The Work-Life Balance Fallacy
I stood in front of an exhibit in COSI, the science center in my hometown. It featured a metal board with a fulcrum at its center. Above the board were handle bars which, when left untouched would begin a timer so long as someone was balancing on the board. It was incredibly difficult to balance on the board for more than five seconds; with the average time being about two or three.
Balancing is hard.
My corporate job had psychological services for their employees. One of them was assistance in designing better work-life balance. For the majority of my time there, I could never get it quite right. Often I’d put in a lot of energy at work and do well there, but not have much left to live a life outside of work. Or I’d spend my time at work daydreaming about what I’d be doing if I wasn’t there. There’s always going to be a disconnect when there is this life that you want to live, but you have to be someone else to earn a paycheck.
What I’m suggesting is finding a way to achieve integration between work and your life. You only have one life— yours. It’s you at work, and it’s you at home. There is a myriad of occupations out there, but for me, the concept boils down to this: live your life according to your mission (or passion/purpose/calling, I’m lumping them together here).
For me, that’s taking one element that I’m passionate about, and doing it at work in a way that either enhances or at least doesn’t inhibit my ability to do the job. At corporate, that was using Chinese and English to help clients with their projects. At my current part-time gig, it’s listening to podcasts. This helps fulfill my penchant for self-betterment, and I get a lot of learning done while doing my work.
Solutions aren’t always perfect, and there’s no one-size fits all. But you aren’t your job. We do work, and we create value through living according to our mission at whatever stage we are in life.
Don’t try to balance your life, just live it.