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A better approach to “work-life balance”


“Work-life balance” is all wrong.

Yes, you hear me correctly. The concept of work-life balance is totally and utterly wrong, and misleads us into thinking we can achieve something that is impossible.

There is no such thing as work-life balance. Who can say they have it? Either our hours are too long and we don’t see enough of our families. Or we see enough of our families, but struggle to pay the electricity bill. Trying to achieve work-life balance is a continual juggling act that hovers around an imaginary point, that is ever slipping just out of our grasp.

If you think about it, I mean really think about it, “work-life balance” is a ridiculous concept.

“Work-life balance” implies there is “work”, and then there is “life”. As if they are two separate things. That work is some sort of anti-life, just life on hold, until real life begins.

Of course, many of us (including me) more or less often see work as a burden. We get Mondayitis. Some of us get…Tuesdayitis, Wednesdayitis…until we finally get to “thank God it’s Friday”.

And it’s OK to feel like that. After all work restricts our spontaneity, makes us wait to see family and friends, and leaves us frustrated as anything when we need to go to any institution only open during office hours. Work brings a huge number of compromises to the way we wish our lives could be.

But to relegate this to some sort of non-real life misses the fact that work (whatever you do) really is part of our real life.

A better approach

A more holistic and healthier approach is to try and see (and live) the richness that work adds to our lives.

Income, of course, is always good. But we can also meet interesting people who we’d never otherwise get the chance to meet. Sometime we make lasting friendships. We can get to travel. We sometimes get to achieve things that are meaningful to us. We can, if we are lucky, effect a positive change in the world.

And the workplace, provides us with never-ending opportunities for personal growth. If we do these challenges well, we can bring new strengths and abilities to our whole lives…and end up better people, better parents, better partners, better citizens of the world.

So the secret is to be fully present at work while you are work. When you are at work, be there. Then leave work at work when you go home. And when you are at home, or on holidays…be there. The big mistake most of make is letting work hang around in our brains at the wrong time. Being mindful at work, at home and in life is the true secret to finding the balance we all crave. If we are truly present in our lives, with whatever we are doing, then we honour that space and time, no matter how long it lasts.

So, stop wishing time away when you are at work. That is, in reality, wishing your life away. And life is just too precious for that.

Let’s all work towards developing work-life mindfulness. And then we’ll find we’ve accidentally discovered work-life meaningfulness instead.

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