By Melany Hallam
Balance is a term that implies a weigh scale where the things being compared are equal. In the case of work/life balance, this would mean that the same amounts of time and energy are put into work, family and yourself every day. Generally, people decide to commit to creating “balance” in their lives because they feel they’ve been working too much at the expense of family and self. It is this belief that may be setting them up to fail.
No one is the same amount of busy in all aspects of their lives at all times. Work has cycles, whether you’re an employee or a business owner. The family and friends part of our lives has busy times, especially around holidays like Christmas (24 more sleeps!) There will also be times where your “me time” becomes more important in your life (time alone on a meditation retreat or mountain biking). And everyone has varying levels of tolerance for busy-ness.
In effect, this means that your life will never be perfectly balanced. But so what? There’s nothing wrong with all this – it’s healthy. The problem comes when people start feeling guilty about not meeting the expectations of others. Or they may be unclear about their own goals and feel that they should be able to do it all.
This is an oversimplification, but you can stop the cycle by defining what you want, and then communicating this to the people most important to you. I just read an article (https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/249243) which argues that the root cause of dissatisfaction in our lives can be found in our definition of success. This makes sense to me. For some, success is measured by creating a business with a high net worth. For others, it’s working at a job which allows them to go home by 3 p.m. to spend time with their kids. For me, it’s creating a work schedule that allows me to get outside and enjoy the beauty of Powell River whenever I need to.
Why can’t we define success as building a life that we enjoy – one that is worth living for you? Essentially, everyone’s “balanced life” should be achieved according to their own definition rather than the expectations of others. Accept that you can’t do everything, or accept that it’s okay not to want to do everything.
Here are some insights from real people (https://www.dailyworth.com/posts/3638-the-truth-about-work-life-balance) who have created their own definitions of work/life balance:
- The definition of balance changes over time, so be flexible
- There’s nothing wrong with work – it can be a break from family life and keep you sane
- Put yourself first, kind of like putting on your oxygen mask on a plummeting airplane before assisting others
- Be aware that you’re not doing it all and you don’t have to (it may result in a learning opportunity for your children or building trust with co-workers)
- There’s always a cost – appreciate the people who support you, whether they be at home or at work
- You don’t need kids to struggle with balance, you may be responsible for aging parents, or have health issues
- If there’s still a nagging desire for perfection, resist the urge to compare yourself to others
- The importance of setting boundaries can’t be understated, and be sure to communicate them to people at home and at work
- Working to grow your business can actually give you more time to spend on your personal life (it’s not “either/or” but “both/and”)
So throw out the weigh scale and create your method of measurement. Enjoy!
Here’s some further reading:
- An article which argues that the whole concept of work/life balance is misleading, https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/249243
- An article which argues for a work focus if your goal is to achieve great things, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-truth-about-worklife-balance_us_59a095e0e4b0d0ef9f1c13c3
- One person’s story of how a flexible schedule allows her to do the things most important to her, https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/03/how-to-maintain-a-work-life-balance-in-your-career