Words have power. How we use them. Word order. Context. It’s all critical. When we say work life balance, we are putting work at the same level as life, possibly even superior to life. The Industrial Revolution is over and we must stop buying into the idea of work as our most important activity.
Work-Life balance is a trite manipulation to judge our choices on some invisible scale that can never actually be balanced. For years I’ve been struggling to figure out what it is about the concept of work life balance that puts me off. I’ve tried talking about this before and I usually get a lot of haters. I’m deeply curious to see what happens this time.
1. Balance has more than two factors. Even in the physical world at the most basic a weighing scale has springs, a housing, and a readout. A lever uses balance and has a fulcrum, load, and effort (plus the physical lever). Reducing balance to 2 factors implies a simplicity that simply isn’t present.
2. I was born in the 1970s. My generation “works hard and plays harder.”
3. What I’m measuringmakes a difference. Picture an old-timely scale like was used for weighing gold or held by Lady Justice: If there’s gold on one side and feathers on the other, it’ll take more feathers to create equal balance.
4. Why would we accept the implied equality of work and life? I never want work and life to be equal. Work is a part of life. Life is much more than just work and not work.
5. Is balance really about a neutral middle? The balance in an eco-system varies based on its characteristics. For example, a zen rock garden needs less moisture than a rain forest.
6. Some recent ad campaigns even strive to put work above life, harkening back to early industrialist values. Mostly, please stop trying to fit your workout in at your desk. It’s ok to take time to do what you like. You don’t have to squeeze it in.
In To-Shin Do mind and body training, we use the 5 elements to describe and cultivate balance. This system entrails me. I love thinking of balance in our lives like our personal ecosystem creating our own gardens. Much like a physical garden, our metaphysical garden thrives when we have access to all the elements and they are in balance for our individual needs. Each element has a personality, a way of being in the world. By building our competency in all the elements, we can give our garden the right mix of Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, and Void.
I vote to stop buying into easy parables but to really go deeper in life. We are so lucky to be experiencing this lifetime that we can’t afford to be distracted by anyone else’s scale.
Life is a joy. Finding our passion, indulging in our pleasures, being the best people we can be—this is our birthright. Find your love!