this semantics?… Aren’t you just using word play?

Actually, Yes.

I am using language to make my point.

And it’s the same language others use to make us think that work is somehow separate (and maybe even more important) than “the rest of life”.

I’m not sure where this idea of separate areas of life comes from but in my opinion it’s the false premise creating so much trouble, stress and anguish in your life.

It’s this false premise that has you trying to achieve a balance that isn’t even possible.

Even if we could balance the parts of our lives, it would be weird.

Imagine trying to balance your Fitness, your Identity, your Relationships and your Enterprises. To truly balance those things you’d have to devote equal time and energy to each of the 4 main areas…. and each of these areas has a variety of subcategories.

As I’ve said, balance makes no sense when you take an integrated, or whole life, approach.

If not balance, then what is the answer?

In a word, “Harmony”.

Think of it like this…

Imagine a stage and on that stage are 4 solo acts — we’ll just say they are singers.

These 4 solo acts have three choices:

    1. All sing at the same time and do their own thing all at the same time. Result? Chaos.
    2. Take turns signing one after another trying to keep things balanced and fair. Result? Lots of standing around for 3 out of the 4 acts. And one act gets all the attention while the others “suffer” and begin to lose interest.
    3. The acts could decide they don’t want to share the stage and simply move on to somewhere else.

Now, imagine the same stage but there is instead a singing group with 4 members – maybe it’s a band, maybe it’s a quartet. Either way, all 4 parts are on the stage as one act.

Prague Czech Republic - 12 June 2015.The quartet of male street musicians playing the saxophone kontrobase oboe and guitar.

And to pull this off, they don’t balance their time on the stage, instead, they work in harmony. Each member supports the other. There is an intentional arrangement of duties, skills, talents and abilities.

There are some solos here and there but it’s part of the overall act… not an obligation to be fair, balance time, or attention.

No guilt.

No one-upping the other.

No “sacrificing”.

Can you see it?

Can you see the difference in balance and harmony?

Harmony does not try to make all the parts work together like the solo acts might… instead, harmony just by it’s nature, works together or it doesn’t work at all.

Harmony is what we are looking to create in our lives… that is what we want to create in this human experience called life.

When you begin to see life as a 4 part harmony – fitness, identity, relationships and enterprises – with each part doing their thing to create an experience for you as the performer and for those watching… then it gets to be really fun.

So what?

So this…

Consider forgetting about this need to “balance” things that were never meant to be separated in the first place. Instead approach your life from the mindset of harmony. It’s all life. 

Can’t you see how incredible life will be when you think of it as a chance to harmonize instead of a bunch of parts competing for attention?

It’s certainly a much easier and more impactful way to live.

It’s how you can finally begin to move from success in one or maybe two areas of life to significance in all four areas of life.

And that, dear reader, is what it means to RISE UP and begin living like the CHAMPION of your own life.

In your corner,

Sean

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Christina Gillick - Thursday

Hi Sean, Great article. I’ll certainly be thinking about this differently from now on. Also, I’m still working on choosing a word for 2017 … thinking it may be harmony. Thank you!

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