I’m aware there are too many people before me who’ve made an attempt to answer this question. I, for one, have been an ardent follower of anyone who either asks or answers this question because I’ve always felt anyone thinking on this topic is a kindred spirit, someone who has struggled with the whole Balance part of it but not entirely given up on it.
After reading all the many varied answers to this question all these years, I found that none could give me a satisfactory response through which I could safely say a yes or a no to the above question. So here’s an attempt at this from yours truly to figure if this legendary question is truly a myth or not.
The three parts of that term when broken to their singular word form, each of those words can mean different things to different people. And hence, work-life balance would always mean different to different people. I shall be trying to figure out what it means to me through this post and thus arrive at the answer to my question. I hope you can use the same method to figure it out for yourself too.
So, for me the definitions are as follows:
Work = Any activity done in return for which I get monetary benefits so I can pay my bills and live a comfortable life
Life = Any activity done in return for which I get satisfaction, experience happiness/ joy/ content
Now just so we’re clear here. While the above two are mostly mutually exclusive, there are alot of times when they would coincide.
Like when I get satisfaction from my job. It feels great! But do I do the job because it gives me satisfaction? No. I do it because it helps me pay my bills, and hence it’ll always be primarily categorized as work for me.
Or like when I get paid to write. It’s thrilling! But do I ever write for the money? No. I write because I enjoy doing so regardless of whether it ever gave me any kind of monetary return.
And so on and so forth, I can categorize all of my life’s activities under these two categories. Spending time with family & friends, working out, playing the keyboard, starting a new business, writing a blog.
So what does my life look like now?
I go to work at my job. I read. I play the keyboard. I write. I spend time with my family. I spend time catching up with friends regularly. I keep myself fit. I sleep.
And thus, I’d like to think I have work life balance.
But this was never the challenge at all in finding the answer, was it?
The challenge is:
Work is never only = Any activity done in return for which I get monetary benefits so I can pay my bills and live a comfortable life
Work is also = An activity which makes me push myself beyond my comfort zone and helps me grow. As a person, as someone who can contribute and add value to the society at large.
And so, work = Any activity that makes me a better version of myself in every way AND for which I get monetary benefits so I can pay my bills and live a comfortable life
This is where I’d like to state the Four Burners Theory. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, here’s the gist below:
Imagine that your life is represented by a stove with four burners on it. Each burner symbolizes one major quadrant of your life.
- The first burner represents your family.
- The second burner is your friends.
- The third burner is your health.
- The fourth burner is your work.
The Four Burners Theory says that “in order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful you have to cut off two”.
Let me try and apply this theory to my life to check if the balance still holds.
- Family burner — Check (Since I do spend enough time with my family to make me happy, although I can’t really say if they’d agree with me here)
- Friends burner — Check (I love them to death. It comes only naturally by extension that I make time for them)
- Health burner — Check (I may not be in the best of health always, but I’m happy with the fitness levels I maintain currently. Although I can probably take this up a notch higher going ahead)
- Work burner — Check (Although all of the above are check, my work is and always has been my priority making me a person who’s constantly geared to learn and keep growing)
In conclusion, I do think I’m living the work-life balance right now. So no, I do not think work life balance is a myth. It can very well be achieved. I’m a living testimony to that. It really saddens me when I see people around me treat this subject with resignation, as if one thing can only be achieved at the cost of another. Yes, success ALWAYS needs sacrifices. But not of those things that make your life a “life” (refer definition above). One can do all the things which define life for you AND be successful at work. It only requires using your time and energy smartly and effectively (how to do this is a topic for another post).
However, I also do believe there would be certain periods in everyone’s life when this balance would go for a toss. Periods when one part of your life would need most of your attention consequently cutting off some of the other burners. These periods will happen and we’ll just have to be best prepared to go through them.
It’d just do us best to be mindful of this and to ensure that these periods are limited by us so that the average of most of our adult life is where we’ve been able to live a balanced life.
Because at the end of the day, we want it all, don’t we? So who says we can’t have it?
Is work life balance a myth? was originally published in The Ascent on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.