Is Balance a Myth?

by Henrik Edberg

Is Balance a Myth?Note: This is a guest post by Chrissy of Executive Assistant’s Toolbox.

Everyone is talking a lot about this idea of “work/life balance”. Apparently, there is a perfect point where one doesn’t intrude on the other and harmony is achieved.

The whole concept has gotten a lot of press, especially in the recent past.

Some say the notion is myth – an impossible dream created by the women’s movement: When women started thinking they could have both a job and a family, this crazy idea of “balance” suddenly grabbed everyone’s attention.

So is it a myth, a scheme, an urban legend? Does balance truly exist for anyone? Or are we all just wasting our time trying to achieve something that can never, and will never, happen?

Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer. Let me explain…

Balance is Different for Everyone

The perfect work/life balancing point is not standard across the board.

Everyone has a different idea of what it means and rarely will it be an even 50/50 split between the two.

It is up to each individual to determine what works for them and their unique circumstances.

Balance is Not Constant

At different points in life, the work/life ratio will change. For example, someone who is trying to build a business may find they are spending 80% of their time on work and only 20% on personal activities. While this balance isn’t necessarily ideal, it also isn’t permanent. The goal is to create a business that will one day allow them to shift that ratio and give them more personal time.

We must be willing to accept that, for periods of time throughout life, balance simply will not exist. The goal is to ultimately have balance over the long-haul. Some “chapters” of life will undoubtedly make balance impossible.

Passion and Fulfillment

People find satisfaction in many different things and work is often one of them. For those who have passion for their work, and find true fulfillment in it, balance is not a necessary goal. One can be perfectly happy and healthy working 13 hour days doing something they love and believe in. There is nothing that says balance is “better”.

For those who find personal fulfillment in their work, struggling to achieve balance can be a frustrating and futile experience. In fact, they are often made to feel bad for their lack of balance, regardless of the fact that it suits them. On the other hand, for a person who finds true contentment in family and spending time with their loved ones, working 13 hour days will never be satisfying.

When you consider balance, it’s important to also consider where you find fulfillment. And don’t feel bad about your answer – whatever it is.

Success Requires a Time Commitment

No matter how you look at it, to achieve great success you must commit the time and energy required – which is usually a lot. While balance is important, it typically won’t help you reach your goals any faster. Yes, you can have both but the world is very competitive. Sometimes, you have to push yourself past a point of comfort and just recognize that it is for a purpose and it isn’t permanent.

The truth of the matter is this: young professionals who are willing to pitch in a few extra hours at the office will likely move up faster. Sacrifice is rewarded and, in some professions, expected. Striving for balance may mean settling for lower levels of success.

So, is the idea of achieving a perfect work/life balance a myth? Probably not. But it’s hard to find, especially because it looks different for everyone. Consider your goals and what truly fulfills you. Also, look at your life through a long-range lens, remembering that each chapter will allow for a different level of balance. Take all of these things into account before you head out on a quest for balance. You may find that your perfectly unbalanced life is exactly where you want to be right now.

Chrissy writes about professional and personal development at the Executive Assistant’s Toolbox. You can drop by anytime and subscribe to her RSS feed or just check out some of her most popular articles like Confessions of an Egomaniac.

Image by schani (license).

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{ 3 comments }

Mike King January 29, 2008 at 9:23 am

Great post. I personally attach the most value to the passion component. If you love your work then you really don’t care about balance.

I’ve come to realize that people who are truly happy in life, are also happy about their work/life balance (whatever it is). So, obviously there is a close connection because I’ve yet to find someone who is always happy and very negative about their work/life balance. Does that go hand in hand then as well?

JEMi January 29, 2008 at 7:33 pm

I think about this a whole lot. As a college student with huge dreams – I do worry about if “having it all” is actually possible. A wonderful family, a great career, a social life..

This is a great post :)

Tom February 1, 2008 at 2:49 am

I’ve struggled with this too, but I think part of the problem people have is worrying about how they’re perceived. If you feel in balance with, as you say, 13 hour days, then go for it. Don’t get hung up on what other people feel is your proper balance. This is why, I think, so many corporate work-life balance programs fail; they’re trying a one-size solution on an individual problem.

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