Now and again phrases enter the lexicon and join our conversations without us considering what they really mean. Have you noticed how many politicians have adopted ‘let me be clear’ in recent years, as though clarity from leaders is a new communication theory and something we should pay attention to?

A phrase in the workplace that’s used almost as lazily is work/life balance. Many of us are apparently searching for it, defining it, pushing for it and supporting the idea of it without knowing that the phrase itself is actually pretty meaningless.

Work/Life Balance. Balancing work and life. Because work and life are in opposition. Because our work is separate from the real lives we lead and our real lives bear no relation to the work we do. So we have to balance them, nullify the conflict and hope they never meet, because that could cause carnage. Sounds horrible.

I don’t want work/life balance. I want to create a great life.



Balance has its place:

Bank account? Good to be balanced.

Performance feedback we receive? More helpful if it’s balanced. 

Weight distribution on the plane we’re taking off in? Yep, balance here would be nice. 

The mental state of the surgeon about to operate on us? Definitely.


But think about the Olympics - do you think the top performers got there through a ‘well-balanced’ performance, with everything managed, in check, considered and just right?

Maybe, somewhere, but it didn’t get much of a cheer.

In the crowd, we’re looking for the balls-out, beyond the limits, adrenaline-filled and heart-stopping efforts that result in glory or failure and give us new champions to celebrate and heroes to inspire us. And in those moments, we all feel alive; in touch with the power of the human spirit and elated when others deliver what seems a super-human effort.

The best performances aren’t balanced. The best moments aren’t balanced. And your best moments at work were when your life was involved, where you brought your full-self to the mix; when it was messy and stressful and exciting and tiring but where you showed up and we all saw the best of you. And you probably lost track of time.



I don’t want balance between my life and my work, because they’re not separated and they’re not in opposition to each other. Being alive means getting the chance to create a full and fulfilling life for myself and those around me, grasping hold of every moment and squeezing the juice out of it, whether it’s something I get paid for or not. I choose LIFE, which includes work, rest, boredom, joy, set-backs, excitement, frustration and elation…and a heart that beats every second to remind me that I’m here.

If today you’re searching for work/life balance, there’s something deeper needs a slice of your attention. If you’re in a job that seems in opposition to the life you want or if the life in you can’t be reflected in the work you do, something needs to change in one of those aspects. A great work/life is where living involves working and when what we do resonates with the life inside us and our talents are used to make a difference.

And that doesn’t sound like something that needs balancing.


Why work/life balance won’t give you what you’re looking for

Published on October 18, 2016 by Tim Robson