The pursuit of work-life balance has been this generation’s version of the pursuit of the fountain of youth. Work-life balance has been a priority of mine in years past, especially when I missed so much family time during my career as a corporate lawyer. When I left the legal industry and joined the business world, I thought I would find a bit more balance and, to an extent, I have. But I’ve also learned that work-life balance is a myth and, more importantly, I’ve learned that might actually be a good thing. In this article, I’ll explain why.
Humans are social creatures, and we tend to compare ourselves to others. In this regard, work-life balance has definitely crept into my life. I have three kids, and anyone with multiple kids knows that the struggle is real. I won’t lie — when I see other parents who seem to be managing all of it, there are times when I wonder what we’re doing wrong. But over the years, I’ve come to realize that if there’s one truism, it’s that you are always going to encounter people who seem to have it all together, including in achieving work-life balance. But if you ask these seemingly put-together people how they do it, chances are (unless they simply aren’t self-aware) they will tell you they certainly haven’t figured it all out either.
These misconceptions regarding work-life balance are unhealthy because they encourage false expectations. While goal-setting is important, in most instances goals need to be achievable (this is not the same as saying they need to be easy). When we set unrealistic standards for ourselves, we inevitably revert back to the social side of our psyche that compares and envies. However, if we understand that work-life balance isn’t truly achievable, it might lend some comfort and allow us to operate from a more mentally-healthy foundation, without having to make unconvincing rationalizations. Moreover, this recalibration allows us to combat unhealthy manifestations in the workplace, such as giving the stinkeye to your colleagues when they have a question for you as you’re trying to run out the door. Over the long run, putting an end to constantly questioning yourself can also help with burnout.
So how should we approach work-life balance? I have three suggestions.
1. Recognize That Work-Life Balance Is A Myth
When you’re at work, be present at work. Obviously, if an emergency arises, you tend to do that, but barring such circumstances, stay in the moment. Acknowledge that like everything else in life, there are good days and bad, and that this too shall pass. As discussed above, don’t create unachievable standards.