Is Work-Life Balance a Myth in Today's World?
As the world around us has shifted towards an ever-connected digital age, more and more people are busier than ever. As the pace of life has picked up, it has also added to the strain on family life, personal relationships, and even people's health. In the never ending search for increased productivity, everyone seems to be struggling to find the perfect balance between work and the rest of their life. This begs the question, does being busy also mean being more productive? Is there such a thing as work-life balance?
The common misconception I see everyday is that people believe in "The Hustle". They believe that if they work harder than everyone else, if they sacrifice now, then in the future they will be successful. The trouble with that philosophy is that 'then' is always in the future and cannot revert to a now or 'present' status. While I believe this is a flawed understanding of what it takes to succeed (that is an entire blog post in itself), I also believe that hard work is necessary to be successful. The trick is to understand that without balance we are simply on a slow burn, headed towards a complete burnout.
So what is work-life balance? Simply put it is prioritization. To be exact it is the proper prioritization between your work and your lifestyle. It is a belief that in order to be happy, you need to find the balance between that which you need to do for work, and that which you want to do for family, leisure, etc. Sounds great in theory right? Here's the catch with the idea of work-life balance, nothing ever achieves a perfect balance!
In other words having a 'balanced life' is simply a myth.
Balance Sounds Nice
I get the appeal. Just the thought of everything being done in just the right amount of time so everyone wins, and everyone is happy, sounds like a pretty good place to be in. However, a balanced life is nothing more than spending your time in the act of balancing. It is idealistic, not realistic.
If we think of balance as being in the middle of 2 extremes, our work lives being on one end of the spectrum, and our lifestyle on the other, than we can assume that being balanced means spending our time and effort in the middle. The problem with being in the middle, is that true success lives at an extreme. If you are in the middle, or average, then by default you will not rise above anything or anyone else. By not allowing ourselves the opportunity to spend time in a productive extreme, in work or life, we lack the ability to truly succeed in any given area. The drawback is that spending to much time in any given extreme will likely result in the suffering of other priorities, i.e. spend to much time on your work, and your family life suffers.
In his book, The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, author Gary Keller uses a great analogy. Imagine you are juggling 5 balls, and each ball represents a different aspect to your life, family, work, health, friends, and integrity. You spend all your time trying to keep them in the air, until one day you realize that the work ball is rubber, and if you drop it, it will bounce right back. The other 4 balls are made of glass, and can easily shatter if you drop them.
At the end of the day, a "balanced life" is really just a matter of prioritizing that which you care about. To concentrate on any one thing is to cause another to suffer. By understanding what we want to get out of each aspect of our life, we can begin to develop an understanding of how to best manage our time and effort to achieve the ideal results.