Now and again phrases enter our language and join our conversations without us thinking much about what they really mean. A phrase in the workplace that’s being used today and every day by someone, somewhere is work/life balance. Many of us are apparently searching for it, defining it, pushing for it and supporting the idea of it without knowing that the phrase itself is actually pretty meaningless.
Work/Life Balance. Balancing work and life. Because work and life are in opposition. Because our work is separate from the real lives we lead and our real lives bear no relation to the work we do. So we have to balance them, avoid the conflict and hope they never meet, because that would be a disaster.
I don’t want work/life balance. I want to create a great life.
THE BEST PERFORMANCES AREN’T BALANCED
Balance has its place:
- Our finances? It feels good when these are balanced.
- The workplace feedback we receive? It’s most helpful when it’s balanced.
- The weight distribution on the planes we travel around in? Balance here is really important.
- The mental state of the surgeon about to operate on us? Without doubt.
But think about the Olympics – do you think the best performances from the elite athletes we celebrate are ‘well-balanced’, with everything managed, in check, considered and just right?
Maybe, somewhere, but it wouldn’t get much of a cheer.
As spectators, we’re looking for beyond the limits, adrenaline-filled and heart-stopping physical efforts that result in glory or failure and give us new champions to celebrate and heroes to inspire us. And in those moments, we all feel alive; in touch with the power of the human spirit and elated when others deliver what seems a super-human effort.
The best performances aren’t balanced. The best moments aren’t balanced. And your best moments at work were when your whole life was involved, where you brought your full-self to the mix; when it was messy and stressful and exciting and tiring but where you showed up and we all saw the best of you. And you probably lost track of time.
BE ALIVE. AND BE AT WORK.
I don’t want balance between my life and my work, because they’re not separated and they’re not in opposition to each other. Being alive means getting the chance to create a full and fulfilling life for myself and those around me, grasping hold of every moment and squeezing the juice out of it, whether it’s something I get paid for or not. I choose LIFE, which includes work, rest, boredom, joy, set-backs, excitement, frustration and elation…and a heart that beats every second to remind me that I’m here.
If today you’re searching for work/life balance, there’s something deeper that needs a slice of your attention. If you’re in a job that seems in opposition to the life you want or if the life in you can’t be reflected in the work you do, something needs to change in one of those aspects. A great work/life is where living involves working and when what we do resonates with the life inside us and our talents are used to make a difference.
And that doesn’t sound like something that needs balancing.