The last few years of the pandemic have led to much needed discussion around work and life. But the focus on balance is the wrong framing: we serve ourselves better with harmony.
The trappings of “balance”
It is true that work and life have a connection. It is true that we need to be intentional in where we spend our time. It is true we must reflect on how to lead a more satisfied life. But, balance is not the way there.
Balance implies a correct divide between work-time and life-time. This creates an unhelpful pressure to pursue the “right” equilibrium. If you’re not “balanced,” you’re doing it wrong.
But life is so much more than something you can divide cleanly. First of all, work itself is part of life, and treating it as a separate entity is an unhealthy frame. Work doesn’t need to be your life’s passion, but you should get something from it:
- personal or professional growth;
- a sense of purpose;
- new relationships;
- a change you want to create in the world; or
- something else entirely.
Further, balance, with its “correctness” creates space for self-judgement. I’m pretty critical of myself, and many of the excellent humans I’ve lead and helped grow over the years are too. We don’t need another thing to win or lose at, so let’s find a framing that takes it completely out of the equation of our “success.”
Lastly, you should pay attention to what gives you energy, in both work and life. The framing of balance can push you away from leaning into work when it can be a wonderful source. Should work be your only source of energy? No, of course not, but it can certainly be a big contributor. Lean in to where you can draw excitement.
There’s lots of definitions out there, but two standout to me:
an interweaving of different accounts into a single narrative
pleasing arrangement of parts
Finding work-life harmony implies a unification of these life arrangements into something more pleasing than the sum of its parts.
Harmony embraces that work is not truly distinct; that there is no singular correct division. Harmony removes the sense of “finding the answer” of balance, and leaning into the current lived experience. Harmony free’s you to be present with what’s happening now, and consistently “follow your energy.”
It’s a subtle change, but profound none-the-less.