The idea of work/life balance is a dangerous lie.
More and more I get angry whenever I hear the term ‘work-life balance’.
How has this become one of our go-to phrases? It’s common parlance.
And I do get it. New students use the term a lot I understand what they’re trying to say.
They’re spending too much time doing the things they hate, and not enough time doing the things they love, and they’d like to shift the balance more in favour of love and leisure.
Totally worthy ambition.
But there’s a seed in this phrasing that is problematic: it’s about how it’s the balance between ‘work’ and ‘life’.
As if life is the stuff that happens when you’re not working.
But how is work not part of life?
And when set it up as something that lives outside of life, then we’re kind of saying that it’s untouchable. It’s not something that we have agency over.
Working and doing something you hate is just a reality. Like death and taxes. It’s just fixed in place, and you’ve just got to work around it.
Well I’m not going to accept that and neither should you.
Maybe you’ll spend part of your days doing stuff you hate. Maybe you’ll be stuck there, despite your best efforts. And maybe that’s ok.
But it’s not inevitable. This is something we can control and make conscious choices around.
Work is not some given, like gravity. It is something we can choose, like the colour of our socks.
The other thing that annoys me is that it sets work and livelihood up in opposition to life. As if work must be this thing that runs counter to all our hopes, dreams and ambitions.
And so when I hear ‘work’ and ‘life’ in this context, I kind of hear ‘poo’ and ‘sandwich’.
And when I hear people complain about it, I kind of hear people saying things like,
“I’m not loving what I’m eating these days. I think if I had a better poo/sandwich balance, I’d be happier.”
Madness. If you hate work – if it’s causing you stress and misery – don’t do it. You don’t have to.
I’m not saying you can quit tomorrow, you probably can’t. But you don’t have to accept anything in life – any kind of sandwich – not if you’re will is strong enough.
Your life can be anything you want it to be.
But this idea of work/life balance already admits defeat. It’s saying that there’s no way my life can be an explosion of awesome all the time. Some of it has to be crappy. Some of it has to be work.
The most I can hope for is to develop some kind of balance between the two that’s bearable.
A sandwich I can live with.
No way. Don’t buy into it.
Be brave. Go for the whole enchilada.