Who do we have to blame for the concept of work-life balance? It’s a term which dates back to the 1800s and the First Industrial Revolution. In the 1980s it was popularised by the Women’s Liberation Movement in the UK. Today, it applies to anyone trying to find the ‘right balance’ between their professional and personal lives.
My view? We should ditch the concept in favour of living a 100% life. And getting to this point means having what I call ‘AND conversations’. This means you should be able to run your business AND be there for your family. You need to be able to hit your targets AND have fun. You need to be able to reinvest in your business AND spend money on a holiday. There is no either/or here. It’s all about the AND.
Work-life talks about two distinct worlds which we need to straddle, but work and life are not two separate and distinct things. We don’t take off our work hat when we come home or stop being a father and mother or a significant other when we get to the office. Life is made up of a number of things, like work, interests and hobbies, family and friends, and your spiritual self. Life is all encompassing. It embraces and touches every aspect of who we are. It’s our attempts to compartmentalise our lives that causes us stress, rather than setting up our worlds and our lives in such a way that work becomes a component of living a 100% life.
For each one of us a 100% life looks different and we have the potential to build our ideal reality. It’s all about making choices and it starts with the end in mind. This means working backwards from how you envisage your life, how you prioritise your life and what is important for you.
But do you even know how that life might look? Have you ever stopped to consider a 100% life?
Just the other day I asked my nine-year-old son, MH, what he felt the purpose of life was. I’d posed this question to a new client the previous day and he’d eventually responded: “I guess it’s just about surviving and making ends meet.”
MH, meanwhile, replied quickly: “I guess it’s about being happy, Dad. AND about making other people happy AND about making God happy.”
Wow, I thought. If my son is just as happy working, or playing or being with friends and family then it is the happiness which underlines his purpose, not the task at hand. That’s terrific!
My two sons are both exposed to this way of thinking on a daily basis, so they can envisage living an extraordinary life in which they expect to make a positive impact on the world. MH’s was the sort of answer that opens up the doors to living a 100% life. It’s an answer replete with ANDs, which recognises the interplay between all the elements of life.
I urge you to open yourself up to AND conversations. If you do, then you might find that you can open that new branch AND take a trip to the Middle East. You might find you that you can watch your child’s football game AND run your business. That you can make time to enjoy your guitar lessons AND give back to your community. There is no space in life for either and or, just AND.