On the spectrum of choices that has work at one end and life outside of work at the other, should you try to be in the middle? Isn’t the common wisdom that creating a good balance between the two is required to lead a healthy and happy life and that good balance means equal amounts of both? So-called experts are always spouting off about how successful people have figured out how to maintain equal parts work and “life” and that there is a direct correlation between their ability to do this and their success; concluding that there is a perfect formula for making it all work.
The problem is, most statements like these are vast oversimplifications of the situation. There is no one formula for balancing work and life – each person has their own and, like most things in life, it’s dynamic. Therein lies the challenge. You have to figure out what is best for you at any given time and try to make it work. Two things that are for sure, though, your balance is unlikely to be the same as what works for anyone else and it’s probably not going to be with equal parts work and life.
If you’re like me, the more I read about finding the illusive work:life balance, the guiltier I felt about my obvious bias towards work. From my point of view, though, and in retrospect, my mistake was the guilty feeling about my choices, not the actual balance that I chose. Which, for me, worked out pretty well . . . so far, anyway.
I’m a great proponent of the idea that insanely hard work leads to happiness. I’ve dedicated most of my career to doing just that, although now I’m in a different, lazier phase. Luckily, I’m one of many who enjoys long hours, huge amounts of stress and juggling a thousand balls at the same time. Not so much for the financial rewards such efforts sometimes bring, which can be great, for sure, but for the excitement and contentment such an effort gives me. For me, there’s nothing quite like the exhilaration that I feel from knowing that my efforts were the root cause of the creation or success of something. From my perspective, there is no life without that feeling. For most of my career, the needle on my work:life balance gauge was virtually pegged on the big W at one end. It worked well for me.
Are there tradeoffs to immersing yourself this way? Sure. There are tradeoffs with any balancing act, by definition. The point is, that if you recognize those tradeoffs and enjoy what you do and how you do it, then accept it and be happy with the ride. Scott Converse, founder and CEO of ClickCaster captures it very well in his post, Are Early Stage Startups and Normal Lives Incompatible?
In concept, you should spend equal time and energy in work and play, business and pleasure, enterprise and family. Odds are, though, that balance won’t work for you. If it does, great. Go for it. If 100% work and 0% life works for you. Do that – no guilt, no questions. Similarly, if your balance is 100% life with 0% work, do that instead (I hope those youth hostels are working out for you). All formulas are cool – there is only right and wrong with respect to you as an individual – there’s no global application. The only mistakes you can make come from trying to apply someone else’s view on what the right balance is to your life and in continuing your current balance without analyzing it once in a while to see if a change is needed to maximize your happiness.