I remember interviewing someone for a key leadership position at my operation in Thailand, and halfway through the conversation, as he was telling me about his qualifications, he announced, with much pride, that he was an alcoholic and had a lot of passion for what he did. Startled at this revelation and puzzled as to why he would so freely divulge this information and wear it as a badge of honor, I circled back to the comment and asked him to elaborate a little. He went on to mention a few more times that he had been an alcoholic for as long as he could remember and that his job always came first. Upon further questioning, the poor fellow realized that he had been saying “alcoholic” when he meant to be saying “workaholic!”
Most workaholics are indeed proud to sacrifice everything else for their career. As for the rest of us who actually want a life, there is something called work-life balance that we are constantly trying to achieve! The idea of work-life balance sounds like a great solution, I suppose, if you are in a situation where balancing your work and your life is a zero-sum game. In other words, if your work sucks the life out of you, you ought to not let your work interfere too much with your life. And if pursuits and hobbies in your personal life preclude you from bringing your best to work, then you have to take action to keep them both separate.
Over the years, there have been some attempts to redefine work-life balance. Instead of calling it balance, it has been given other names like “integration” or “flow.” In the end, no matter what you call it, it comes down to a give and take between your work and the rest of your personal life, because these two areas comprise the entirety of most people’s experience.
Instead of attempting to redefine the problem, the alternative I would offer is to stop addressing the symptom of the real problem and get down to the root cause of the issue. The true reason we struggle with attaining work-life balance is that 80% of people are not excited about or fully engaged in their work to begin with! It is difficult to achieve balance when most people hate or dread one side of the equation by default, so that’s where we need to start. And, as the saying goes, if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life!
What if we stopped trying to “balance” or “integrate,” or whatever other term you want to use, and started making a commitment to ourselves to be intentional about the kind of life we want and then do the kind of work that would enhance that life, and vice versa? What if we stopped obsessing over the money and the status and other tangible benefits of having a job that we may or may not enjoy, while trying to salvage what is left of us for our families and an occasional vacation? Why not design a life where work-life balance is not something we must strive to achieve, but rather comes about naturally because each flows into and supports the other?
This practice doesn’t have to involve giving up your desires for material possessions or living a life on some secluded beach that involves no challenges and therefore no growth and development. Just the opposite. Designing and living an extraordinary life requires us to figure out what kind of lifestyle we intend to have, what kind of work speaks to our soul, what kind of contribution we would like to make in this world, in what ways we want to grow, and so on. And the more grounded we are in what our ideal life would look and feel like, the more likely we are to pursue a profession that enriches our life and provides us with challenges that we look forward to overcoming. And I would argue that doing this is much more likely to result in our compensation and experience of reward increasing, rather than requiring us to give up on the supposed benefits of a job that we don’t even enjoy. Doing this also means that we are clear at what point the pursuit of more notoriety or wealth simply detracts from the life we want to live.
Does this mean we should never do anything that makes us feel uncomfortable or requires us to stretch ourselves in some way? Absolutely not. I believe when you are doing the work you love, you are much more likely to declare a bold future and go for it, and I am convinced that doing so will bring about more growth and development than constantly trying to under-promise and over-deliver. It is actually very invigorating and exciting to figure out how to overcome challenges in the course of going after something we are truly committed to, rather than being relatively comfortable in a job we have no passion for. As I always say, it is not the size of your challenges, but the size of your commitments that determine your experience of life.
If you are committed to living an extraordinary life, you may endure small detours that are either necessary or unavoidable, but your internal GPS will constantly bring you back to the path that is your ideal life experience as a whole person. Then all you have to do is pay attention to the guidance and resources all around you, and make decisions in service of creating the life you want to live, which includes the work you want to do. But if you want to be successful, you have to believe that achieving this type of work-life balance is possible in the first place.
If you don’t believe that you can make a great living at doing what you love, or that your work can actually be fun and exciting and it can enhance and enrich your life, you won’t have the wherewithal to pursue it and you will end up settling for being one of the 80+% of the people who are not fully engaged in their work and hoping in vain to find that work-life balance somehow. If you do believe it is possible, however, you ought to begin by imagining what a fulfilling life would look like, both in terms of your personal and professional life. Believe that it can happen will end up setting your internal GPS to keep you on the right path, and even if it takes you a while, you can trust that you will make whatever course corrections are necessary along the way to reach your destination.
I hope you have found this perspective to be thought-provoking and a call to action to go beyond work-life balance by designing and living a life you love. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on maintaining work-life balance. Have you been successful? Have you found it challenging? What tips and tricks do you have for others? Let us know in the comments below.
You can now listen to the new 5-part audio series, “Transforming Your Workplace Experience!" This audio series serves as both a great standalone introduction to culture transformation, as well as a companion to our previously available free culture transformation guide. In the series, I walk you through some applications and examples of the concepts presented in the guide, so that you can more effectively put them into practice and get motivated by the progress you will start making. I know that after learning and applying the concepts and distinctions that I present in the guide and audio series, you will be more qualified than ever to create extraordinary cultures that consistently deliver breakthrough results!
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About the Author: Amir Ghannad is an international keynote speaker, author of The Transformative Leader, leadership consultant, culture transformation champion, and founder of The Ghannad Group. He has made it his life's work to guide leaders and equip them with the tools, skills, and the mindset necessary to create extraordinary workplace cultures that deliver breakthrough results. Download his free e-book, titled 5 Practical Steps to Make Your Culture Transformation Stick by clicking here.
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As always, have a great week! May you Boldly Declare, Courageously Pursue, and Abundantly Achieve the Extraordinary!
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