stressed office woman

Balance is B.S.

February 26, 20245 min read

Work-life balance is a hot topic these days. Everyone seems to be talking about how difficult it is to find a balance between work and the rest of life. Is balance really the goal we should be striving to achieve? Does balance give the answer to the day-to-day struggle of entrepreneurs and top-level professionals who want to live a full life while giving their all at work?

What is balance?

In September 2018, before COVID-19, organizational psychologist Adam Grant tweeted -

“Work-life balance sets an unrealistic expectation of keeping different roles in steady equilibrium. Instead, strive for work-life rhythm. Each week has a repeating pattern of beats—job, family, friends, health, hobbies—that vary in accent and duration.”

I agree.

Balance implies that all things are weighted equally. For most people, balance, or work-life balance, means making sure that you’re spending an equal amount of time at work and at home. For others, it’s about that feeling of having everything under control - all of your priorities and responsibilities perfectly juggled without a ball dropping.

But here’s the thing: balls drop. Life happens. And when it does, we’re left with questions. Am I working enough? Am I spending enough time with my family? When do I prioritize my own wellbeing? At the core of these questions is the balance of time.

Balance is a fantasy that many want, but few have achieved with real fulfillment. Those who make it their goal or actually achieve it are left feeling drained, stressed, and empty in the effort to balance it all… because their goal was all about time.

Here’s one way to think about it.

After a long day, we are finally home with our kids or out at their soccer game, but we’re distracted and still feel mentally consumed by work. We might feel that we should be working on that unfinished project at work, or we are on our phones zoning out. We may even be actually working instead of being present with our family.

In these moments, is this the “balance” you really want? Just because you’re physically present with your family doesn’t mean that you’re mentally present.

Not even nature is in balance.

There is an allure to balance and many like the idea of seeking to align with the way of the natural world.

Experts say that there’s no such thing as perfect balance in nature, it’s a highly dynamic, constantly changing system. Yet the idea is so old it’s deeply ingrained in Western culture and hard to shake.

Nature can give us some clues about how to achieve our greatest potential while living a full life, but balance is not one of them.

Back in the 1980s, ecologist Steward Pickett provided a reframe for the balance of nature — the flux of nature. Geological evolution, fires, storms, and climate cycles, both with and without human influence, ensure that nature is always changing.

Our lives are like nature - always changing due to the fires at work, the storms in our head and in our lives, and cycles of activities and demands. If we are to thrive in our modern world, we need a solution that supports constant change, not endeavors to sustain a fixed state of living, or stasis.

To thrive, we need a goal that is NOT about balancing time.

Time is not meant to be balanced, it’s meant to be lived and used to the fullest. And with priorities changing every day, striving for balance is a waste of time. Instead, be flexible and find a unique rhythm each day to make time for what matters - every day.

3 Steps For Making Time For What Matters

  1. Live the Deathbed Rule - Be honest about what’s most important to you. For Marcia Kilgore, a serial entrepreneur, family always comes first. She shared in an interview: “I lived by the deathbed rule. On my deathbed, which would I regret more, missing one of my son’s school plays, or missing a finance meeting?”

  2. Focus on your Genius - Be focused on the work only you can do. Precious time is wasted spending time on tasks that keep you “busy” but don’t produce the results your role is expected to get for your company. Delegate repeated tasks or projects that others can do or create systems for more efficiency. Instead of focusing on the “time” it takes you now to delegate effectively, think about long-term benefits of freeing up space for other things that matter in your life.

  3. Get out of the Weeds - Be relentless and delete distractions so you can stay focused on the big picture and enjoy your life, too. Don’t get too caught up in the details that suck up time and lose sight of the bigger picture. Deal with distractions head-on that slow down progress like employee conflict or letting go of control over every detail to create more space for finding a rhythm or flow with work and life that works for you.

Our next blog post will share the goal our clients strive for that does make them happy while helping them create the results they want with more ease and in less time.

If you think this article will bring value to others, please share it. To stay up to date with the latest news from our blog, you can sign up for our newsletter here. You can also join us for Trailblazer Tuesday - a weekly 30-minute small-group session where we get together to discuss topics and questions that can change the game for you in terms of your life and work. Learn more here.

Feel free to reach out to us at Pathfinder Solutions if you have any questions or comments about this blog post. Thank you for reading and we hope to hear from you soon!


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Tamie Rising

Tamie Rising is somatic life and leadership coach, business strategist, and best-selling author helping growth-minded entrepreneurs and professionals carve a path to success without burning out. With her #1 Bestselling book, Pause to Prosper: A Proven Strategy for Entrepreneurs and Executives to Achieve More Through Rest and Reflection, Tamie helps you break from from overwork and overwhelm for good and achieve faster results without the relentless hustle.

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