The phrase “work life balance” has inundated print and digital media, the workforce, colleges and much to my amusement, early education, for two elementary school goers were discussing how school is: [and I quote], “like impossible to manage with all the stuff there is to do.”
It comes as no surprise then, that we are witnessing a growing emphasis on better managing this “stuff” through meditation, yoga and introspection.
After a series of exchanges that encompassed hushed tones, the two girls moved onto better things, namely, the candy crush game on their iPhones. While I shared a tell-tale grin with the mother of these kids during my morning commute to work, I couldn’t help but acknowledge the veracity of the statement.
Now, more than ever before, we find ourselves encumbered with work. Kindergarten students take exams to be inducted into the “gifted and talented” program whereas the concept of magnet schools only began in high school when I was a child. These days, work or some variant of it, encompasses everyone from little children to grown adults; no one is spared. As we grow older, we replace “homework” with “work from home” and “self worth” with “net worth”.
Our ability to stay connected has not only brought the world to our fingertips, but also our office emails and files into our bedrooms, blurring the line between work and life. This phenomenon is perhaps inevitable for we define ourselves by the work that we do. Come to think of it, upon being asked to introduce oneself to a stranger, how many of us are guilty of prefacing the introduction with our work and designation. Well, what else would we preface it with, if not our work: “I’m a human being who inhabits Planet Earth”?
Even our twitter bio’s don’t read something as generic as that. So, I cannot help but ask: why do we segregate the two? Is “work” not part of “life”? A sizable portion, seemingly, then why do we view the two as separate entities?
We tend to create mental categories with work by making it the antithesis of anything that is remotely fun: work verus play; work versus life; work versus relaxation, etc. We associate work and any appendage to work, like a “workout’ or “hardwork” as something that requires us to make great efforts and go against that which makes us happiest in the moment. Why is it that we crave a clear distinction between the two? Is it because we don’t pursue our dream jobs and compromise our true calling in the name of stability?
Workaholics seem to love what they do and immerse themselves in their day jobs. Surely this can’t be a test of superior willpower; it must be an inherent love for what they do that causes this seamless blend of work and life.
In my experience, the number one question asked to panelists at networking events is some variant of “how do you maintain a work life balance” and the number one answer is some variant of how a traditional nine to five has ceased to exist. Balance is merely attained through making a series of choices, some that are within our control, and others that aren’t. Yet we’re far from being helpless puppets in the hands of employers, far from it truly, for everything that we undertake, is determined through a choice we commit ourselves to. If achieving a work life balance were a universal phenomenon, someone would have devised a mathematical formula to break down portions of a day to maximize efficiency and relaxation.
This perhaps isn’t the case because what may be deemed as a healthy balance to me might be a mental state of chaos for another. We foolishly look toward others to magically hand us this balance in a platter, seldom realizing that the manner in which no two jobs are alike, even within the same field (work) and no two lives are alike (life), the balance too, then, will differ between any two individuals.
The simple answer comes down to merely this: let the scales tip in favor of that which calls to your soul; prioritize your happiness and you’ll find yourself doing what you love and loving what you do.