Like the quest for the ever-elusive Fountain of Youth, entrepreneurs have been desperately seeking out the secret to work-life balance. It’s seemingly unattainable discovery dangles just out of reach, caught between responsibilities and desire. Locked in a constant struggle between family and work, the idea of balance, of stability, of peace is the ideal. Someone, somewhere must have the secret. I think I’ve found it.
Does Work-Life Balance Exist?
Yesterday was a warm, but overcast late-March Saturday. On Friday, I had created a list of tasks I wanted to work on for my sites this weekend and was, at the time, excited about the thought of getting ahead of the week. There were 25 things on that to-do list. On a Saturday. After working from 4am-6pm Monday through Friday.
When I went to bed on Friday night, I had every intention of tackling that list first thing. (Well, after I had a pot of coffee really, but first thing nonetheless.)
Then Saturday morning came. The day started slow and easy, and I quickly (and uncharacteristically) felt the urge to not turn on my laptop. I figured the day would bring motivation with it, so I gave in to another cup of coffee, walking in the yard and talking with my husband, and hanging Easter decorations with my daughter. As the weather grew warmer, we got out the hammocks and hung them from the trees. My productive, must-get-everything-done day morphed into a quiet, relaxed, family day instead.
And it was wonderful.
As we sat watching Sister Act last night with the lights turned out and the sound of laughter coming from the kids, I realized that perhaps the secret to work-life balance is that there is no balance at all. At least not in the traditional sense of everything being equal all the time.
What if work-life balance is the ebb and flow of periods of relaxation and intense focus? What if, by trying to force fun and work into their own separate compartments, we’re actually contributing to our own stress and sense of dissatisfaction?
Maybe the secret is just doing the best you can.
Maybe the secret is in listening to where your heart tells you you need to be – whether that’s the office or lounging on the backyard hammocks talking with your teenagers.
Maybe, just maybe, the secret is that there really is no such thing as balance in the traditional sense.
So, take your days offline without apology or guilt. Relish the sunshine on your face and the sound of your children’s laughter in your ears. And then feel no remorse when you work hard to provide for them. As Faith Hill’s song, The Secret of Life, says, “The secret of life is there ain’t no secret, and you don’t get your money back.”
Embrace the ebb and flow. And give yourself permission to stop chasing balance that doesn’t really exist.
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