The Myth of Work Life Balance — GelwicksTech

We’ve all heard this time and time again, especially over the past few years, how we need to maintain a “work-life balance”. During an interview I conducted today with Elbert McLaughlin from Nirvana, the concept of work-life balance came up again and something struck me about the term. It is the term itself that creates the misconception of the problem and ultimately the solution.

The Misconception

So often we are told to look for that mythical balance between our work and our life, and if we can find it we will be happy and fulfilled. However, balance implies equality in size, weight, and importance. While it sounds attractive, when we take a closer look at the myth this is what we get:

To truly attain a work-life balance you would need to accept that your work is far more important than any one other part of your life. Only the sum total of everything else you do and are could balance the scales with your work. This is not acceptable, healthy, nor realistic.

The Myth

When we turn to popularized notions of work-life balance we are told we can have our cake and eat it too. We can have a fulfilling career, happy family life, hobbies and interests, friends, self-care and so much more if we are only about to treat everything equally. Nice thoughts, but rare is the person who is able to maintain this mythical equilibrium for very long.

The Reality

The chaos of everyday life prevents these from becoming static relationships of size and importance. Rather their inherent dynamic nature commonly in two scenarios: reduction and exclusion.

In reduction, the importance and scale of segments in our lives are paired back to make more room for the all-consuming work sphere. We fool ourselves into thinking we are maintaining balance and enjoying our cake, but in actuality we are suffering from emotional malnutrition.

In exclusion, we make the conscious or sub-conscious decision to stop doing things in our lives to make room for those things that are demanding more of us. There are times when eliminating segments no longer making us happy or fulfilled is a good path to choose, but I am referring to the segments given up begrudgingly when we feel we have no other choice.

Striving for the myth

Not surprisingly the mythological view of work life balance is the one optimized for all the things we have been told are desirable over the years. How to achieve this is the struggle point and unfortunately I will tell you that it is nigh impossible. Here is what I mean: because our lives and the components that make them up are consistently in a state of flux, it is extremely difficult to get all the parts to a degree of equality. Better is striving for equilibrium between the parts, compensating for the ebb and flow while maintaining vigilance that no one aspect overwhelms the others.

In simplest terms: work is part of life, not equal to it, and as such can never be balanced with life. Understand all the parts of your life including work, determine their worth to you, and then balance among them accordingly.

If you are struggling with finding your points of equilibrium, we can help. Contact GelwicksTech today to schedule a coaching session and get back your control.

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Owner of GelwicksTech Digital Transformation Services, Productivity consultant, technology geek, strategist, writer, and burgeoning podcaster.

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