Is Work-Life Balance a Myth?

Work Life Balance

Digital marketing maven Mitch Joel, of Six Pixels of Separation, said work-life balance is a myth in one of his recent blog posts:

There is no such thing as work/life balance. By even saying there is such balance, you’re making an internal agreement that work is not a part of a healthy life, and I just don’t buy it. Like you, I put a good chunk of my waking hours against the work I do. I can’t accept that it doesn’t constitute an important and real part of my life. In the end, I’m not looking for work/life balance…I’m looking for life balance.

I’m not so sure I’m following Mitch correctly.  Is he saying that anyone who claims to be pursuing work-life balance is invalidating the importance of work in their lives?  I’ve never met anyone who has done that – have you?

Why call it work-life balance?

I think the phrase “work-life balance” came about because most of us spend more time doing work than doing anything else (except maybe sleeping, perhaps, and that’s iffy for a lot of us – me, for sure).  As Robert Pagliarini points out in The Other 8 Hours, the average person spends about 8 hours working and 8 hours sleeping (your personal mileage may vary), leaving 8 hours to do everything else in your life.

Anyone I’ve ever met or read who is pursuing a balanced life does so because they recognized that their work, while valued and important, could easily dominate their life if they let it.  They came to a point where they realized they didn’t just want to “win” at work, but in the other areas of their life as well.

Gratefully, some people are able to see the need for change, and take steps toward greater balance and alignment, before it’s too late. Others don’t have a clue until their spouse leaves, the kids don’t care if they’re home or not, they have a heart attack, or lose their job (along with their sense of identity which was wrapped up in their work).

While I don’t get Mitch’s initial premise that the idea of work-life balance is a myth, I do think we’re saying the same thing when we talk about the need to pursue life balance.

Mitch suggests there are basically three areas in our lives that need to be balanced, which he calls the three-legged stool:

  1. Personal
  2. Business
  3. Community

I can go along with him on that, although I like to break it down even further, into six basic life areas. So while his analogy is a three-legged stool, I guess mine is a pie (pecan, please) with six pieces in it:

  1. Financial/Career
  2. Personal Development
  3. Physical Health
  4. Community
  5. Spiritual
  6. Family/Home

I like his strategy of making rules, or commitments, to help you maintain a balanced life.  I think you can best do that after you have first identified your values – the things that are most important to you – for each of those life areas.

And for some of us, it might be helpful to identify minimum and maximum expectations or goals for each area, so we know whether we’re on-target or not.

What do you think? Is work-life balance a myth?  Does using that term mean you’re invalidating the importance of your work?

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Comments

  1. I might be oversimplifying this (I am a simple person), but it seems that Joel is saying that work shouldn’t be balanced with life because work IS life. So…however this fits in, I have loved this James Michener quote for years:

    “The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decided whether he is working or playing. To him, he is always doing both.”

    • Life Compass says:

      Joe, I have appreciated that quote, too, over the years. I like the idea of an integrated life, and not one that is compartmentalized. Thanks for sharing!

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