Updated: January 8, 2021
I first heard of the term work-life balance when I was a high school student.
Our school’s guidance counselor told us during a career orientation seminar, that college and life after will be challenging. And above most things, it’s important to maintain a proper work-life balance.
He emphasized that it’s not good to spend too much time working. And we better make sure that we likewise spend time enjoying life, specifically by pursuing personal interests and nurturing relationships with family and friends.
It was great advice. That’s why I still remember it today… even if I don’t believe in it anymore. Yes, I don’t really buy the concept of having a work-life balance anymore. Because for me, there’s only life, and the goal is to live it to the fullest.
I believe those who are consciously trying to achieve work-life balance are people who don’t find real joy in their work. For them, work is just a means to make a living and earn money.
Thus, to counter the stress and anxiety of work, they struggle to maintain equilibrium by trying to spend as much time enjoying life.
How I see work-life balance today
I began changing how I think about work-life balance when I heard an analogy about it from an entrepreneur, who was speaking during a business event many years ago.
He told us to imagine sitting at a table, and in front of us is a big bowl with a scoop of ice cream and a scoop of mud.
For him, that’s what work-life balance looks like. Work is that scoop of dirt. While life is that scoop of ice cream. And no matter how balanced you make it, that bowl would still be disgusting.
He says that even if there were two scoops of ice cream and just half a scoop of dirt, he still won’t eat it. He advises that if life serves you this bowl, then it’s a sign that you need to rethink your life.
When you find yourself worrying about having a work-life balance, don’t look for ways to achieve that equilibrium. Instead, you should focus on addressing the root causes of why you feel the need to have a work-life balance.
Living the most out of life
I believe that happiness and self-fulfillment come from overcoming challenges, enduring hardships, and solving difficult problems.
Maybe that’s why I find video games so rewarding. It tests my abilities to win over increasing levels of difficulty.
In the same light, maybe that’s why I find my work rewarding because it challenges me. It’s not a soul-crushing and repetitive job that I need to escape from by watching TV at home and going out every weekend.
In fact, I spend most weekends still “working” but not because I have to but because I genuinely enjoy it.
More importantly, I recognize that I have a lot of interests and I also cherish my family and friends. They’re also my sources of happiness and fulfillment. And that’s why I make time for them, too.
For me, there’s nothing to balance… only days to fill.
I don’t think about work-life balance… I only think about life, and how I can fill it with the things that bring me joy – work, hobbies, family, friends, and everything else.
How do you achieve work-life balance?
The answer is you don’t. Or more accurately, you shouldn’t be thinking about how to achieve work-life balance.
Instead, you should focus on how to attain a fulfilled life.
And for me, this means finding work that’s meaningful and challenging, pursuing your many interests, nurturing your relationships with family and friends, and experiencing that unique fulfillment that comes from helping others.