Why “Work-Life-Balance” is the wrong approach

Yesterday, Mark Sisson published a post on his (highly recommended!) blog “Mark’s Daily Apple” which hit the nail right on the head:

In Why Grok Didn’t Have Work-Life Balance and Neither Will You, Mark describes our desire for a better “work-life-balance”, for less stress and a more fulfilled life. He also explains very pointedly why a better and more effective time management only helps to a certain degree — and why at some point, it starts to bring even more stress into our life.

But what we really want is not to manage our life more and more effectively and by the clock, but, in Mark’s own words:

We want life balance in the sense that we want a chance to naturally, unhurriedly experience all the good of life: family connection, socialization, exercise, hobbies, leisure, creativity, rest, self-care and career.

(Mark Sisson, Mark’s Daily Apple)

And then he asks the crucial question:

Is it even possible to be equally successful in all these areas, to reach all our ambitious goals, to set priorities everywhere at the same time? Is something like a perfect balance in our life achievable at all?

Mark’s answer to this question is a clear and resounding “No”. As kids, we felt we could conquer the world — fly to the moon, become a train driver, travel to all countries, get elected for president AND read all the books that have ever been published.

And while on some level, our brain has long accepted (or had to accept) that we can only do a limited amount of things in our limited time, there is still that other, childish level of us… The level on which we feel that, darn!!, we should be able to reach ALL the things we want!

From this feeling stems the unrealistic demand towards ourselves to be perfect in all areas, and to reach all our goals.

Now, how can we live with the time restrictions in our life? How can we lead a fulfilled life despite all external demands?

This is only possible if we set clear priorities. If we remember what is really important to us. In short: If we know our fundamental values and make sure to live them in the limited time we have at our disposal.

Then, and only then, can we let go of the things which aren’t really important to us (or at the very least, we can get them done in the least possible amount of time). And then we can make sure that there is enough time left for the things which are really important to us.

This approach doesn’t lead to a perfect work-life-balance in the common sense, where ALL areas of our life are perfectly balanced. But it leads to a more fulfilled life, a life in which we can go to bed at night contentedly, with a smile on our face.

So… Why don’t you grab a pen and paper right now and start asking yourself: What is really important to me? What would I not want to miss for anything? What is at the core of who I am?

And then make sure to make room for these things on each day of your life…

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