Work-Life balance is easily one of the buzziest buzzwords swimming around in the ether of self-help literature. Some people have evolved the concept one-step further and turned it into work-life integration.
It all stems from a principle that we can have it all. We can have a fulfilling career, a loving family, a few side hobbies, eight hours of sleep a night, and time for long walks on the beach, right?
The biggest fallacy on the subject is that we can achieve balance by adding to our plates. If we’re working too hard, we should have more fun. If we overeat, we should exercise more. If we didn’t see our loved ones much this week, we’d see them twice as much next week, right?
Inspired by several books and articles I’ve read lately, I have a new perspective on balance that I would like to share with you.
Every person will have different things that they prioritize, but if we were to break it down into broad categories that likely affect everyone, it seems that these four would do the trick:
Relationships can be mean friends and family and parents and siblings and anyone that you want to throw into that bucket. Having a real human connection with someone outside of work is a critical part of feeling alive and whole.
Work is work, the good and the bad. Your time jamming on a spreadsheet until 2 AM is work, and your happy hour with colleagues is also work.
Health is the time that you can dedicate to living a healthy life, which includes sleeping, exercising, stretching, breathing, meditating, etc..
Recreation is a tricky one. Many people often define it as the balance of time that is left over from the other three categories. But there is a massive difference between doing something with intention because it brings you joy, and binge watching a TV show in a desperate effort to forget about your terrible day at work or the emails burning in your inbox.
As mentioned earlier, our approach to these things is generally to go for gold on all fronts. All of the sleep! All of the work! All of the fun! This, perhaps, is why we as a generation have an outrageous tendency never to have time OR be insanely busy. We cancel appointments and meetings left and right. We double book. We add and add and add and add because we think that we have the opportunity to max out on every bucket.
This is a uncomfortable concept. It attributes a greater amount of weight to our decisions knowing that every single one of them requires a sacrifice elsewhere. To be clear, this has always been true, but it’s not always the most direct approach to looking at a problem.
But wait! It gets even better.
Does that scare the shit out of some of you? It should. We also have a dangerous habit of optimizing on 2 of 4 or 3 of 4 banking on future opportunities to find balance and an endless well from which we can draw our energy.
Your well is not unlimited. It can run dry. And there’s one more thing: It’s the worst part. I’m sorry in advance.
The cocktail hour that you hate but go to for professional optics? Probably not doing much for you. The gym routine you zombie walk through three times a week? Not getting it done. Your weekly phone call with Mom that you take while cleaning out your inbox. Nope.
Look, I’m harsh, but it’s for a good reason. We can’t create balance in our lives until we accept and acknowledge how out of balance they’ve become. Many of our decisions, unbeknownst to us, are made because of existing beliefs and relationships that we like to protect. We like certainty. We like order. But clinging to existing beliefs is not making us happy.
So, what’s the punchline? What can you do to make this better?
This is not something that takes just a day or a week. This will be an ongoing process for you that you will develop and improve over time. But it will be a perspective that can protect you for the rest of your life from becoming overwhelmed, overworked, underslept, and unhappy.
I started 86 Gravity because I want to help people make decisions that make them feel overjoyed and filled with gratitude. This is an excellent way to get started.