Anyone who is juggling a career and a personal life may have heard about the concept of work-life balance, which is a cultural mantra that is currently getting a lot of media attention. The idea is encapsulated in the language: To balance work and all aspects of life, like a see-saw. The idea has an intrinsic appeal. After all, who could be against balance, right? The problem is that life does not fit into neat boxes and pressuring yourself to find this balance can be even more stressful than just moving with life’s fluctuations.
Following a blueprint leads to burnout
One of the problems that come up when attempting to implement the idea of work-life balance is that following this prescription leads to exhaustion. It is great to go after the perfect lifestyle described by experts, but it can be challenging if you’re too much of a perfectionist. Keeping up with friends and family, practicing mindfulness, and making time for civic duties are great goals. Then there are hobbies, health care, and entertainment. All these elements are necessary for the well-lived life. However, following a blueprint may lead to missing out on opportunities or burning out from fatigue.
Another reason that work-life balance is tricky is that life cannot be compartmentalized. It is one thing to have goals, schedules, and an agenda. But there are going to be events that require being open to improvisation. Whether it is a sick friend, a crushing work deadline, or a need to take time off for a mental health holiday, the best-laid schedule benefits from flexibility. Sometimes it is okay to change or modify the carefully laid plans that the experts would have us set down. The idea of balance is excellent. However, there will be times when the scales tilt in one direction. Having a vision of work-life balance is a good thing because it acknowledges the many parts of our lives, but the best plan can be one that is open to adaptation.
Consider a variation of the work-life balance paradigm, which is integration. Integration allows an individual to have all the parts of a well-ordered and well-lived life, without strict guidelines or quotas. It can mean working on the weekends to attend an exciting opportunity in the middle of the week or taking time off and then working full-on later, all without the guilt. Work-life balance is a myth, but that is not a bad thing. It is a starting point for creating the life that is just right for you.