As a coach I support my clients first to understand the drive behind any objective they bring and only then to develop a strategy and to take committed action in order to achieve what they really want. “Work-life balance” is one of the regular topics that clients bring to coaching sessions. Since I have strong opinion about this topic I was very hesitant about writing and publishing this article. At one moment I had a feeling that not only clients, but my family members, friends, business associates became obsessed with the idea of work-life balance. It sounded like they would like to have exact moments for work, gym, for being with family or go for a vacation.
Balance means being in equilibrium between 2 or more polarities.
Based on Wikipedia, work–life balance is a concept including proper prioritizing between “work” (career and ambition) and “lifestyle” (health, pleasure, leisure, family and spiritual development). This is related to the idea of lifestyle choice.
The work–leisure dichotomy was invented in the mid-1801s. Paul Krassner remarked that anthropologists use a definition of happiness that is to have as little separation as possible “between your work and your play”. The expression “work–life balance” was first used in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s to describe the balance between an individual’s work and personal life. In the United States, this phrase was first used in 1986.
At the end of 20th century both work and life (outside of the work) were a way more simpler than today.
Balance is a myth
Nowadays, the concept of work–life balance is, in my opinion, complete nonsense. Balance is a myth that sets many people up for failure. Today, our world is filled with conditions, uncertain variables, complexity in the simplest thing (such as going for a dinner with your wife and two kids) and ambiguity on what going to happen next in fast changing world. In such a situation, balance is a myth. Instead of trying to balance between polarities we should find the best way to have a synergy between them.
“There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life.” Alain de Botton
Passion changes the world
If you have any desire to achieve great result you must give up the idea of equilibrium. Instead you need passion, determination, mental focus and committed action. For any progress we first need to be imbalanced. There is no remarkable artist, scientist, sportsman or entrepreneur who set out on his journey with the aim to be balanced and harmonious. Striving for balance in the most important life or business games means playing not to lose. If you’re alive, ambitious or inventive – you are imbalanced. The more you pursue your passions, the more imbalanced you are and at the same time your life gets simpler.
If you want to do great things, striving for balance is a losing game.
Balance vs. Coherence
Personally, I trade balance for coherence. When something has coherence, all of its parts fit together well. An argument with coherence is logical and complete and same is with work and life in general. Word coherence comes from a Latin language and it means “to stick together”.
So, instead of going for “static equilibrium between 2 or more polarities” I want to embrace a change and even initiate it. I want to enjoy the complexity and constraints that life brings. Instead of being balanced in the moment or for a period of time, I do my best to develop new habits, to make difficult choices and to take committed actions. Instead of keeping balanced structure I prefer to spend my time and put my energy where it is most needed at any given time.