It’s time to ditch “work-life balance” and fall in love

I was recently a guest speaker at a virtual event co-hosted by Women in Banking & Finance (WIBF) and Isio, where I was asked to deliver a session on the topic of effective leadership. As part of my research, I revisited “Nine Lies about Work: a Free Thinking Leader’s Guide to the Real World”, an excellent book co-written by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall. On this occasion, it was lie number 8 that deeply resonated with me and struck me as a point for further investigation: “work-life balance matters most”.

Have you, like myself, found yourself struggling to achieve the so-called “work-life balance”? Throughout the years, as I progressed through my career and built a family, I have found it increasingly difficult to reach a state of equilibrium where work and life receive equal attention. In work, like in life, there are a multitude of variables, some constant but most ever-changing. When there are so many variables in an equation, reaching a state of equilibrium is close to impossible. Balance as Buckingham notes is “stasis”. The concept is therefore unattainable and the phrasing deceiving, typically “work-life balance” implies that everything about life is good and too much work is bad. But is this true? Is trying to keep a perfect equilibrium between the two causing you stress instead of leaving you feeling inspired and energised?

The issue with striving for something that is inevitably out of reach is that you come to feel like you’ve failed. Whether it be as a parent, a partner, a sibling, a friend, a business owner, a manager, a colleague or an employee. When in actuality, the problem lies in one’s perspective. Buckingham says that the truth is that “love-in-work matters most. Love-in-work and love-in-life is energising, fulfilling, and a more practical goal.”

Since having a child, I have found it even more difficult to devote my attention and time equally to ‘work’ and ‘life’ each day. But is it an issue? When I look at it from the perspective of “love-in-work and love-in-life matters most”, I am free from the constraints I have imposed on myself and instead of feeling guilty that I’m doing too much work or not enough of it, I can enjoy and love every second of my time regardless of what I do, be it ‘work’ or ‘life’.

‘Work-life balance’, a concept curated to help us create a healthy life, has doomed us into a perpetual state of anxiety, guilt, and fear of failure. The solution lies in a shift in perspective. Instead of setting aside equal time for both, focus on being present and loving the time you do have for all aspects of your life. Sometimes work needs more attention, and sometimes life calls louder. In this way, you remove the stress of compartmentalising and instead are energised and effortlessly motivated.

Fall in love with what you do

“It’s not about finding balance between work and life – it’s about achieving an imbalance between what you love at work, and what you loathe. If you can take your loves seriously and deliberately imbalance your life to favour them, you’ll not only make a greater contribution in the world – you’ll do it in a way that invigorates and strengthens you,” says Buckingham.

In line with Buckingham’s words, you must focus on adding more of the things you love to your life and weaving love into what you do, whether it be work or play. He says you don’t have to love all that you do, but if you have no love for any of your work then you won’t be creative, innovative, or resilient. According to Buckingham’s research, what separates high-performing and low-performing individuals lies in these two questions: do I have a chance to use my strengths every day at work? And was I excited to go to work every day last week?

You know when you are doing something that you love as you’re more open to new ideas, innovation, and creativity. So, all the stuff that you want from your work, the opportunity to feel like you are yourself, the opportunity to open your mind to broaden your horizons, build and grow, all those only happen when you’re doing something that you love, says Buckingham.

If you’re struggling to achieve a work-life balance perhaps Buckingham’s change of perspective can help you, as it has helped me, fall back in love with work and life. You can maximise your potential, improve your creativity, innovate, and prepare your mind for growth. So, why not start today by setting realistic boundaries, taking time for self-care, and looking for opportunities to do what you love.

Roberson shares the 5 ingredients necessary to blend work and life to create passion and meaning in her TED talk

Jennifer Roberson suggests that building a fulfilling career requires balancing five essential ingredients, which she summarises using the acronym “Blend”

Additionally, it’s important to stay kind and spread Love to yourself and others by surrounding yourself with bright and supportive individuals who are invested in your success. 

Understanding your personal sources of Energy and motivation is also key, so take the time to reflect on what drives you and embrace your unique strengths. 

Finding the intersection between your passion and the company’s Needs is vital to achieving a satisfying career.

Finally, Dedicate your time to become an exceptional, innovative and continuously educated individual who strives to be the best version of themselves.

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