The “Work/Life” Balance Paradox is Crap! You Should Toss It Out on Its Ear.

Everyone talks about work/life balance.

In life it's not as much fun as these guys appear to be having!

Almost no one actually achieves it.

Yet we all still hold it up as some sort of ideal objective for which to strive.

You know what they say about the people who keep doing the same thing, expecting a different result…

Now I’m not calling you stupid, because I have been there too!

My Soul-Sucking, “Knock-the-Wind-Out-of-You” Job

My stomach used to contract and my heart would race as I pulled into the parking lot.

I knew I needed to do something different, but I had no energy to even know where to begin.

Things were so out of whack that I felt trapped, frightened and immobilized. Here’s how I described it in my book. 

“I was working at a large academic medical center. It was stable, but it was draining my sense of purpose.  On my way to the office in the morning, I would have to psych myself up to face the day as I strolled from the parking lot to the building.

My office was in the basement of the hospital,right around the corner from the autopsy department,and I had to pass the morgue each day as I entered the building. Every time I passed that door, I felt as if I were a dead man, walking.  My body was alive, but my spirit resembled the corpses housed behind the secured door.”

From An Imperceptible Spark: Finding the Courage to Live a Life of Joy

Have you had one of these jobs?

The bills keep piling up

The kids need money for various activities.

You gotta save for retirement.

You feel as if you’re laying, spread eagle on the rack of life, being pulled in a dozen different directions.

All you can do is keep treading water like hell, hoping to keep your head above the level of the waves.

The “work/life” balance isn’t working. It’s time to do something different, but what?

Change Your Beliefs

How you experience your life is due, in large part, to the beliefs you hold about life.  If you change your beliefs, your life experience will shift.

This weekend, one of the Facebook friends on the True Spiritual Awakening page asked a powerful question which prompted this post and this week’s podcast.

“What if you don’t know what to do in life…how does one achieve balance or alignment?”

Ultimately, there is no magic pill.  There is no secret formula.  Only you can answer this question.  Your soul will guide you, but I know that it can be terrifying to follow your intuition.

Here are some tips to help you!

  1. 1. Refuse to Give Up
    Don’t quit. No matter what. Don’t settle for less than what you know you are capable of.  You’ll figure it out. Life is not a sprint. It is your life. The only way you can “mess it up” is by refusing to live it.  Don’t quit. You are bound to win.
  1. 2. Respect Your Journey
    No matter what others say, your journey is your journey. Even if it takes you 50 years, that’s okay. You will tread the path you need to tread to learn your lessons. Respect yourself and never let someone else disparage you.  They are on their own journey and that’s okay.
  1. 3. Recognize Your Responsibility
    You are not responsible for the disappointed expectations of others.  If those around you express disappointment in the journey that you choose to embark on or the manner in which you choose to travel, realize that this disappointment rises from within them and has nothing to do with you.  Let it go.

It’s Time for a New Approach

Let me give you a personal example. When I felt trapped in my previous job, I knew something had to change.  I was hesitant to just walk away because the job did provide me some stability.  I struggled though.

How long am I willing to sell myself short? I wondered. How much is my unhappiness worth?

I felt like I was selling out on my dreams, yet I was terrified of leaving it behind and ending up in a worse situation that what I was in.

So, I started with baby steps.  I started by identifying what I wanted.

For me, it was that I wanted to feel better so that I could have enough clarity to decide the next step without feeling like I was jumping off a cliff without a parachute.

Once I realized that I wanted to feel better, I had a thought that started to change everything for me.

What if I focus on bringing more and more joy into my situation–without struggling to change it on the outside.  I thought.  What would happen if I created more and more of what I want right where I am?

That premise changed everything for me.  Notice that this was an internal shift before it was ever an external one!

What would happen if you created more and more of what you want right where you are right now? 

How would life change?  I challenge you to try it.  Begin to ask yourself this power question. It has the potential to change your life.

Another Power Question

The quality of your questions will determine the quality of your life.

I’m going to ask you one of the most important questions of your life. I want you take the time to really think about this question and write down some serious answers to it, because they will give you a blueprint for the action steps you need to take going forward.

Here is the question. Are you ready?

What do you value most?

It is easy to dismiss this question by saying something trite, like “my family, of course.”

I’m calling bullshit on you if you try to answer the question that quickly. If this were true, all of us would be living perfectly balanced and peaceful lives.

There is an element of truth in our superficial answers, but there is also the sliver of untruth which is the cause of our pain and disability around which our unbalance festers.

For example, I value flexibility. I’m not sure why, but I love having the flexibility to work late at night. I like being able to make a grocery run in the middle of the day when no one else is at the store.

Find out what it is that you value.

Do you value structure?

Do you value connection?

Do you value consistency?

There is no “right” answer.  The important thing is to be honest with yourself.

A Stupid Paradox That You Should Ditch

Here’s a belief you need to let go of.  It is the paradox of “either/or.”

Life doesn’t have to be either/or.  We come to this place because we have certain expectations or beliefs about how life should unfold.

We believe that you must either focus on your family, or on your career.  You can’t do both.

True. (and false!)

Let me clarify.

You must focus on your family or your career if you want them both to fit the picture you have of success in either venue.

But what if you involved your family in your career?  What if you made your family your career?  What if you clarified what success meant to you so precisely, that you determine that a successful career (at the expense of your family) doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s?

Give up the “either/or” paradox.  You are a creative being. You are connected to infinite Source. You don’t have to be limited by the expectations or assumptions of others.

Clarifying what is really most important to you and finding a way to create that experience will be the hardest work you have ever done, but it will also be the most rewarding.

A Powerful Tool

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that I like to take the philosophical and make it (often boringly) practical.

Here is a tool that will help you to move forward.  It’s simple (and yes, boring) but insanely practical.

It is a question.  Learn to adapt it to your situation and circumstances.  Ask it often.  Follow the answers you receive and ask it again and again.

How can I ___________________which also fulfills my value of _____________________?
       (obligation or responsibility)                                    (value or desired outcome) 

So, for example, my question would be “How can I build a business that supports me and fulfills my value of flexibility?

Your brain will begin to open up to all sorts of exciting potential answers to this puzzle.

How would you fill in this question?  Share it in the comments below.

Also, please Tweet/Share this post.

 Photo Credit: Stephen Boisvert

About Steve

Hi, I'm Steve Rice and my goal is to transform simple philosophical truths into practical fuel to revolutionize your life. It's not about self-help, it's about self-reliance. I show you how. Connect with me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter and let me know how I can help you.

  • Spot on thoughts, Steve! We too often ignore what we know should be address. We skirt issues. We muddle through. It is time to stop, because time will stop. We need to use our time to its fullest! Jon

    • Steve

      Thanks so much, Jon! Appreciate you sharing my work. I think you’re absolutely right. We skirt the real issues instead of facing them head-on. Life is best lived in the present…moment by moment.

    • Thanks so much, Jon! Appreciate you sharing my work. I think you’re absolutely right. We skirt the real issues instead of facing them head-on. Life is best lived in the present…moment by moment.

  • Hey Steve, agreed, work life balance is poo poo! I don’t think your questions are ‘boringly practical’ they are more pausing for clarity. 🙂 Give up either/or — that’s the key. Thanks.

    • Steve

      Hi, Dawn! Thanks for stopping by and sharing the post on Twitter. Haha…I appreciate you catching the ‘boringly practical’ comment! Sometimes I think we (or at least I do) are looking for something really intense or ground-breaking for a breakthrough when it’s really just following through on what we know to do…or what our soul is telling us is right for us.

      Yeah, giving up either/or is so powerful…in every area of our lives.

    • Hi, Dawn! Thanks for stopping by and sharing the post on Twitter. Haha…I appreciate you catching the ‘boringly practical’ comment! Sometimes I think we (or at least I do) are looking for something really intense or ground-breaking for a breakthrough when it’s really just following through on what we know to do…or what our soul is telling us is right for us.

      Yeah, giving up either/or is so powerful…in every area of our lives.

  • How serendipitous we both posted about work-life balance just a day apart! I agree with much of what you’ve written here, Steve.

    My experience has been most people think of work-life balance as an external experienced that can be achieved through prioritizing and scheduling. I have found work-life balance to be an internal experience that is about taking care of myself, enjoying the present moment, and living intentionally. Living intentionally ties into your question about what we value most. When I achieve these three goals I feel happy and balanced in my life.

    I love that you mentioned the paradox of either/or. Life presents us with many opportunities and what we experience is often largely up to us! Life isn’t good or bad and along that same thinking work is not bad while play is good. There is good and bad in every experience and every day. The best we can really do is honor ourselves, our experience, and each other and make positive progress where we can.

    Have a grateful day!


    • I know what you mean, Chrysta! More and more, I experience these serendipitous situations with my friends online. So fantastic.

      Your advice to “honor ourselves, our experience and each other” is SO key! Thanks for sharing it in such a succinct manner. Love this.

  • We share a similar story about the j.o.b. situation so this post really resonated with me, especially with so much content telling us to work towards work/life balance. I get where they are coming from and it’s like anything else in life – balance is key.

    But until we really understand what we value, what are we balancing? You’re on to something with this one Steve! 😉


    • Thanks, kesha…that’s exactly what I was getting at with this post. Looking forward to discussing this more in detail with you on your podcast! 🙂

  • Lisa Marie

    Your post is timely for me. Although I don’t have a dead-end, soul-sucking j.o.b. any more, I’ve been hustling during the day to try to make time for things I enjoy. This is all in hopes of achieving some kind of “balance.” Ha ha ha, right? I know you’re laughing at me in a loving way. I realized for years, I’ve been on this path, working my tail off and never finding the time for the things that matter to me besides my work. Then, I’d feel guilty for engaging in what some call “overwork,” when for me, I love to work on writing at times for 12 hours per day! I enjoy it. It is my version of balance. I think balance is subjective, of course. Yet, I am working towards having a more sane life. I recently reduced the time I’m wired and also, my TV time. At times, big projects take center stage and I have laser focus, not being able to do much else. I also learned how to delegate some things that were draining me, mainly housework and tech stuff. It helps for sure. I think I’ll rebel against those notions of balance that I had before 🙂 Thanks for making me think and asking the provocative questions. I’m still working on filling in the blanks 🙂

    • I think this is such an important point, Lisa! Sometimes life is out of balance so that we can gain greater balance in other areas. That’s part of my point…tho you made it much more articulately. 🙂

      For me, it’s important that my life energy be intricately intertwined with my life work (and leisure). I don’t want to make a distinction …more of a “time for everything” kind of life!