I have a confession to make. I don't actually believe in work-life balance.
In today's audio postcard I talk about what I do believe in.
Today's question: Have I helped you to consider that there might be a more sane alternative to work-life balance?
Leave a comment and share your ideas!
Rather read than listen?
So, I don’t want to beat around the bush, I’ll just get straight to it. The part of work-life balance that I don’t buy is the “balance” part. Mostly because it just feels like one more version of perfection that we’re supposed to be striving for.
And when you strive for perfection, inevitably you’re disappointed. Because perfection is unattainable. And as women, the last thing we need is to continue chasing after impossible things and then feel shitty about ourselves because we can’t get them.
Another reason why I don’t believe in work-life balance is because – What is balance anyway? There’s no standard measure of balance when it comes to your work and your life. There’s no one-size-fits-all “balance” that works for every single person.
Everyone’s work is different. Everyone’s life is different. Which means that everyone’s version of “balance” is different. And it’s not static. What we consider balanced today may be different from a week, or year, or five years from now.
So I’ve decided to adopt the term work-life integration. This is not a term I can take credit for - I’m surely not the first to talk about it. But it seems to me it’s a much better fit. Because that’s what we really want, isn’t it? For our work and life to be integrated.
Let me explain… I think a lot of people walk around feeling like their work detracts from their life or even that their life gets in the way of their work – though I think the former is much more common (and the latter may just be workaholics – which is another problem entirely).
So it often feels like one is fighting against the other. That you have to steal from one to give to the other. Like some sort of crazy work-life Robin Hood or something.
And to be completely honest – I used to feel this way too. But what I discovered is that living this way is exhausting. Exhausting to try to find some elusive perfect “balance”. And exhausting to feel like you have to steal from one to give to the other. It just never quite works.
When I talk about work-life integration what I mean is that your work and life can support and nourish each other. Rather than detracting from each other. I know, I know. It’s really hard to believe. But I’ve found it to be true.
The work you’re doing can bring energy and excitement to your life. And your life – and the things you do to take care of yourself – can give you the energy you need to do your work. BOTH are important and each can support the other. Doesn’t that sound so much better?
The part of work-life balance, or work-life integration that people usually struggle with is the “life” part of the equation. We value things like hard work and hustle and grit. But in the process, we forget (and very often devalue) things like rest and play and creativity – the things we need to do to take care of and stay connected with ourselves.
And then we wonder why we end up feeling overwhelmed and burned out!
What I’ve discovered – from my own experiences and also through research and conversations with other people – is that burnout comes from letting go of the “life” part of work-life.
I’ve learned that it’s actually a partnership – that they support and sustain one another.
That your work and your life are integrated. And you can either do what you need to do to facilitate and support that integration or you can ignore it and eventually end up feeling pretty burned out.
I’m sharing all of this with you because once you change your perspective and realize that work and life can be integrated? It’s a total game-changer!