The very first time I heard someone use the term "work-life balance" I felt an immediate revulsion. That reaction has not lessened over the years. Work-life balance is a subtle and insidious trap designed to leach the energy out of your soul and stamp on your deflated corpse.
Here's nine reasons why such pathetic thinking will destroy your life, and what you should do about it:
- Life in not an equation. Life is not one big tradeoff. More of A means less of B. If you're thinking that way then you have sold your soul to the man: you are compartmentalizing your being, showing up differently on each side of the equation, hating mostly everything, and going crazy in the process. It's likely people don't like you because you are a disjointed, miserable soul who doesn't make much sense and rarely has joy.
- Life IS work. So you have your "work" where you do hard things. What about when you're not there. Do you also do hard things outside of your "job," where exertion and emotional investment really matter: are you raising a family, maintaining your property, keeping fit, expanding your mind, serving, creating social change, innovating? Or have you compartmentalized so thoroughly that when you're done with work you just want to have "fun," because you are so washed out you don't have energy to focus on the things that are really important.
- Work IS life. You spend half your waking life, if not more, at work. So if you don't enjoy what you do, then half your waking life sucks. Just think about that for a second. How's that work-life balance working out for you? Could it be possible that you might find something you love to do and actually enjoy your life? Could it also be possible that you could get by on less? Could it be possible that you WOULD get by on less if you stopped spending all your money on crap to mitigate for your currently miserable existence?
- There's more than two things in the universe. Are you really thinking about the world in black and white: you have work where you make money, and life where you get to spend it. Instead of asking about work-life balance, why don't you ask questions that have meaning, like, if I work here can I contribute to positive social change, will I grow as a person, will I be able to go home every night with a sense of self respect, will I be able to nurture meaningful relationships with people I respect?
- It's a rare beast. The only place you can even ask the question is the lower levels of Western corporates. Farmer's don't talk about work-life, they just do it. Entrepreneurs don't talk about work-life, they have too much to do and too much passion. Good doctors, teachers, firefighters, policemen etc. don't have the luxury. Bankers and consultants defer it. There is no work-life balance in the C-Suite, it doesn't exist. So stop talking crap that most of the world can't relate to.
- It's disjointed. Think back for a moment about why you work. We used to work to provide food and shelter for ourselves and our families, to exist. In today's world we can be so removed from the real value of work, doing jobs in tertiary or quatemary sectors that have no meaning to us, and our work has become soulless. Wouldn't it be better to have work as an integral part of your life, a part of you, rather than a chore?
- It cedes control. How much of your life do you really want to put in the hands of the corporate monster? Instead of asking how you can shoehorn your job around your real existence (i.e. asking your future boss how he or she will let you live), you should be telling your new employer how you want to live and how they can fit around you. Sound scary? Well it is if you haven't become the kind of person they MUST employ. Take back your life by being meaningful and dictating your own terms.
- It's an illusion. Life comes in peaks and troughs. Financial peons lose any semblance of "balance" (if it ever existed) at month end or year end. Marketers lose it at product launch. HR lose it during appraisal or bonus season. IT lose it anytime something goes wrong. Execs never had it. So, you're talking about something so transitory it's not really worth the energy to consider. Better to ask if you ever like your job, than if it has balance.
- Nobody worth knowing ever asked this question. What more can say? I'll say it again. Nobody worth knowing ever asked this question. Let that sink in. If it annoys you, you have a chance. If not, good luck at your 9-5.