Work-Life Balance: The Fallacy

You have been advised by some very successful people to have “work-life balance.” Ironically that advice came from successful jet-setting business person away from home and family J Work-life balance is not static and not the same for all. That balance is different when you are 18 years, 25 years, or 40 years old and at different stages of your life. Each person will have different objectives and commitments that make work-life balance different.

Often we talk about the desires for balance, but the reality can be very different. You strive to seek balance, but circumstances force you to compromise and that compromise is not always bad.

Your objectives immediately after graduation may be to acquire experience and build reputation. If you want to build reputation as a young professional, whether you like it or not, you will work longer hours and on weekends. You will quickly recognize that you are evaluated only on your output (result) and not input (hours you put). Unfortunately, very rarely we get desired outcomes by putting in just enough hours. You will put in long hours to accomplish the desired outcomes. Bottom line, your work-life balance is compromised as work success becomes your life success and they are intertwined. Do not expect your bosses to understand work-life balance since their reputation and their own personal goals cascade down to you!

An entrepreneur who has a great idea is challenged to bring that idea to the market will likely work 14-20 hours a day and seven days a week to accomplish that goal. There will be disappointments, challenges, failures, and anguish, but the balance is skewed to accomplishing the objectives. However, the balance is enjoying those small successes every day. If you do not like and are upset, distressed, and depressed, yes you want to step back and ask what your goals are. May be, you need time to think something different if you are unable to cope up with the pressures than being depressed.

The real work-life balance comes up when you start a family. However busy you are, you have to make time to take care of yourself and your baby, to wait for the first step your child takes, to attend first day of school, and to organize birthdays or other social events. You have to make reasonable time in the evenings and weekend for various events like soccer games. These small memorable events remain with you and those moments cannot be recreated for your convenience. Of course, you need to find time to make an impact to broader society, which may be part of the work itself (like, mentoring students in your alma mater). And, you find balance in reading something beyond work related, and keeping your mind fresh.

Work-life balance is about being practical that there is life beyond work! A recognition that there are numerous small moments in life that you should make time for. A recognition that work-life balance shifts at different stages of life and compromising at times is perfectly fine.