Can life and work really be balanced?

Work-life balance is a concept that doesn’t help us achieve what we really want.

What it’s supposed to do is help us find a way to make a living as well as pursue other interests outside of work. But I don’t think it does that because it is so nebulous. How will I ever know if it’s in balance? Can anyone know? Balance is so difficult to pinpoint when it comes to work and life.

And the real issue with this idea of balance is that we can blame any number of reasons or people for not achieving it. It could be the company’s fault, its culture, or it might be our bosses. But I find that people rarely say it’s their own fault that they don’t have work-life balance. But isn’t it? Our fault, that is. We choose certain jobs or careers. Or we don’t take the time and energy and play a long game to shape our lives. But we can.

For me there is a phrase that works better and is more effective for giving people what they really want, which is a way to make a living that allows them to have a life or lifestyle that they want. And it’s this, designing your life. Now, you may not feel like you are designing your life and that may be true. But someone is. It just isn’t you. Someone else is setting your priorities, determining what you do with your time, shaping and planning your future. It can be a parent, a boss, a spouse, or whomever.

But the designer can be you. And what you design may not happen in an instant. In fact, it rarely happens that way. It’s usually a long slog. It requires forethought, planning and then execution over days, months, maybe years, even decades.

Maybe you want to have more time and freedom to do what you want. You could do any number of things to design your life. One way would be to save your money, which will require you to sacrifice going out, taking vacations, buying clothes, etc. Then use that money to invest in a multifamily apartment building and live in one unit while you rent out the rest. And then you save up more money and invest in another one and do that over and over again until you have enough income to replace your salary, and then quit. Or you can stay in your job and increase your investing since you now have dual income. But by that point you can choose to quit your job and live off of your rental income. It takes years to get to that point. But it was by design. And now you have the freedom to choose to work in a job or not. Now that’s work-life balance.

The example I gave above is just one of thousands, maybe millions of permutations of how you can design your life. But the point is that you can. However you can’t have that kind of life without taking ownership over your life.

We can decide how much work we want to do by the vocation we adopt. If we become surgeons, corporate lawyers, or some other high demanding profession, we can expect to work demanding hours. Many of us choose those professions because they are secure and command a higher wage than most others. So you trade a higher salary for less free time. But you make that decision. Less life, more work because you want a certain lifestyle, amount of money, prestige, etc. Or you can choose a different path, one with less demand and less pay but more life. Or you go off the beaten path with little certainty but the possibility of much reward, including far more flexibility. That is the entrepreneur’s way.

Uncertainty is the only certainty here. But if you succeed, it’s rich. But there are no guarantees. Even if you win, that doesn’t mean you will continue to. This path is rocky and wild. It’s an adventure. And it’s certainly not balanced. There are days when I don’t need to work. But more often than not, I do because I love the act of creating, doing, building. These days I work from home, and I get to see a lot of my family. I’m grateful for the gift. I’ve worked sixteen hour days, but I don’t really need to do that anymore. And there are still times when I work long hours, but this is the path I’ve chosen.

Designing your life doesn’t mean you control it. There are always things that happen that derail our best plans. But that doesn’t mean your plan can’t work. You just need to adjust. It doesn’t mean your design should be scrapped. It just means you need to get scrappy and push forward or adjust your timeline. Design doesn’t equal destiny, and it doesn’t mean the path is easy. It isn’t. But it is achievable.

Don’t waste your time trying to balance life and work. Spend more time and energy trying to design the life you want and working to achieve it. And don’t let anyone tell you don’t have a choice. You do. You always do. But choose wisely.

And live life by your design.

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