There is no such thing as work-life balance.
In my humble yet strong opinion, it’s a fool’s dream. There. I said it.
Yes, I know the working title of this article implies there is some to be assessed, but truly in the 21st century, there is no such thing.
Balance implies equality. It infers we equally distribute time between work and life. But everyone knows that just isn’t the case.
Between the ever-growing presence of jobs that watch our social media like a hawk, the savvy technology of smartphones that often deliver nuanced work emails, and the small, yet telling job descriptions that require ‘flexibility’ – Our job is our life and life is our job.
Before I left the corporate world, I was something like a workhorse. My supervisor, at one time, called me ‘the definition of hard work’. But what she didn’t see was the toll it took on my mental and physical health. By the end of the week, I had nothing left in the tank for the weekend. All I wanted to do was sleep. Year after year, I tried to keep up the pace and outdo myself.
Meanwhile, everything that gave me purpose outside of work started to slowly fade into the abyss. Instead of working out five days a week, I cut it to three, then to one, then eventually to none. Instead of making healthy choices for meals, I began to go for the quick and easy fast food option. Instead of going out with friends, I opted for the company of my couch and a flat-screen TV. I gave everything to my job, and it was draining.
What I was experiencing, after years of working like my life depended on it, was burnout. I was fatigued, suffering from chronic stress, depression, and anxiety. And that list isn’t all-encompassing.
As I’ve written in my initial article, I left the corporate workforce altogether to curate my schedule and to accomplish my goals. And yet, I never found that ‘balance’ everyone was so adamant about.
What I did find was acceptance. I’ve recognized there will never be a strict “cut-off” between my work and personal life, and that’s okay, especially if you’re working towards ambitious goals like mine.
What I've learned is to pace myself and give myself time off, even when I don’t feel it’s needed, to focus on the things I love to do outside of work. I may work 16-hour days for two days, but on day three, I’m sleeping in, doing some meal prepping, going to my favorite workout class, or just reading a good book. And if I don’t get to it all on day three, I’ll do some of it on day four and make that day a shorter workday.
I know my schedule isn’t realistic for many in the working class, but the framework behind it is. No matter how hard we work, there will always be work to do. So, don't spend your days chasing after a moving goal post.
For me, work-life harmony is something more realistic to strive towards. It means my identity is not just enthralled in my work. I work hard to create a world that I can escape to outside of the confines of my job. Because in the end, the more whole you are outside of work, the more you’ll have to give at work.
So, to answer the question of how vital is work-life balance for your overall wellness – It’s not. What is? Finding a space for you and the things you love and making sure you visit it often.
What are your thoughts on work-life balance versus work-life harmony? Does either seem achievable? Sound off in the comments!