Illusion of work – life balance

Sometimes, when I read stories about  successful people, I understand that I  have the idea that they manage to have it all – a successful working life and all have other areas of their life in good shape, too.  I start to compare myself to them and usually get frustrated. I find it a had task to have every life area in balance.  Then I start to think that work – personal life balance is just an illusion. Or maybe this concept is not relevant to our times? here are some reflections about this. 

I like to pay attention to the words describing certain phenomena. So, talking about work and personal life balance, two things caught my attention. First, that usually describing the concept, everybody writes – “work/life balance”. So, there is work and there is life, as if you don’t live, when you work? Or when you work, you put your other areas of life aside?  This definition draws a line between your personal  and work life that is hard to do in reality. For instance, thinking about technology’s impact on it: you can have all your work  information available 24 hours a day, so being at home you still continue working. And vice versa – family issues can easily step into your daily working routine – today kids like to ping you with messages as a way of having contact with you. So, theoretically we can draw a line between different parts of our lives, but it’s not that easy in practice. 

Another observation is about what word “balance” means. Dictionary describes it  as a situation in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions. In that case it should be the same amount of work and the same amount of personal life? The same time for work and personal life? Or the same quality of it? Recently, I’ve read a McKinsey article about work and personal life balance and there was an idea, that we need to balance our energy, instead of focusing on “work-life balance”. It sounds convincing ( you can find the article here).

Besides the balance of energy idea, I would like to put one more thought to this work – personal life balance topic. And it’s simple – you can’t have  balance. Sometimes just because of time you dedicate to work and personal life. I think that our lives consist of constant choices.  To be honest with yourself, when you choose something, you lose something. You can’t have everything at one time. So, the magic with balance for me is, when you choose – to make your choices consciously, based on your current personal needs. It means that choosing one thing over the other, you understand how it will affect other areas of your life and you live with this. For instance, having small children, I feel that I want to dedicate more of myself to this area of life, so in making career choices I will decide what will be most beneficial to my wish to care for the children.

So, seeking a work-personal life balance might be very frustrating, making you feel like a loser. But it’s impossible to have everything and instead of berating yourself for not being able to balance everything, focus on your conscious choices that are based on your current needs. It might be  that the more you listen to yourself, make your choices, instead of trying to have everything, the more you will have in all your life areas.

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