Did you know that you can deduce how much money someone earns by asking them a simple question?
You can, in fact, deduce a lot about them, about their principles, ethics, dreams, and goals.
What is that question?
Well, it’s simple.
“Do you believe in work-life balance?”
If it takes you less than 10 seconds to have a negative emotional reaction to what I am implying here, stop and think about why.
If you feel the need to say, “Yeah, but…” you should also stop for a minute and ask yourself if life’s a balancing act or not, and if going through life as if walking on tightrope is the only available option.
If you pay close attention to extremely successful people sharing stories about their habits and principles, you’d notice they’re all about the hustle.
Elon Musk once shared a simple advice, “Work like hell.”
The trouble is, most people burn out. Folks end up in the hospital. Some even worse.
Warning: Your Belief in The So-Called “Work-Life Balance” Is Actually Ruining Your Life
Work-life balance. Financial freedom. Self-help. Motivation. Lifestyle advice.
The “ten minutes” this or that. The “five steps to” this or that. The easy way. The shortcut you never knew needed.
Building a life you’re proud of.
Somehow managing to come up with more than twenty four hours in a day, so you get to do all the things you want to do. Yay!
There are an awful lot of gurus out there telling you that life can be easy, if only…
If only it weren’t hard.
There’s no such thing as a work-life balance. Life is not a balancing act, unless you want to fall flat on your face from a great height.
After all, what’d you expect would happen if you constantly go through life as if walking on tightrope?
Here’s the truth about work: most of the times we don’t feel like doing it, because work is, in many regards, no matter how civilized we become, work is simply the struggle to stay alive.
It’s serious business.
Then why are we struggling to do the work? Because we are masters of self-sabotage.
If you naively allow yourself to be seduced by the work life balance myth, you’ll expose yourself to all kinds of mental self sabotage. Your unconscious mind knows you don’t really want to divide your time in such a way as to please everyone in your life.
Your unconscious self, in its infinite wisdom, will work hard to make sure you spend as little time possible on what you don’t think is that important and spend more time on what’s truly important.
Eventually it will “save” you from having to balance life altogether! This is what people call “failure”.
Your work is your life.
There is no free time. You only have time. That’s it. Time. Small parts of your life, parts that you’re never getting back.
This is a simple truth, yet one that terrifies us. And we complicate things by telling ourselves the story of, “do what you love.”
At the same time, we are well aware of the fact that work translates into, “give up comfort.”
Work means giving up on immediate pleasures.
There is no balance. There is only the promise of satisfaction once we’ve done the work, and the trouble we must go through to find it.
Trying to manage it, to find a balance, puts a lot of mental strain on your ability to derive pleasure from the work you do.
Don’t tell me you were never so excited to do something that you forgot to sleep, eat, or go to the toilet?
But why does that happen? What’s the trick?
The trick is that there’s no work-life balance. There’s no work.
Alan Watts, who popularized Zen concepts in the west, who messed with my brain quite a bit by telling me I might be God pretending not to be God, and making it seem quite plausible, also touched on the notion of “work.”
In his own words:
“You are involved by and large in a very strange business system which divides your day into work and play. Work is something that everybody does and you get paid to do it because nobody could care less about doing it. In other words, it is so abominable and boring that you can get paid for doing it. And the object of doing this is to make money. And the object of making money, is to go home and enjoy the money that you’ve made. When you got it, you see, “you can buy pleasure.”
There Is No Such Thing As Work-Life Balance
The trouble with trying to find a work-life balance is that you instinctively define “work” as something to be avoided; it’s the price you must pay in order to be able to find a bit of comfort or leisure.
Work as a necessary evil is the mindset of the unsuccessful. When you think like that, work becomes hell, and all you want to do is escape it or brainwash yourself to be able to endure it.
That’s why most people work towards retirement, towards their yearly vacation, towards the weekend.
They can’t wait to fall asleep while the successful can’t wait to wake up in the morning.
All we have is life-time. Time you take from your life. There’s is no work. There never was.
Thousands of years ago, our work was to fight for our survival. To hunt, to gather, to look after one another, to escape predators. That’s the work that must be done.
In today’s world, however, it gets tricky to make the difference between what must be done in order to survive and what is considered “play.”
But what if we stopped comparing work to leisure, what if we considered everything to be play?
Change the Narrative
The story you tell yourself that you are going to work, doing the work, or thinking about work, means that you see the tasks and demands of your work as something you have to force yourself to do.
We take this approach to most things we do in life, and it’s the main reason why we struggle with discipline.
Work requires of you that you force yourself to do it, while play is something that inspires you to do it.
When asked, “what is it that you love about your work?” my answer is, “everything.”
I am not working, I am playing a game.
I am reframing the things that I do not want to do as work, and I am actively trying to derive not only pleasure from moments of leisure but also meaning. I am trying to turn my free time into work time.
Whenever I watch a movie, I can either decide to review it, use it for inspiration, or use it as research. This changes what type of content I consume, of course.
It’s not work. It’s play. It’s fun.
Right now, as I write these words, I am playing. It’s a game. A game, if it is to be enjoyed, requires that we are curious about the journey and the outcome, while work usually is all about the destination.
I am curious to see how people react to me playing the game, while also enjoying the outcome of my mental process right now. It’s a game.
Maybe a more ridiculous, but yet relatable example, would be doing the dishes. If you struggle with it, you can turn it into a game. Set a timer, see how long it takes you to do the dishes. Each time you have to do the dishes, aim to break your previous record.
It sounds too silly to work, but it does.
We all did this when we were kids, when we tried to turn even the most boring tasks into games, challenges, and so on.
Granted, there are times when this mental hack does not work. There are times when we must do the work, and we are in no mood for games. It happens.
But no system is perfect, no trick works forever. This is a mental shortcut that works most of the time, and using it increases your productivity in ways you never before thought possible.
Most of the activities that we consider enjoyable, our passions so to speak, whether it’s writing, working out, reading, painting, they become our passions because they are a form of play.
When we don’t attach the negative connotations of work to a certain activity, we strive to get the most out of it. Games demand of us that we become the best we can at them.
If you feel inclined to think of this as nonsense, you should ask yourself what is it that allows you to define work and play. What makes the difference between the two?
And isn’t it true that you have the power of changing the narrative that accompanies the work that you do?
Nothing in the world is interesting unless we are interested in it.
I hate numbers, and I hate math, but my aunt is fascinated by numbers. An accountant by trade, numbers is what she enjoys most in life.
My girlfriend is a pharmacist, and as such, is fascinated by chemistry and medication and all that. I am frustrated by my inability to relate to her passion. The opposite is true: she’s always struggled with her writing assignments.
But rather than leaving this to chance, we can actively try to reframe the work we must do as play.
The reason for doing your best to reframe work as play is that you will stop waiting for the task to be over. We cannot enjoy the journey if all we think about is the destination.
If you can’t wait to get off work, go home, and relax, then you need to understand that the work that you do will be mediocre at best.
The 1% of artists, athletes, entrepreneurs see their work as play. They are playing a game. And a game always demands of us that we focus on reaching mastery.
You can only become so good they can’t ignore you if you’re willing to play the game because you love it, not because you want to win.
If you despise your work, if you are caught in the rat race, even if you win, you’re still a rat.
You must do the work. We all must do the work, no matter what it means, what are its consequences, but we can also turn work into play, and by doing so we can aspire to become the best at what we do.
To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, whatever we decide to be, we must be good at it.
And in order to be good, we must stop the balancing act of trying to find time for both work and pleasure, and do our best to make our work pleasurable instead.