There’s No Such Thing as “Balance”
We’re stressing ourselves out by trying to avoid stress
I believe this year I’ve encountered more contradictory ways to ‘live a healthy life’ than ever before. But the biggest buzz phrase I’ve heard is the idea of a ‘work-life balance’.
Of course, I understand what people (usually) mean when they say this. They want to be able to work — typically a 9 to 5 — and not have their work interfere with other parts of their life. They want to make a living but they also don’t want to be a slave to what they do.
But oftentimes, all it takes is for someone to ask me what I have planned for the week or take a glance at my digital calendar for them to become wide-eyed with horror at all the things I plan to get done.
“You’re really not balanced...You’re burning the candle at both ends…How are you even doing this?”
I’ll be honest, I do put a higher standard on myself when it comes to managing my time and efforts. And maybe my calendar is more full than my peers, or maybe I’m just more organized and write things down. After all, when I don’t document something I’m more likely to forget all about it until it’s too late.
However, I don’t think what I do necessarily warrants that type of response. It makes me wonder why people have become so adamant about the idea of balance. Is it really effective in contributing to our overall happiness?
Priorities are Everchanging
What I’ve been learning over the past year or so is that we all have 24 hours in a day, with no chance of an additional hour being added on. This means that, depending on our circumstances and priorities, we have to be mindful of how we allocate our time.
There is no guarantee that we can put the same amount of focus on one given thing or person all the time. We will inevitably neglect certain things in order to put more important matters in the forefront. Our priorities are not designed to stay the same all the time.
The idea of balance is a false hope that everything in your life will become perfect and reach a point of stasis.
Balance also perpetuates the idea that all aspects of your life must be compartmentalized. We expect that work — in whatever capacity — is somehow not part of our lives. However, it is certain that different elements of your life will fall into each other from time to time. Billionaire Jeff Bezos trades the phrase ‘balance’ with ‘harmony’. He suggests that when our lives are in harmony, there isn’t much need to concern ourselves with one part spilling into the other. People who have a happy home life are more likely to be productive at work. People who feel fulfilled with their work are not as likely to have discourse in their homes.
Resistance is Actually a Good Thing
When we are in a state of discomfort, our fight-or-flight response kicks in. If we are met with a choice, we’re much more likely to take the path of least resistance. It’s simply in our nature.
However, a life without resistance isn’t a life that I want to live. There’s a reason why kids read about The Little Engine that Could, not The Little Engine Who Had No Trouble Whatsoever. It’s the same reason why we watch movies about a boxing underdog or read stories about how one kid works to overcome every obstacle put in front of him. Conflict, or resistance, is what makes life interesting and what makes our accomplishments satisfying.
This doesn’t mean that we need to go around looking for problems, but we can admit that being right as rain all the time is boring.
Life if Not a Balancing Act
Balance is for juggling those “few items” you’re about to purchase at Target when you know you should have just gotten a handbasket. In no way is the concept of balance supposed to be forced into our lives.
We create another opportunity to be stressed out if we feed into this idea that we’re “doing too much”. Instead of focusing on being balanced, we can focus on improving our time management skills. But we also have to be mindful that time management or calendar planning isn’t one-size-fits-all, it’s important to figure out what works specifically for you.
For example, some people like the idea of “going off the grid” — tuning out of social media and unplugging from their electronic devices. For someone who works a regular job this may be fine, but it’s impractical for a small business owner, blogger, or freelancer to completely unplug.
Just the same, there is a lot of buzz about how some of the most successful people wake up early. While there are benefits to waking up early to get things done, changing the time you work doesn’t automatically boost productivity. In fact, successful people who wake up early aren’t always working on their craft.
Most times they are reading, aligning their schedule, exercising, or other seemingly mundane activity that they wouldn’t have time during the normal hours of the day. When you don’t have a reason or a plan of action, waking up early is just going to make you grumpy.
Even with millionaires or people who have achieved a steady residual income, there’s a degree of work that leads to such a result. Striving for balance is essentially just an attempt to relieve stress that hasn’t happened yet. The most productive thing we can do for ourselves is to accept the fact that work — while burdensome — is still part of life.
This article was originally published by Raven jenkins on medium.
Writer | Entrepreneur | Blogger | Dreamer | Pro-Oxford Comma; Feel free to check out my blog at www.serendipityandsuch.com