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The Work Life Balance Myth and Why we’re having the Wrong Conversation about Work.

· 5 min read
Ron Amosa
Platform Security Engineer @ Salesforce U.S.

Balance is good. Balance is also a myth.

The Myth#

You need to work.

More than just to pay the bills, you need fulfilling work. There's a healthy amount of blogs out there explaining why the work needs to be fulfilling, but I'd like to just look at work as the thing you do during your day.

Life. That's the thing you do when you're not doing work.

So we're clear. On one side you have work. On the other is "life" (no in speech bubbles so you know I don't mean living and breathing).

I have some pretty busy weeks. Some days I'm up until 3am battling a technical problem that's part of a project I'm trying to deliver. No problem solution. No project progression.

This is a reality to working projects. It's like the "immovable object meets unstoppable force" paradox. Your deadlines are the unstoppable force, and the technical problem is your immovable object.

Basically, when this happens you're not going to have a very good time.

You can start to rush things, which creates a bigger mess that requires more time (you don't have) to clean up.

You get anxious, and your mind is awash with worse case scenarios, and impending questions to the state of the project. The quality of your work. And the ETA of delivering the thing yesterday.

These scenarios are conducive to producing your best work. And can be a very stressful and not very productive time for you. Or the company.

But that's life.

What kind of life did you expect#

And I don't mean that in a "suck it up" kind of way at all.

I mean that in the exact way I said it. Life is hard sometimes. Sometimes things go your way. Sometimes they don't.

When people talk about work life balance I'm not always sure where they draw the line that defines what constitutes "balance".

Do they mean you spend an exact amount of time at work as you do on your own stuff? Is it balance of hours spent at work vs hours "off work"?

But what about when what you do for work is your purpose in life? It's your passion? It's what you live for? (okay sorry partners, kids, I mean this in a general way - yes, you're all very special to these worker people).

If you're living your passion, your dream, I don't think you clock out after doing it for 8 hours a day. I don't think you check the clock at 430pm and start thinking about what you're going to do "after work".

Sure there's leisure time, Netflix time. But if what you're doing with your life is the thing you love doing. There's no work vs life to "balance".

How did it end up that " work life balance" is the conversation we're having?

Balance Your 'Self'#

Now, before we all pile onto the "well, its not healthy from any perspective to run yourself into the ground by not resting, or eating, or cleaning yourself".

Yes, thank you captain obvious.

The thought here is that we don't "balance" work vs life. Like they were meant to be separate or different things. I think if you're debating your work vs your life (in the current understanding of why this notion even exists), then you're not living your passion, or purpose. You're not living your dreams.

Sure, this all sounds "pie in the sky", and no I don't see "living the dream" as the winning-lotto only scenario. But doing something with your 40 hours a week you're actually interested in. Something that actually excites you.

The conversation should be

"build and live the life you want, and look after yourself while you're there".


"work to pay the bills and try to not overwork so you have some life left to share with your loved ones".

I agree with Employment NZ's take on work-life balance:

Work-life balance is about effectively managing the juggling act between paid work and the other activities that are important to people. It's about work not completely crowding out the other things that matter to people like time with family, participation in community activities, voluntary work, personal development, leisure and recreation. It is sometimes called working flexibly.

That's the take for people who aren't living their passions. Their dreams. It's the contingency plan for what to do with the consolation prize life you're apparently destined for.

It's Not a Bad Thing#

This post wasn't meant to discourage.

It's not mean to point and judge.

It's really just my thoughts on the idea of "work life balance". I'm not arguing that you shouldn't do as Employment NZ say, and make sure there's "balance" in your work life situations.

I'm more interested in the fact we're putting a plaster on the paper cut while the gunshot wound is bleeding us to death.

Too dark? Probably.

And I'm not advocating we all quit work and move to the country to start yoga meditation camps. I'm not advocating anyone do anything.

Other than think about how we're talking about work life balance.

Instead of talking about what kind of life you could live, that would make you happy, fulfilled and producing maximum potential benefit.

The End Is More Important Than the Beginning#

Yea, beginnings are important. They tell us how it all started. The context of the direction we were coming from.

But way more important, and something we have control over - is how our story ends.

We can't change the past.

But by asking ourselves these questions, we sure as hell can have some input into which destination our work/passion/life story ends up.