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Stop Looking for Work-Life Balance

Wouldn’t be great to have a perfect separation of our working world and our personal life such that we can have the best of both without one negatively affecting the other?

Yes, it would be great, but it’s a fairy tale.

The Myth of the Work-Life Balance

There are at least four significant reasons that the perfect work-life balance is not only unachievable, but it’s not even beneficial.

First, work is incorrectly cast as the enemy of your personal life and that you need to survive the drudgery of work so you can finally race home to have fun.  Work is not just something you have to do, and your personal life is how you recover from work

Second, to strive for a work-life balance presupposes that our working life and our personal life are opposites and that somehow it’s possible to have a division between each.  Don’t we think about our personal life while working and think about our work when we are relaxing?

Third, thinking of work-life as a balance indicates that there is a zone you can get in where everything is okay.  Sort of a number on the scales where it’s good and to tilt to one side or the other is not-so-good.  Isn’t our work and our personal lives fluid and constantly changing with new demands and opportunities occurring daily?

Lastly, who said work and personal life was to be balanced in the first place?

A Balanced Life

Isn’t what we are looking for a balanced life?

We want a life where our working world melds seamlessly into our personal life, and we can enjoy both.  That the balance is not like a checkbook where we can reconcile all the debits and credits, but is a philosophical framework of our satisfaction of how we are meeting all our obligations and commitments.

Here are several ideas that when applied, will help ensure that our lives are coherent and sustainable.

  1. Accept that work and personal life is not separable. I’m an engineer, and when we go on family vacations, I’d always look at how things are designed in other places.  My kids picked up on that, and we’d make a game out of it.
  2. Let others know the stress you would be under to separate work and personal life. Recognize that there are times when work will interfere with your personal life, and vice-versa.  Set boundaries with those you work with so they know when it is appropriate and not appropriate to intrude.
  3. Understand your purpose. Once you discover that your work is part of your purpose and that you are passionate about your purpose, then there are no working hours.
  4. Quality versus quantity. The things you do need to be about are quality, not quantity.  Quality time is always better than time in bulk.  A little time with good friends and quality clients is better than going to a reception with several hundred potential contacts.
  5. Set your priorities. Practice self-discipline in following priorities.  If time with family is a priority, then all electronic devices are off, and your focus needs to be with them.  While we only have one life to live, we need to make the most out of each moment and be where we need to be and doing the things we need to do.

The Bible

Living a life of combined work commitments and personal needs sounds difficult and challenging.  How can we consistently follow our passion through our work yet lead a personal life with friends and family?  Well, the answer is found in many places in the Bible.

Jesus is the embodiment of combining His work and personal life.  In fact, it is nearly impossible to discern where one ends and the other starts.  An example of this is told in a story of when Jesus was a 12-year old kid (Luke 2:41-52).

Jesus’s family had gone to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, and as they traveled home, His parents discovered Him missing.  They rushed back to Jerusalem and found Him sitting among the religious teachers in the Temple.  When questioned, Jesus answered.

Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house? (Luke 2:49)

It was a family vacation, and Jesus was busy preparing for his earthly ministry.

What we need is not to have a work-life balance, but to integrate the two, so we can follow our work passions with priorities that allow us to enjoy both our time at work and our personal time.