Why I Don’t Believe in Work/Life Balance

Posted 03.27.2012

We hear a lot these days about achieving work/life balance. I’m here to tell you that in an age of doing more with less —  or in some cases, less with less —  work/life balance is a myth. If you’re a leader in a demanding job, you’re about as likely to find it as you are a purple unicorn.  And I don’t believe in purple unicorns.

When people talk about work/life balance, I think of the Flying Wallendas, whose members tempt fate by walking a tightrope suspended across Niagara Falls or between buildings high above the earth. They have balance, hopefully, for a few brief moments in time. When they make it to the other side, that experience of balance ends.

The quest for work/life balance is a little bit like that. You might experience it ever so briefly and then it ends. Like the Flying Wallendas, it might be months or years before you experience that feeling of balance again.

So, that’s the reality I’m offering. Is there any hope? I think there is.

Instead of chasing that purple unicorn of work/life balance, what if you thought about it as establishing a work/life rhythm? That works for me and a lot of my clients. By seeking a rhythm, you acknowledge there are times when the pace is much more oriented to work and there are the times when the counterpoints of the other aspects of your life come to the fore. Shifting from the mindset of balance to the mindset of rhythm allows you to take the pressure off. You have permission to quit seeking that holy grail of perfect balance.

Instead, you recognize all of the factors that come together to create the rhythm of your life – your life at work, your life at home, your life in your community. You identify and act on the simple routines that support the outcomes you’re looking for in those three arenas of life. They’re the routines that keep you physically strong, mentally acute, relationally healthy and spiritually grounded.

You then give yourself permission to not try to do all of that at once. You understand that some days or weeks are more about work and then home comes back around. You may miss a workout or have to postpone that lunch but when you make it up you’re fully present and in the moment. When you allow your rhythm to shift from one important element of your life to the other you can enjoy it for what it is and can get off that tightrope called work/life balance.

What do you think? Is it possible to achieve balance or is it more about establishing a rhythm? Or is it something else? What’s working for you?