The gist: Most people think work/life balance is a myth, but I think it's just a skill most people haven't learned. Here's what we think about the myth of work/life balance.
Balance is a skill.
You can't say it doesn't exist just because you haven't learned it.
Just like I can't say cooking doesn't exist or basketball or staying properly hydrated doesn't exist, just because I haven't figured them out yet.
The same is true of work/life balance with a lot of people: it's a skill they haven't learned yet.
But because of that, they don't even think it exists at all.
They think balance is a myth. I think they're wrong.
In this video, we're going to break down the myths around work/life balance. Stay tuned for some possible unpopular opinions.
(This video is part of a new series called The Brighter Take where we talk through concepts related to both productivity and self-care, and you won't want to miss any of the others, so be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel.)
Now, back to balance.
Note: Some of these links are affiliate links. So if you decide to buy anything, I'll receive a commission. Most creators say something like "100% of this goes back into the business," but I'm not most creators. Some months it goes into the business, others it will be used to buy inappropriate amounts of chocolate. Remember, working brighter is about balance!
About the myth of work/life balance
I'd say the majority of people I know professionally, don't think what they consider work/life balance exists.
I used to be one of those people shouting "balance is a myth," too.
But in the years that I've been dealing with my workaholism and developing a healthier relationship with my work, I've changed my mind.
I believe in it now.
Now, my opinion isn't that balance is a myth, but that the myth is a myth.
I think that Hustle Culture and internalized capitalism trick us into thinking it doesn't exist as a way to get us to devote more of ourselves to our work.
The ways that late stage capitalism makes people feel pressured to define ourselves by our work has been very well documented.
Two great books I read last year about this were "Can't Even" by Anne Helen Peterson and "Kids These Days" by Malcolm Harris. I highly recommend them both.
Because Hustle Culture has conditioned us to think about work in very rigid, black and white terms, and because work/life balance isn't clear cut and easily understandable, that conditioning convinces us to write off the concept completely.
But Work Brighter is all about exploring that grey area between the black and white when it comes to productivity and work. And lighting it up like a rainbow.
So let's look at why it's easy to believe balance doesn't exist, and why those aren't as straightforward as they seem. Let's dive into the grey.
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Why you might believe work/life balance doesn't exist
The three main arguments I hear about work/life balance are, "it's not on a daily basis," "it's not 50/50," and "it's not just work and life."
And all three of those are correct, technically, but they don't paint the whole picture.
Like, I don't understand why those three things being true means that balance doesn't exist.
Let's tackle the first one:
"Life doesn't look balanced on a day to day basis."
I understand that we all go through seasons where we're more focused on one area of life than another. That's fine, because it's a zoomed in view anyway.
If you're part of the Work Brighter community, you know how much I talk about zooming out and looking at the bigger picture more often.
So if you think balance doesn't exist simply because you have a busy season and a slow season in your job or something like that, you're mistaken my friend.
You can absolutely have those seasons and still have balance.
(Well, not have, but we'll talk about that later.)
"Work/life balance isn't 50/50"
The second argument I hear is that it's not 50/50.
And to that I say, "50/50 of what?"
Most people who say this are thinking about work in terms of strictly time, but you know I believe energy is a better and more important measure of work and productivity anyway.
The comparison I like to give here is thinking about size vs. weight.
Picture balancing a scale with two different sized balls on it. They can't possibly be equal right? Wrong.
They can be if the bigger one is an inflated basketball and the smaller one is dense, solid material like metal or glass.
Time and size are the easiest metrics to measure, but they're rarely the most important when talking about balance. Instead, it's about weight and energy.
"It's not just work and life"
And the final argument I hear for why balance doesn't exist is because it's not just "work" and "life" or that work is part of life.
That's the one I personally used to lean on.
And, yes, the phrase "work life balance" is a bit general, but that's not a problem with the idea itself, just the name of the idea.
So call it whatever you need to.
Call it balancing work and play, work and rest, work and family, productivity and self-care.
I don't care what you call it, but I care whether you strive for it.
Because does exist and it is important for your mental health and wellbeing.
Why work/life balance isn't a myth
So in this section I want to talk about why I need you to believe in balance, even if it's not 50/50 or every day or just work and life.
It's an accurate phrase for the feeling
First of all, it's just hard to come up with a better word that describes what it feels like trying to manage multiple responsibilities at a time.
Believe me, I've tried.
Before I saw balance the way I do now, I did try to come up with ways to talk about this without using the word balance, and it was hard!
Balance is an accurate descriptor, especially when you look at it the way I'm going to suggest you do in the next section.
Alternates like work/life integration sound like a nightmare for anyone who needs boundaries.
I don't want to integrate work into the rest of my life even more than it already is, thank you very much. Part of the problem more often than not is that we're TOO heavy on the work side, and not enough on the life side.
And work/life harmony is a term that I just feel like is gaslighting us.
Like that our relationship to work should be easy and sweet and harmonious and worthy of animated Disney birds chirping, when so much of us are struggling with it. When working so much is literally killing so many people.
On the other hand, when I say work/life balance, someone knows what I mean.
And as a fan of effective communication, I'm gonna keep using the phrase that the people I'm communicating with understand.
Balance is a reality of life
Second of all, there is no denying that you have multiple responsibilities and that most of them cannot be ignored for very long.
So as much as I love Ron Swanson, sometimes you do just need to half-ass two things. Or four things. Or six things. Instead of whole assing one thing.
The sooner you embrace that dance, the easier things will feel.
Mindset shifts to make about work/life balance
Speaking of dance, now I wanna talk about the mindset shifts you need to make. The ones that will make you believe in balance.
And they have to do with dance.
Balance is a verb
The first one, is that balance is a verb.
Sure, it can be a noun and an adjective too. But in the conversation about work and balance, it needs to be an active verb.
It's something you need to do, not something you'll magically or naturally have.
You're not going to feel balanced if you don't try to act balanced.
You don't know this, but I was a dancer for like 20 years.
In high school, I spent 20-40 hours per week at my dance studio. And you don't spend that much time dancing without having a lot of feelings about balance.
Balance is a big part of dance, and how we look at it in dance has informed how I look at it in life. So my second and third points come from that work.
Balance is a skill
The second mindset shift is that balance is a skill.
In dance, balance is a skill. It's not something you're inherently good at, it's something you have to try at and practice, like any other part of dance.
The same is true with balancing work with the rest of your life. It's not going to come naturally in the capitalistic, hustle-focused society we currently have. But you can practice and build muscle memory that makes it easier.
Balance is about adjusting your center of gravity
And the third mindset shift is that balance is about adjusting your axis or center of gravity.
Digging deeper into the "balance is a skill thing," there were different elements and situations you would have to practice balance in as a dancer.
For example, since my feet had high arches, balancing on releve or on my toes was relatively easy. But since my feet were small and I was, uh, so top heavy in comparison, balancing in weird poses or doing a ponche where I bent over with my leg in the air I was a lot worse at.
Shifting my center of gravity in certain ways came easier to me than others.
The same is true with work/life balance.
For example, since I've been working on making my health and self-care a bigger priority for the past 5 years, I've gotten a lot better at balancing those two particular things.
But balancing them well with additional responsibilities, like my friendships and relationships or keeping up with housekeeping, I'm not as good at yet. I still need more practice.
Balance is a mindset, not a myth
With those 3 ways of thinking, balance starts to feel a lot more possible.
I hope you will give these new ideas about balance some thought and they might give you some hope that your life and work can start to feel a little more balanced. Comment below and let me know if it does, along with what else you'd like to see an episode of The Brighter Take about.
And if you liked this video, you might also be interested in my video about why staying in our comfort zones isn't such a bad thing, kind of another unpopular opinion. So check that out, and have a brighter week.