A friend of mine was really unhappy, so he decided to have a conversation with a personal coach.
He complained: “My work is totally meaningless. I’m tired of doing every day the same tasks that are neither interesting nor challenging. My work does not use my experience neither my skills.”
The coach asked: “So why don’t you look for a new job? Why do you continue working for this company if you feel so miserable?”
My friend said: “Because I don’t have to work hard. I don’t have to stay long hours at the office. And then I can have lots of time to be with my wife and children.”
The coach replied: “Is it really worth it? Your wife has lots of time with an unhappy husband. Your children have lots of time with a Daddy who feels miserable.”
My friend quit his job. He now works harder but is happier. He now has less time to be with his wife and children, but this is quality time.
The topic of Work-Life balance has become very popular recently, with many articles trying to help people to find the proper division of time and energy between their Work and the rest of their Lives.
This is one definition of Balance from a dictionary: “a state in which different things occur in equal or proper amounts or have an equal or proper amount of importance”. In other words, balance applies to the equilibrium of quantities or to the equilibrium of priorities.
However, as illustrated in the short story above, the real problem is not one of quantities nor priorities. The problem is Quality. If we hate our job, the solution is not to work less. Actually, by working less, we are drastically reducing the chances that we may do anything meaningful. People who are really passionate about their careers have no problem of working hard.
This is best expressed in a quote by Confucius:
“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
Another problem with the proponents of Work-Life Balance is the assumption that it’s easy to enjoy the time we are not working. As if all the time we are not in the office could be considered leisure time, in which we have fun with our family and friends, we practice sports and get distracted with our hobbies.
However the sad reality for lots of people is that their Lives outside of Work are not so much enjoyable than their time in the office. Ask people who have to take care of small children or old parents (or both) how easy are their Lives. Ask a couple which is having fights and considering divorce if the solution to their problems is to simply spend more time together, without improving their relationship.
So again the issue is not one of finding the Balance between Work and Life. The goal is improving the Quality of both our Work and our Life. And improving the quality of the time we spend with our family and friends is not necessarily easier than being happy with our job.
As a friend once said to me:
“I have fun at the office. My work starts when I arrive at home.”
Our goal should not be the Balance between Work and Life. Our goal should be the constant improvement of the Quality of both our Work and our Life.
Think about it, your problem never is work-life balance:
- If you hate your job and you hate your life – Your problem is not work-life balance.
- If you hate your job but you love your life – You need to find a job you love.
- If you love your job but you hate your life – You need some counselling.
- If you love your job and you love your life – Congratulations! You don’t care about work-life balance.