After graduating college, there was a lot of talk about “having it all.” Granted, I didn’t exactly know what ‘all’ meant for me (yet). Was it a family? A stellar career? A nice place to live? (Honestly, who even knows? I still don’t.)
But one of the most important trends that emerged over the last few years was the idea of work-life balance. Don’t get me wrong, work-life balance isn’t anything new. In fact, if you look at the history of work-life balance you’ll discover that it’s been around for a really, really long time.
When you read about work-life balance, you see a lot of quotes like this one from Aristotle: “The end of labor is to gain leisure.”
(Curiously, I like that another popular Aristotle quote is, “All paid jobs absorb and degrade the mind.”)
And it sounds amazing, doesn’t it?
Enjoying your work and living a balanced lifestyle? Having time and energy for leisure, for living a full life, without a soul-sucking job?
But while there are just as many blogs, podcasts, and books touting the importance of work-life balance as the best and healthiest goal for our lives, there are just as many calling it a myth.
Why? Because work-life balance implies that we need to put these columns into neat little boxes when, in reality, they’re often impossibly intertwined. (And that’s okay).
It disregards passion for what we do — writing off spending 60 or 80 hours per week on what you love as “bad” — when, realistically, what matters is that you’re happy.
Yes, balance is important. Whether that’s your job, your relationships, your nutrition, or whatever.
Even more important is what drives you and what makes you happy. Is that traveling? Awesome, go all out. Maybe it’s your job. Maybe it’s writing books. Or a sport. Or your friendships. It’s okay not to have life perfectly measured and balanced because that’s not reality.
Reality is that success is what you make it.
Success is entirely self-defined. Whether that’s perfecting your version of work-life balance or diving into something else entirely, maybe it’s time we stop talking about finding “balance” and learning to “have it all.”
Instead, let’s start discussing the importance of individuality, doing what makes you happy, and tossing out societal pressure to do, act, talk, look, or be a certain way.
“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.”— Benjamin Franklin
For me, success is ongoing and ever-changing. It’s not a destination, and I certainly don’t think I’ll know it whenever I find it. (Once again, whatever that mythical ‘it’ means.) That’s because success and happiness are continually evolving, and that’s a GOOD thing. Success today is different than what it will be tomorrow or next week or next year, which — in all honesty — helps keep life interesting.
Instead of defining work-life balance and encouraging people to fit a certain mold, let’s work together to find what makes us happy as individuals. What’s your passion? What drives you forward? How can you make it happen?
It doesn’t have to be your career — do you think janitors are crazy passionate about mopping bathrooms? (Hint: probably not, but if they are then mad respect.) But janitors might be insanely passionate about what they do in their time off — like spending time with their families, pursuing their hobbies without the pressure to earn money from them, or playing basketball at the local gym.
You’re allowed to love your job just as much as you’re allowed to think your job is ‘meh’.
Instead of pressuring yourself to have it all, release the idea of perfect and focus on what you want out of life.
Personally? I love what I do. I’m happiest when I’m writing and creating constantly, and sometimes that doesn’t allow for a lot of “balance.” In fact, sometimes it means spending very little time on friends, myself, or my hobbies. But if I’m happy, does it matter? If I’m working toward what I want in life, is it super important if I don’t have it all?
I don’t think it does. (Especially considering life is filled with change, and there are times when writing doesn’t make me happy and all I want is Netflix. That’s cool too.)
In the meantime, I’m asking myself these questions every few months. The answers might change, but the intention is what matters most.
What will bring me the most joy? How can I do more of that?