The myth of “Life Balance” has been touted around the corporate world for many years now, and almost universally accepted as the ideal way to live and cope with life. The myth is particularly popular within “Human Resources” and the “Well-Being” Industry globally. This alluring ideal is constantly promoted as the answer to all our problems, yet its rate of adoption by people seems to be almost nonexistent. Why is that? It is not because Life Balance is a new notion that people are unaware of, rather it is one that saturates our society. Perhaps then, the answer to its ineffectual nature is the fact that it does not actually exist, and that people are seeking the impossible, under the guise that it is probable.
To begin to understand how a strategy is failing its definition needs to be established and its practical application examined. The term balance itself implies equal parts tenuously poised in a state of temporary perfection, always on the brink of imbalance. Logically, to apply this term to life, the identification of the relevant life parts needs to occur and then the arduous task of balancing them potentially can occur. What are the discrete units of life that can so carefully be manipulated to create this perfect state? Do the units consist of time, mind space, calories, nutrients, points of view, atoms or theories? Pretty quickly it becomes apparent that there are no discrete units of life that can be balanced. Instead there are a myriad of potentials that most people haphazardly juggle in the absence of a meaningful strategy and then wonder why they cannot achieve stable states of energy.
As a health & well being marketing term “Life Balance” is a catchy buzz word that continuously prompts people to take action and address their lack of perfection, but ultimately it lacks substance and meaning. Life Balance falls into that ever expanding pool of Balance derived terms that has no quantifiable definition but an appealing ring to them and serves as a commercial incentive for marketers to perpetuate.
Perfection is a shame based incentive and causes you to constantly look outside yourself for the answer, in an attempt to correct inherent nature of being. This can be a pretty tall order for a diet soda, a well-being workshop or the next greatest Life Balance toolkit.
For those vehemently defending the notion of balance consider this. If the answer in your mind is the balance of one of the elements mentioned above, then the term balance is inaccurate as a description of what is actually occurring. How do you balance time? You can not as you do not control or possess it. You can however allocate your focus during time to achieve certain outcomes, and allow for the prioritising of certain tasks. You are never going to accurately allocate equal portions of time to all areas of your life. You need to accept sleep and work are always going to dominate the western corporate existence.
The tumultuous relationship between work and life is an ongoing dynamic struggle that is never in equilibrium, nor should it be. If after all this time of being exposed to the notion of Life Balance with no or little impact, surely it is time to consider alternate strategies?
Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Given the results thus far, does not pursuing Life Balance as the answer to happiness and energy fall into the definition of insanity? Even logically we understand that constant failure suggests we search elsewhere for success.
Although it is time to let go of the “balance” idiom, we should not feel too bad about our persistence with the Life Balance Myth. Given the proliferation the myth has experienced due to numerous industries perpetuating the concept such as food, communication and human resources, our attachment is understandable, albeit misplaced. For example how often have you heard the term Balanced Diet? Yet, a balanced diet does not actually mean balanced in terms of equal amounts of some or all foods, in fact it is a heavily skewed diet leaning towards certain food groups and away from others. There is no balance, just a focus on certain foods. Food marketers have clearly cottoned onto the fact that people are more likely to buy balance promoting foods if they believe they are in a state of imbalance. Consequently the ineffectual term Balanced Diet permeates our society. Its degree of success or lack of it is well illustrated by a society that is littered with junk food, high sugar content snacks, increasing obesity rates, cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes and yet also has a plethora of balance enhancing products and additives. Clearly the myth of a Balanced Diet is not working out for us, but works very nicely for certain food marketers.
Food marketing aside, even the dietary experts disagree on what constitutes a Balance Diet and how to achieve it. If the experts cannot agree, then what hope does everyone else have?
As already discussed when applying the term “balance” to life, it becomes even more meaningless and worse still, a powerful negative reinforcement. People are continuously disappointed with themselves when they are seeking balance because they can never achieve it. Life Balance is a mythical life management mirage spouted by ignorant “so-called” specialists in an attempt to appear as though they have a clear agenda for themselves and others. Additionally, when people continually fail to achieve what they think to be important, they feel like failures. This can be easily demonstrated by reflecting on your own life and energy status;
– How has pursuing a balanced life worked for you and how does it make you feel?
Even when you spend time trying to create balance, you realise the task is ostensibly futile. If you hope to balance working hours with leisure, health, fitness, family and partner time, then clearly anyone working in the modern world, has an uphill battle. To earn money the majority of people need to work at least 8 hours per day. This leaves 16 hours for sleep, exercise, socialising, hobbies, fun and anything else. Quickly it becomes obvious that what actually needs to happen is prioritisation, not balance.
You simply cannot balance the hours in the day. If we choose to look more qualitatively and say balance relates more to the notion and concept of mind space and time. Then before you have even finished reading the sentence, you have no idea what balance actually refers to.
Has there ever been a moment when you felt everything was perfectly balanced in your life? If so, what exactly was being balanced and what were you actually experiencing?
If you are finding it difficult to define the balance, but rather finding words to describe your state of being, sensations and feelings, then you are on the way to actually getting traction. To understand that “life balance” offers no way forward and that it will instead only serve to baffle and bewilder you, is a huge step in the right direction.
Instead of “Life Balance” seek “Focus & Dedication”, where things are continuously out of balance, moving and changing but on a backdrop of stability and constancy. This state is what creates high performance across all the areas of life that you deem important.
The question we need to ask ourselves is how can we create this consistent focus & dedication within our lives? And, what approach can I adopt to make this happen on a daily basis?
Focus & dedication is found through the true adoption and commitment of your own Personal Vision, Mission and Mastery Path. This means life long goals are articulated and all your supporting principles, values, behaviours and beliefs are identified. By following your own set of Mastery Principles you will find energy, happiness and profound composure.
By defining your personal Vision, Mission and Mastery Path you are making a statement about where you will place your energy and what gives you energy. Just as importantly, you are also implicitly stating where you will not put your energy. Without such a strategy is it virtually impossible to find happiness, peace and high performance.
Release yourself form chains of outdated and ineffectual “Life Balance” ideology and instead embrace “Life Imbalance” with all its imperfections and navigate consciously with your personal purpose, drivers and values.