The Myth Behind Work-Life Balance
Work-life balance implies two things that in this day and age, no longer hold true: Compartmentalisation and distribution. The first meaning that your professional life is separate from your personal life and the latter referring to some form of time allocation that needs to take place to evenly distribute those activities in order to remain sane.
The viewpoint of treating your work and personal life as two separate activities is intrinsically flawed. If you have an argument with a colleague at work or if you simply had a bad day at the office, you will bring that emotional state into your family and social interactions. Conversely, if a loved one is sick or if you are experiencing financial troubles, this frame of mind will carry over to your job or main occupation. Work and personal life are two aspects of ONE life; they are both completely intertwined and interlinked with one another. Separating the two is simply not possible.
As far as the distribution aspect that the word “balance” implies, put it this way: if you dislike your job and your personal life is a shambles, then work-life balance suggests that you should evenly distribute your misery. Simply absurd.
What people are looking for deep down is personal and professional fulfilment — not balance. When it comes to professional fulfilment, people are looking for opportunities to use their strengths and talents, to feel respected, valued and to know that they are making a lasting contribution. As far as personal fulfilment, most people desire healthy, fun and loving relationships as well as opportunities for self-development that will make them enhanced versions of themselves.
When I look at my life, it is very clear that there is a total lack of “work-life balance” in the traditional sense. I give seminars, workshops, personal coaching and participate in speaking engagements in many countries around the world. Sometimes I find myself preparing for a speech on a Saturday evening and playing with my children on a Tuesday morning during regular business hours. Every week is completely different; there is not an even distribution of hardly any aspect of my life, apart from the time I set aside for exercise and silent meditation. Luckily, I find fulfilment in most of what I do and the irregular time distribution amongst these activities is the least of my concerns.
There is quote from a Zen Buddhist master that has been nestled in my mind for years, a quote that I consider a personal favourite, which hopefully will strike a chord with you:
“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion.
He hardly knows which is which.
He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both.”
If you achieve personal and professional fulfilment in your life, what is there to balance? What do you think? Let me know your thoughts…
CÃ©sar Gamio, Chopra Center Master Educator