“There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life.” – Alain de Botton
I’m here to tell you, there is no such thing as work-life balance. The very idea is a myth. No matter how much you dedicate yourself to finding the right “balance,” there will always be something else demanding your time and attention.
Instead of trying to constantly balance your life, you should instead balance one area of life.
Consider this, athletes are laser-focused, on their level of fitness, their health, their food intake, all aspects of ensuring they can perform at their absolute peak in competition. Athletes are therefore balanced in one area of their life and completely out of alignment in others.
What do you do then with this perfect balance myth? I say turn it on its head. Take a page from the athlete’s playbook and recognize that for any amount of time you devote to something, there will be sacrifice in other areas of your life.
As entrepreneurs and business owners our tendency is to focus madly on our business, on the thing, the project, the process of our work. We are similar to athletes in our laser focused desire to win, to build our businesses and to ensure what we do matters. We strive for greatness.
I’m not suggesting you become obsessive, but I am suggesting that sometimes it makes sense to give your all in one area of your life, to reach your goals or achieve results. So long as you recognize the sacrifices you are making in the moment, you can address the long-term implications of your choices.
Instead of perfect balance in everything, there needs to be alignment of purpose, values and priorities. If the thing you are passionate about, aligns with the values you hold, you can prioritize the areas of your life that are most important and let go of the things that no longer serve you.
This can be a difficult shift, moving from a mindset of always giving all the time of yourself and your energy, to one where you’re more inwardly focused on self, your work and the things that hold value for you personally.
My purpose for a long time, was focused solely on my career of public service. I was so intensely focused on success in my career, in ensuring I passed my language exams and got to where I wanted, I forgot to nurture my relationships. I was so far away from balanced, I thought I sacrificed my marriage for my career.
I know now that some sacrifices to achieve balance in one thing are necessary. I couldn’t see at the time that the dissolution of my marriage was needed for me to become better. I was ashamed of my choices, and considered my decision to pursue my career wholly selfish. I thought my career focus had destroyed my marriage.
The reality it turns out was something else entirely. I learned as the years passed that my sacrifice wasn’t my marriage, my sacrifice was my emotional well-being. I had sacrificed the person I used to know, my purpose and who I became was so wrapped up in a relationship, I couldn’t see the damage I had done to myself in the process.
This is why I say be selfish to achieve balance. Knowing who you are and what you value means you can be in alignment with your purpose and your priorities. My priorities weren’t skewed toward my career but instead on one person and one relationship, rather than my overall well-being.
You will always have to make sacrifices to create some balance. You cannot always get what you want when you want it, nor can you always sacrifice relationships for work. Instead you must find the balance that works for you, sometimes it will be your relationships, sometimes it will be your work, sometimes it will be you.
My work forces me out of balance in my relationships sometimes, but I recognize healthy relationships can weather some sacrifice for me to be exceptional at what I do. I know I don’t want to be average, I want to be great, prolific and exceptional. In order to achieve greatness, I can’t and won’t be able to come from a place of perfect balance.