Balance is the NEW Bullshit
Balance is bullshit. there, i said it.
Work-life balance is seriously the newest fad in our culture. Trust me - I used to tout the concept all. the. time. Until I realized how freaking awful that phrase makes us feel!
Think about it...
Call me overly literally (I'm a scientist-by-training - c'mon!), but balance suggests that you're investing the same amount of time/money/effort into all the aspects of your life! It would be silly to say that "to be a balanced person you must be spending equal amounts of time in all 11 aspects of your life!" Firstly, that is impractical since us 9-5ers spend almost 25% of our time each week in our respective careers. But, more importantly, balance seemingly suggests that you need to expend time & energy evenly in all the facets of your life. Yet, many of these things we may not give a shit about...
SO WHAT the hell does this "work-life balance" shit mean then?
Well, I can start by telling you what it is not. We're told that we're supposed to have success, faith, a great family and social life, a sexy bod, a good attitude, and a career we love, all without breaking a sweat.
But, what if we don't care about those things?
I personally am not a highly spiritual person. Spirituality or faith don't really have a place in my life, as much as I've tried to force them. Yet, I know many people who their spirituality/faith are the foremost most important thing your their lives. My best friend is a stay-at-home mom, has 2 kids, lives within driving distance of her whole family, and has a strong belief in her Mormon faith. She invests significantly more time in her family and her faith than childless, non-spiritual me, and that is perfectly fine! Who is to say that either one of us is out-of-balance?
A CEO at may spend most of their time engrossed in their career. An athlete may spend the same amount of time invested in their health/fitness. A priest may be similarly invested in their faith.
None of these people are "out-of-balance", but according to our cultural conventions they are!
So what is balance?
We all have different priorities and motivations in our lives, and those priorities then influence how we spend our time. Not only does it influence on which aspects of our lives we spend our most time, but it also influences our motivations. For example, that same CEO mentioned above may consider their career-oriented life to be motivated by financial gain, while someone holding an equivalent position elsewhere may be motivated by their purpose or sense of contribution. It all depends upon our priorities! They influence not only how we spend our time, but why we spend our time there.
We all spend our time very differently!
The point I'm trying to make is that balance is different for everyone.
Balance is spending your time according to your priorities!
There are 11 different facets of life...
I really think that all the time that passes is spent in pursuit of something that falls into one of 11 categories. I sort these 11 aspects into about 4 groups - self-care, environment, self-improvement, and fulfillment.
The are the self-care categories, which include...health & fitness, emotional health, and recreation, fun & leisure. Basically these categories encompass all the things that we need to prioritize to take physical and emotional care of ourselves. Physical and emotional self-care, as well as treating ourselves with some downtime and leisure activities.
The categories which make up your environment, include anything that plays into your human experience! This includes both the people you spend your time with--friends & family, love & romance--and the physical environment that you occupy and how it affects you.
The self-improvement categories include all of those things that we're constantly trying to improve upon. That may be your personal growth, and financial.
The last group of categories occupy fulfillment. Many people look for fulfillment in 3 places-- career/purpose, contribution (think volunteering!), and potentially your spirituality/faith, if this is something that you practice.
But I feel out of balance...
If you feel out of balance, it's a good bet that it's because you're spend too much time on something that isn't a priority to you! For example...
- Are you spending all your time working when your number one priority is your family?
- Are you prioritizing saving tons of money when all you value you contribution and just want to volunteer more?
- Are you spending too much time taking care of your family and not enough time taking care of yourself?
So many of these are easy patterns to fall into! We are in a culture that promotes and values career and financial status, while simultaneously telling you to be a family man/woman. We're supposed to be the perfect level of physical attractiveness, with six pack abs, toned arms, and a perfectly lifted booty, while maintaining enough "balance" (there's that dang word again!) that we're actually fun to be around.
HOW TO FIND YOUR BALANCE
Again, balance is spending your time according to your priorities! If your spend the most time in your highest priority, and your least amount of time in your lowest priority activity, then you're one step closer to balance.
A great place to start is to score yourself! Take each of the different categories based on your satisfaction with each category, 1 being extremely dissatisfied and 10 being very satisfied/fulfilled, reserving a score of 5 for those categories that you're pretty indifferent about.
- Health/Fitness ___
- Personal Growth ___
- Financial ___
- Career/Purpose ___
- Spirituality/Faith ___
- Friends & Family ___
- Love & Romance ___
- Recreation, Fun & Leisure ___
- Contribution ___
- Environment ___
- Emotional Health ___
After you've scored yourself, organize the different categories from lowest score to highest score. Consider this your sub-conscious telling you how you want to be spending your time. If you're dissatisfied with something (your low scoring categories), it's an indication that it's something that you want to prioritize, but aren't.
If you have a number of 1, 2, and 3 scored categories, there's your first indication of why you're out of balance. These scores represent facets of your life that you aren't happy with. The only way to become happy with them is to prioritize them more, ie. invest more time in them! Therefore, consider these low scoring categories a means for how you can get your balance back.
Now, this isn't to say that the thing you invest the most time in isn't something that is a priority! It's just an indication that you have a priority that is dominating your life. Even when that happens, and even when it's a productive priority like your career, your finances, or your family, if it's distracting from other things you care about, that's when this exercise comes in handy! It can help you identify those other areas of your life that you want to re-prioritize and help you put them back in focus!
the real reason why this mythical idea of "balance" is so hard...
Even though I've given you an activity, a way to determine if you're out of balance and how to get your balance back, it may still feel hard to feel like you have achieved that balance for yourself. And there's a reason for that! There's a reason why we all nod our heads when we here the phrase "Time flies when you're having fun!" Because it does!
Passion is the moment when joy, fun, and fulfillment come together into a single activity! Your passion is the thing that lights up your soul to the point where you can lose yourself in it. For some, it's their work. For others, it's their family. For others, it's their hobbies! Whatever that is, it's easy to lose time in it! That's why work-life balance is so hard. Because there are those things that we just gravitate toward and love. But, balancing those things with our other priorities is the challenge!
It's not about balance. It's about priorities. Finding out what yours are, and living according to them. And whenever you start to feel out of whack again, come back to this activity! It's something you can always come back to to determine where you need to re-prioritize and where you need to spend time.
I hope that was helpful! If you need more help, check out the options below!