I wrote this post a few weeks ago when I had to make a choice between going to a family event and working on some professional activities. This issue comes up again and again for me – which tells me that either balance really is a myth and we are in a futile cycle to keep striving for it or I’m just not doing a great job at balancing…(?)
Work-Life Balance. Family-Work Balance. Work-Relationship Balance. Health-Work Balance. Take your pick…
Life balance is like multi-tasking – it doesn’t work. There is no way to be balanced with all the things we are doing in life. Whether it’s 50-50, 33-33-33, etc. We cannot be doing multiple things at once. We cannot truly focus on multiple things at once. At least not while being present and mindful with what we are doing.
This week I worked out a lot, had a nutrition coaching session, and went to a social event (Flex Happy Hour! – way out of my comfort zone but worth it!), but I didn’t do any laundry throughout the week, and Noah did all of the meal prep – planning, grocery shopping, and cooking. This week was a great example of balance not actually being a “thing.” I also notice the reverse being true – when I get stuff done around the house, I am usually working out less and not socializing.
Chris Burkard has a 4-burner metaphor for life that I really like. He talked about it on The Stokecast podcast. His 4 burners are: career, family, friends, health. He says that in order to be successful in life you have to turn off 2 of these burners; in order to be wildly successful, you have to turn off 3 of the burners. He said for a long time he had neglected his health and social time with his friends in favor of more work on his career aspirations. Turning off a burner doesn’t necessarily mean that you stop doing the thing entirely – for instance stop going to work because you are mainly focused on getting healthy. It may just mean that maybe you’re not spending extra hours at the office or on professional development in favor of going to the gym, or maybe you’re skipping happy hour with friends in favor of meal planning and grocery shopping. Maybe sometimes some of the burners are just on low so that others can be on medium or high.
A lot of this comes down to values and prioritizing time – and these things can change day to day, week to week, month to month. I do think it’s important to be very clear about what you value and how you want to spend your time in order to get your life to align with your values.
Lately, for me, this has meant turning the family burner lower in favor of the health and career burners. It doesn’t mean I love my family any less, it just means that in order to take care of myself right now my main focus has to be on other things. After finishing my Masters in Public Health and starting a job back in the insurance industry I have been at a real crossroads professionally and experiencing a sort of mid-life career crisis. I thought that working a job I was good at, that spoke to my skillset, would be fulfilling, but it’s not. I’ve done some real soul-searching to try and figure out what my next step is professionally. I’ve got student loans, a car, a house, and other debts to pay off so I can’t just not work in favor of leisurely soul-searching. This has meant lots of listening to personal development podcasts featuring people doing cool things – The Adventurepreneur Playbook and The Stokecast mainly. Over the last few months, I have re-discovered that I really do love wellness coaching and want to continue that. I also really love training and development in the professional setting. The trick for me will be to find a job that could combine these activities or allow me to pursue wellness coaching as a side hustle. This is going to mean more sacrifice in other areas in order to achieve the things I am dreaming about that will make my soul happy.
All this is my long-winded way of saying that work-life-health balance is a fallacy. In order to achieve great things in one of these areas, something has to give in another area. Trying to juggle it all: family, friends, work, leisure, self-care, or healthy living practices is not easy. But spending the time to check in with yourself and be honest about what you value and trying to get your life to align with those values can result in fulfilling work, satisfying relationships, and positive health outcomes that will make your soul happy. And wouldn’t the world be a much better place if people’s souls were happier and we shared that happiness with others?