Not only is “work-life balance” bunk, being “off-balance” is the better goal. Instead of trying to achieve comfort, learning to live with discomfort should be our goal.
We business owners tend to work some of the longest work weeks of anybody, especially here in the hard-working state of Indiana and the Midwest. We think if we’re smart enough and work hard enough, we’ll finally arrive at that nirvanic place where we spend lots of time with family, pursuing our personal interests while our business throws off plenty of cash.
But until we accept the real truth—that work-life balance is completely unattainable, we’ll never be fulfilled. We’ll keep burning the candle at both ends, giving the best of ourselves to no one, and putting off that dream vacation. I want nothing so much for my business coaching clients as to free them up from the negative effects, like guilt, that the pursuit of balance causes.
The reality is that our lives are a continual series of adjustments, experiments, mis-steps, and corrections. Life is constantly changing and evolving and try as we might we can’t predict much of it and so are left to react to it. Call it “failing forward;” it has a more positive connotation! In all areas of our lives—work, family, hobbies, etc—we can always learn more and grow more and that’s as it should be.
The first step we can take is to reframe our view. This, here and now, is the normal state! Yes, it comes with discomfort but in between the stresses and fears are also the beautiful moments with family, the satisfaction of community service, and the joys of doing the things we love.
We must first practice being comfortable with discomfort, with uncertainty, with failures and surprises. No-pain-no-gain is right on. Most growth, most ingenuity, comes from someone trying to eliminate discomfort. So rather than spend our precious time and energy trying to attain balance, let’s practice settling into being “off-balance,” looking at it from 45,000 feet, and accepting that this is the way life is supposed to work.
“Off balance” is our reality and Dan Thurman says we should live “Off Balance On Purpose” in his book of the same title. I highly recommend you catch his TEDTalk, www.youtube.com/watch?v=8OkzozrUEHY. In fact he says you have to be off-balance in order to improve or grow in any meaningful way. Friedman (http://hbr.org/2014/09/work-home-community-self/ar/1) put out the idea of work/life balance not as a pursuit of finding balance between two things, but rather, between four: work, home, community, and self. [See my post last week].
Thurman says that instead of trying to follow the common advice of protecting your time, compartmentalizing so that work doesn’t overlap family, spiritual doesn’t overlap work, etc, it’s all connected and the more the areas overlap, the better you’ll feel. He outlines 5 spheres of life:
- Spiritual Growth, including your purpose, community outreach
- Personal Interests, the things you love to do
The 5 are always interacting; they’re connected, not separate and the more you can connect them the more fulfilled you’ll be. For example, strive:
- For your purpose and your spiritual beliefs to guide your work
- To allow your work to support your health goals
- To include your family in work activities—and create a work environment where employees don’t feel they have to choose
- To work at something that feeds your personal interests.
Comfort is the wrong goal. As Thurman says, “If you limit yourself to comfort, you deny yourself what’s possible.”