Work and Life Go Together
Chances are that you are already familiar with the concept of work-life balance. It is a term people have been using for decades to describe the common tension that exists between the demands of a person’s job and the obligations and desires of their personal life. This term leads us to believe that the two things can be separated and an ideal balance can be achieved. Unfortunately (or fortunately as we will describe later) this is not possible. Work and life go hand in hand. The factors that make up our personal lives will undoubtedly cross-over into our work. They will affect our energy, motivation, capabilities, effort, and goals. Similarly, our work will surely cause ripples throughout all aspects of our life. The money we earn, the friends we make, the skills we develop, and the influences we are exposed to are all components of the workplace that shape our home life. Work and life are blended. It is unavoidable. Therefore, we can try to ignore this reality and keep striving to achieve a balance that cannot exist. Or we can accept what is true and learn to optimize how we blend work and life in a way that activates our greatest potential.
What is Work-Life Blend?
Work-Life Blend is a concept that recognizes work as an integral part of a person’s life that cannot be separated and isolated. In this context, work is more than merely a job. It is the answer the question “What do you do?” For most people, work is a professional or vocational career. For others, it is being a parent raising their children. Sometimes it is being an advocate, activist, philanthropist, sponsor, volunteer, or supporter of some endeavor. The difference between work and a hobby is that work creates a sense of obligation and responsibility that extends beyond our individual needs. Work connects us to our community by placing us in a role where we contribute to solving the problems or satisfying the desires of our society.
Work-Life Balance is a Myth
The work-life balance myth has commanded a prominent position in today’s culture because history has taken advantage of people’s capacity to work and has over exploited it to the point that so many people have been left deprived of the other essentials in life. However, that exploitation is not a defect of work. It is a result of bad actors and unintended systematic factors using material incentives to manipulate people into chasing higher paychecks and social status that a job promises to deliver. Much like junk food can leave people feeling full, but still hungry, this manipulation of incentives pulls people into the trap of career “success” while leaving them feeling unfulfilled in life. Thus, a solution is sought in the idea of balance. It would make sense that we need some type of counterweight to keep us from overinvesting our time and energy in our work and neglecting the other critical elements of life such as our relationships, wellness, and other self-interests. Despite the noble intention of work-life balance, this mindset is inherently limiting. Work-life balance forces you to focus on trade-offs. Deciding how to allocate time across different buckets and also leave you feeling unsatisfied and still hungry for more. This is why so many people find themselves stacking their plates with more than they can possibly handle. It is not that people are oblivious to the stress that can arise from setting ambitious goals and taking on many pursuits. The issue is that people crave fulfillment. Most of us want to get the most of our life and maximize the time we have. Work-life balance won’t give us that.
Work-Life Blend Activates Potential
Work-life blend offers a much better approach than work-life balance if your desire is to achieve greater potential in life. Blending work and life requires a mindset where you look at how every facet of life is connected and how they interact with each other. With that mindset, you can then start to look for opportunities to align your focus and outcomes across these facets. The more your focus and outcomes align, the easier it will be to tailor your actions and routines in ways that create compounding benefit. Similar to compound interest accruing from an investment, compound benefit accruing from your actions will activate exponentially greater potential in your life compared to actions that create conflict and tension. For a simple example, consider a person that is focused on getting in better physical shape. If that person works a 9 to 5 job, has family responsibilities, then tries to get in shape by going to a fitness class each day, it will be quite challenging for that person to stick with their goal. The person already has a schedule that is pretty committed, so squeezing in time for a class will require finding an extra hour or two per day. That will most likely add stress, strain relationships, be less enjoyable, and ultimately force compromise in other areas of life. However, if that person instead identified ways to stack multiple actions together, then the outcome is more achievable while providing additional benefits. For instance, incorporating walks with business calls or meetings during the day can refresh the mind making the person more alert and engaged. It can also offer a more relaxed environment for better bonding between colleagues to occur. Another possibility is to incorporate more physical activity in the evenings with a spouse or kids. This provides the necessary exercise while also enhancing family relationships. Weaving this approach into every part of your day could make a tremendous difference. Every activity and interaction has the potential to serve several goals and yield multiple benefits.