Is a work/life balance what you really need?
Striking a better balance between life and work – as if the two were somehow opposing forces – is a popular topic these days. If you’re yearning for balance, there’s an important question you should ask yourself first.
Am I looking at this the right way?
Did you know that back in the stone age, the average human spent only four hours per day working – and by working, I mean carrying out activities necessary for their survival? Stop and think about that for a moment: just four hours per day. Does this appeal to you? If the answer is yes, you don’t have a problem with your work/life balance – you have a problem with your line of work.
The thing is, we all have to work to sustain ourselves – and since we don’t live in an ideal world, we cannot all be working with something we’re truly passionate about. This means that the vast majority of us are less than thrilled with getting up in the morning and readying ourselves for another workday.
If you’ve ever been fortunate enough to experience the opposite, you’ll quickly recognize my description of an incredibly energizing feeling of purpose and fulfillment which has a tendency to wreak havoc on the so-called work/life balance. Simply put, work isn’t “work” anymore – it’s fun. So much fun, in fact, that even the most mundane of tasks related to it can take on a certain sheen. If this is the case, you may very well favour passion before balance.
Be a pragmatic dreamer
If you don’t recognize the feeling of passion I’ve described above, I hereby challenge you to start looking for it. Perhaps you have a hobby or a deep interest in something which, when you turn your focus to it, whittles away time without you even noticing because you enjoy yourself too much. These are the foundations of passion which, if transformed into a career, holds the potential to alter your life beyond recognition.
Still, doing work you’re passionate about doesn’t necessarily remove the need for thinking about a work/life balance – and perhaps, for some reason, you are unable to pursue your dreams, at least for the time being. Perhaps you have other commitments in the “life” department which require your attention, and need to find time for these. Regardless of what applies to you, real life has a tendency to require pragmatism and compromises in order for you to achieve what you want to do.
At this point, things become a matter of prioritization – and that, in turn, demands a fair bit of quietude to reflect upon what’s important to you. I find it useful to work backwards; imagine what you would like your epitaph to say, and work your way down from there until you have a bulleted list of the things that matter to you. Then place them in your desired order of priority, and find out how much effort is required to achieve your goals.
After that, it’s just a matter of solving the practical matters related to the resources you have at your disposal, such as time and money to name just two. Revisit the list frequently until you feel completely comfortable with how you have prioritized, at which point it will be far easier to let go of things you may still want – but not as much as the other things on your list.
Life is unpredictable
There’s another reason to keep revisiting your list of priorities, too: life isn’t static. External and internal forces, along with the accumulation of knowledge and – hopefully – wisdom – will always excert a pull capable of transforming your perspective fundamentally in a surprisingly short span of time. Be mindful of this.