Work is bad. Life is good.
It’s the model our parents showed us, and it’s the message society bombards us with. But what if they are wrong. What if this belief is a hindrance instead of a benefit? You might have heard that work-life balance is what you should be chasing. You need to spend more time with family and friends! Work is meaningless and miserable. Taking a business phone call at your kid’s soccer game is frowned upon. So, you are left with attempting to balance the two categories. Color-coded time slots fill your calendar. You schedule board meetings and family vacations months in advance. You become a part of the 5 a.m. cult to wake up early so you can make equal time for all areas of your life.
There are a few problems with this act of ‘balancing’. The first part is that balance does not exist. Everything worth doing comes at a cost. You cannot compartmentalize all aspects of your life and dedicate a finite number of hours for each category. Even if you think you can, with some magical app, you shouldn’t try. Your life is a connection of activities. Exercising in the morning gives you the energy to complete your work. Your job fulfills you and allows you to come home to your family refreshed and ready to enjoy the evening. Health, career, finance, emotion, relationships, and everything in between are all connected. Pulling them apart would be like breaking down a car into its parts and making them run on their own. Not possible. A car has a series of systems that help it run so it can get from point A to point B. Similarly in life, if you want to grow and evolve, you need to view your life as a whole.
Second, not all things in life have equal importance. Olympic athletes will spend hours training, eating right, and maximizing sleep. To them, health is a top priority, not improving their intelligence. Later on, they won’t be able to compete in sporting events. When this time comes, they will cut time from training and spend more time with family. Life ebbs and flows. Our lives are subject to phases determined by unforeseen events. Instead of striving for complete balance, we should work towards harmony. Harmony implies that you are at peace with whatever is happening in life. You live according to what is important to you in the present moment, and devote your energy to current priorities. This makes sure you take complete advantage of the circumstance and use it to grow the most.
Lastly, it is exhausting to live in constant balance. Keeping work and life in balance takes a lot more energy than focusing on only one. If all parts of your life are significant, then none of them are important. People will boast how they shut down their computer at 5 p.m. so they could spend quality time with the kids. Except, maybe they just missed a huge business opportunity, and now they won’t be able to take their family on a luxurious vacation. Work-life balance fails to look at life from a birds-eye view and see the complex networks that make living unique. It also fails to realize that priorities change throughout life, and forcing dedicated time is only a waste of time. Instead of balance, people should strive to live in harmony and focus on what moves the needle at the moment. Don’t give in to the ‘paradise’ of balance. Live your life one season at a time.