Work / Life Balance is a goal we’re all supposed to aim for, and why not?
Work / Life Balance is a land where we have time to find a partner, have children without letting it derail our career, be the kind of Mum who has time to bake cookies from scratch, do yoga every Thursday night, keep the house tidy, volunteer, maintain a vibrant social circle, fit in self-care AND have a spectacular, fulfilling, purpose-driven work life to boot.
Who wouldn’t want that?
Let’s cut right to it : Balance. Is. Bullshit.
I work from home with my kids. I quit the rat race, ran screaming from my cubicle, never looked back. I’m the captain of my ship. I do work that is purposeful and fulfilling.
I must live a balanced life, right?
To do work that is meaningful, that will fill your heart up and that might even change the world – that requires the opposite of balance.
Blasphemy, I know. But true nonetheless.
To live our best lives, to find that sweet spot of fulfillment, satisfaction, joy – we must surrender completely. To our goals, to our passion, to the work itself.
If we really want to sink deeply into a calling, if we want to say YES wholeheartedly to our life’s purpose, we must say NO to all the rest.
That means imperfection, that means letting things go, that means abandoning expectations.
For me, that means leaving laundry for lambing, burning down my ideals of success, failing over and over and OVER and starting again anyway.
Weirdly, when I let go of my pursuit of balance, the SENSE of balance comes.
When we are completely immersed in the thing, in the doing, in the work itself, we find the flow and hover there, suspended. Bliss.
Watch any young child absorbed in solitary play and you will see it there. Complete immersion. Complete surrender.
The opposite of balance. Something better.
What would our lives look like if we abandoned the pursuit of balance completely?
Would we find time for our true calling? Would we learn to prioritize Deep Work and all the benefits it contains? Would we forgo Twitter to write a book? Would we let go of expectation? Would we trade the unattainable “perfect” for the tangible realization of “good”?
All the best parts of my life have come from chucking balance and all it’s B.S. out the window.
I think about my time pursuing my BFA – my days were consumed by work; making, looking at, reading, writing, thinking and talking about art. It was one of the most challenging seasons of my life. It was also one of the most rewarding and productive.
This has been true of motherhood, where everything, everything must be subordinated to nurturing a newborn babe. Exhausting, decidedly unbalanced, life-affirming and life-changing work.
The same has been true of farming well, where the weather and the seasons set the pace, not my desire for “me time”.
Is it more difficult to live an unbalanced life?
Well, yes and no.
It is hard work, and brave work, but it is absolutely doable.
Pursuing “balance” waters down your life’s purpose. It gets in the way of what matters, and if you pursue balance in the way we’ve been taught, you’ll find you’ll never get there.
Your life will be smaller than it might have been if you’d kicked “balance” to the curb and went all-in on the (very few) things that count.
It takes courage. Women from Gen X on have been taught that we can “have it all”. To reject that notion as the great big ball of self-defeating crap that it is takes guts.