Forget Achieving Life Balance and Try This Instead

Life balance is a weird idea for many, and especially those who want success or are into personal development will scratch their heads thinking about it. I just can’t imagine Bill Gates or Michael Jordan focusing on achieving life balance and still ending up where they are.

Yet, there seems to be something to this idea, as a lot of people with one-dimensional lives end up suffering from burnout or being unhappy. So, what’s the key to this riddle?

I think the whole concept of life balance is misguiding. It basically refers to splitting your time and your focus in a balanced way between o couple of major areas of you life: career, family and personal time usually. The premise is that ignoring one of these areas is dangerous and will end up making you feel miserable.

The big problem I have with this concept of life balance is that it treats these areas of life as ends in themselves. I see them as means to an end. And I see the end as… needs balance.

We humans, as evolved beings, have a couple of major needs. Here’s a way of splitting them up, of the top of my mind:

  • The basic needs for food, water, shelter, and adequate climate;
  • The need to be healthy and fit, psychically and mentally;
  • The need for learning and personal development;
  • The need for rest, relaxation and recreation;
  • The need to interact socially, to connect with others;
  • The need to achieve and to impact the world we live in.

The essence of a fulfilling life is in my perspective not balancing the areas of our life, but balancing taking care of these needs. And even this balance is a somewhat relative one, as the exact intensity of every one of those sets of needs will not be the same for a person.

The good news is that the world we life in offers many lifestyle options. We can create for ourselves all kinds of balanced or unbalanced combinations of activities related to career, family, hobbies, and end up achieving this relative needs balance. It’s really about fulfillment by finding those activities that allow you to make the most out of them and out of you.

Think of a person who is a book critic, and gets learning and personal development ideas by reading books, while also making money and impacting people by reviewing them. Two birds with one shot. Right now, I’m thinking of my salsa instructor whose job description involves a lot of going to salsa parties, dancing and socializing. Pretty cool, ha?

I believe you can even get needs balance without having a family, and you can get needs balance without having a job. At the same time, balancing the major life areas sometimes has a lot of chances of not creating needs balance.

This is why focusing on life balance can end up making you feel like there’s something missing in your life, and frustrated cause you don’t know why. Instead, focus on a personal needs balance rather then the development of life balance, and I think you’ll be just fine.

Comments

  1. I just got done this week writing a two-part series about finding balance but after reading this I can definitely see some truth to what you are saying. Overall it is an interesting perspective, but I am not sure if it is a complete rebuttal to the concept of balanced living.
    .-= Steven Handel´s last blog ..33 Questions from Dragos Roua =-.

  2. Hi Steven,

    I don’t think it’s a complete rebuttal either. Rather, a re-framing.

  3. In life we must Live to play and play in order to Live, personal development is about learning and growing g in order to play our best game. set a goals and play the game “Great post ”

    http://www.mpdspace.com/blog/humor/foreplay-the-key-to-sexy-goal-setting/

  4. Hey Eduard:

    I honestly read the post twice. Yet, I cannot to see the exact point that you are making.

    Are you saying that people do not choose the right activities that fulfill a variety of needs? Also, I am not sure I can see a clear distinction between life balance and between personal needs balance?

    I am just a bit confused. If you could clearify some of the points you are making it would be great.

    Best,
    Tomas
    .-= Tomas Stonkus´s last blog ..Top 5 Life-Changing Lessons from the CPA Exam =-.

  5. Lloyd, thanks for your thougths.

    Tomas, it’s just one of those articles, ha? 🙂 Yes, I’m saying people focus on splitting the hours of they week with balance between career, family, and hobbies (which is called life balance), but this doesn’t necessarily get them their needs met in a balanced way and so, it doesn’t necessarily make them happy.

  6. Hey Eduard,

    I must confess I had to re-read it too as it wasn’t 100% clear to me the point you’re making. Balance has always meant to me, making the concious time and effort for something. I’ll give you an example…just because there’s a free slot in my calendar…it doesn’t mean I have to fill it. Nowadays I might actually write down, in that slot on my calendar, “FREE PERSONAL TIME FOR AMIT” and that’s how I get balance by making time for me. A need I have for me.

    Does that make sense?
    .-= Amit Sodha – The Power Of Choice´s last blog ..How To Be Drunk Without The Alcohol =-.

  7. Hey Amit,

    Yeah, the distinction I’m making here between life balance and needs balance is somewhat subtle. Which is not necessarily what you would expect from an article. Anyway, you seem to be on the right track with using your time 🙂 .

  8. Patrick Dieter, BA, CDP, CADC II says:

    Eduard:
    I think I am hearing you. In my circle of personal growth mastermind buddies, we have a saying: “trying is lying.” Not unlike Yoda from Star Wars “Try not. Do, or do not!”

    What you described first was not life balance, but simply an attempt to juggle the expectations of other people, and perhaps your own guilt about “trying” to meet those expectations. Pretty typically a lose/lose situation since it does not involve ascertaining your own passions and life purpose first.

    I have been a professional musician and watched many friends destroy their families out of obsession with the work. I know similar situations exist in business. I also know that your examples, Gates and Jordan both treasure their families and act on that feeling.

    I suggest that living a balanced life is wonderful and very possible, but it cannot be scheduled or wrenched into place. It is a natural outcropping of self-realization. Once you know your purpose in life, a certain serenity takes over. It contains a natural urgency to do that thing you were born to do, to do it well, and often. But that serenity also contains the gratitude for one’s gifts, and the wisdom to stop and mindfully savor every moment of every day.

  9. Hi Eduard.

    You have a valid point here. Seeking a life balance is sort of the wrong way to go about it, because it is like setting up a dinner table perfectly even with all the plates and forks and spoons set up to match, but not really putting heavy effort on the food portion. Things might look balanced, but we have to have unbalanced focus on each item at different times.

    Also, yeah, seeking a life balance based on what others consider as the right things to have balanced isn’t always fitting for every person. One person might want a regular type of life balance, while another might want to do two years of traveling while performing a volunteer activity, which isn’t really balanced with working or relationships for the most part.

    Interesting point.
    .-= Armen Shirvanian´s last blog ..Motivation Related To Production =-.

  10. Hey Eduard, I interpreted this as first finding out what we want deep down and then building life from there as oppose to trying to balance out whatever everyone else is trying to put on us.

    “The good news is that the world we life in offers many lifestyle options.”

    Best news ever! =)

  11. Susan Potter, ACC says:

    Loved this dialogue, as ‘life balance’ is something I strive for myself these days. To me, life balance is not an end; it’s a process that can enables me to have the quality of life I desire. The trick is self-awareness – knowing what I really want and need in my life; knowing my purpose for being on this earth. There is definitely a spiritual aspect to life balance for me, and it is ever evolving.

    There’s no precise formula or cookie approach for everyone, or even for a given individual. What it takes to feel balanced one day can be totally different the next day. So, it’s not just about scheduling your day. It’s about being in the ‘flow’ and knowing what’s right for you today, as you continue your forward journey. And as Patrick said, this includes grateful for ones gifts and savoring each day. No regrets.

  12. Hey Patrick, Armen, Rocky and Susan

    You’ve expressed some nice ideas about what life balance is all about. Thanks for your comments.

  13. I know when I personally feel out of balance and what to do to get back on track. I think it’s a personal thing, different for everyone. We pay for what ever we don’t pay attention too!

    I have to say I feel like I’m on vacation each time I visit your blog.
    .-= Tess The Bold Life´s last blog ..20 Tips For Holidays That Rock =-.

  14. I think it’s great that you listen to your own inner signals to create balance. A lot of people hope for society to give them the recipe for balance: 7 hours work, 6 hours family etc.

  15. Hey Eduard, enjoyable post

    Here is how i see it. Life balance isn’t something to be worked at an achieved, the balance of life is inherently occuring regardless of what we do or dont do.

    For example, a person who has been told that judgement is a bad thing maybe through religious teachings, may try to get released from it, by praying. They may then go 2 or 3 weeks without assumingly judging themselves, they then assume God has released them from it. .Yet ususally that is not the case, they have simply become aware/concsious of a part of them and for a time they are consiciously shifting there attention away from it. Yet usually that part of them which they are suppressing shows up in other areas of their life. Usually in judging others, for judging 😉

    Life balance in my mind is accepting the rhythm of own lives instead of trying to get it to match the rhythm of other peoples. Accepting, Allowing and yet managing our choices

    Good article!

  16. I see your point Jon. This makes achieving life balance seem more natural.

  17. Our never ending quest for life balance does focus our energy on something that’s missing rather than focusing on abundance. This is a thought-provoking post. Thanks!
    .-= Meg at Demanding Joy´s last blog ..Gratitude Quick Links =-.

  18. Un andrei says:

    So it’s like.. DO WHAT YOU FEEL, NOT WHAT YOU MUST (it will make you feel better – and here, that’s the point) 🙂

  19. I like the way you think and it’s really generous of you to share your thoughts without us having to pay for it. Your thoughts are really inspiring, and even though you said that one cannot overcome shyness completely just by reading articles online, your articles have helped me a lot already. I’m less nervous in social situations, I have accepted that overcoming shyness is a long process, etc. Thanks for sharing these letters!

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