In this Work Life Play podcast episode, I share a core philosophy that reshaped my daily life experience. As the title states, I don’t believe work-life balance is achievable-it’s a myth.
Here is the original post I wrote (reposted below) and accompanied podcast here.
Let go of work-life balance and embrace the unforced rhythms of a fully integrated life. I used to think that work-life balance was achievable.
Now I believe it is a myth.
No matter how hard I tried, I could never achieve this perfect moment of everything in my life working in perfect Zen harmony and balance.
I felt so exhausted trying to stay in balance
The way forward isn’t exhaustion. It isn’t juggling, stretching, or herculean gymnastic efforts to come through for others while ignoring yourself. The way forward is an integrated, wholehearted life.
The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor, and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence in whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him, he’s always doing both.”-James Michener
Here’s why I wasn’t able to achieve balance
After the death of our daughter Hadley in 2011, I found myself desperately trying to hold my life together. My marriage was suffering. My kids needed their dad. And my already intense corporate career as an executive was only getting more complicated as responsibilities and promotions kept coming my way.
I was burning out but didn’t admit it.
Anybody else could see the signs a mile away. I was so focused on what was right in front of me that when it finally hit-I was utterly blindsided. And the solution was nothing short of a complete do-over—a “reboot,” as we called it. We sold our house and everything, down to the last fork. We spent the summer serving at a Young Life camp, finding a new normal.
It wasn’t easy. It took brutal months of inner work, therapy programs, tears, and facing the old stories that no longer served us. Stories like “I have to do it all” and “I can’t trust anybody else to get it done.” But out of that, we emerged with a new vision for our life—a new story-A life filled with excitement, ambition, love, rest, forgiveness, and hope.
As we began this journey creating a new life
I realized my software executive career no longer aligned with the person I had become. For so long, I had tried to find the fabled work-life balance.
The problem was I didn’t want my life to be compartmentalized anymore, with each area staying separate from the other. I wanted it all integrated into one wild, beautiful mess.
Once I stopped trying to achieve work-life balance, I discovered a third-way rhythm, “a repeated pattern of movement” where work, life, play, relationships, rest, finances, friendships, and adventure could co-exist within my experience of each day.
I began to experience my life as a complete whole where every valuable aspect was connected and worked together. I discovered more of God’s presence and meaning in ways I had never noticed. It radically transformed my life for the better-my mission now is to share that discovery with as many people as possible (like you).
Aligning the work I do, with who I’d become
Ultimately I left my corporate executive career behind. After eight months of living off of savings, pursuing work that fit the person I had become, and taking our checking account down to $1500, I discovered a new career doing work that I truly loved. That fit within this new integrated life we were architecting. (Fun fact, my first client meeting in my new career as an executive leadership coach happened less than 1 mile from where I resigned from my old gig just months before. Talk about coming full circle.)
Loosening our grip on balance
My story isn’t about making millions, retiring early, or living a carefree “work 2 hours a week” lifestyle. That’s all great, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. Like you, I still work a full-time, 40-50 hour work week.
I’m talking about loosening our grip on perfection and balance by living a more meaningful, fulfilled, and wholly integrated life in your current environment- In the career, relationships, and body you’re in-resulting in a life full of adventure and meaning.
I’ve discovered another way to operate in the world. I am at choice. I no longer live under the “shoulds” and “ought to’s” of my creation or the expectations of others.
Living a life true to myself
Three closing wisdom invitations, starting with “If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.” I believe you see this within your experience.
Bronnie Ware is a palliative care provider and author The Top Five Regrets the Dying. She captured her results over years of sharing the last weeks and days with her patients who’d moved home from the hospital to die. In their final conversations, the patients discussed any regrets they had or anything they wished they would have done differently. Here’s what she heard. Take a good listen, keeping in mind work-life balance vs. wholehearted living.
The Top Five:
1) I wish I’d dared to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2) I wish I’d not worked so hard.
3) I wish I’d dared to express my feelings.
4) I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5) I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best with your own life.-Saint Paul
I used to think that work-life balance was achievable. Now I believe it’s a myth. Let go of work-life balance and embrace the unforced rhythms of a fully integrated life. Embrace the mess, the beauty-the imperfection of integration.
And now, here is the invitation for us all:
-To do your best work
-To become wholehearted
-To play and live adventurously
Will you accept it? I hope you do.
Let’s navigate a well-lived life together.