As 2020 (thankfully) continues to wind down and we head into a new year, you’ll be tempted to buy into a few things. One of them will be balance. But the truth is that balance is bullshit. Let me explain.
At any given moment, I’m neglecting something or someone: an email that needs a response, a text message left unanswered, a kid looking for a hug, a document needing attention, a team member requiring input. It’s literally impossible to have everything aligned at all times. So what do I do? Rather than drive myself crazy to balance out the see-saw, I tolerate it and continue to work. I tackle tasks in terms of priority, and find ways where I can integrate work and life together.
A perfect example is when I bring my kids to events or races, or when I interview guests for my podcast.
Many of you are being sold balance as the holy grail: a work-life balance, a work-family balance, a balance of good foods and bad foods, time in the gym balanced with time behind the desk. But rather than working so hard to find this elusive construct, let’s celebrate the benefits that come when you embrace and tolerate the imbalance. I call it integration.
Related: How to Balance Family With Spartan
Work and Life Should Not Be Opposing Forces
Anyone who's even spent an hour with me knows that I'm a workhorse. My preference is to be accessible to my team at all hours. To be clear, I’m not suggesting that you should prioritize availability over your well-being. But if you’re finding that you can't achieve a "healthy" work-life-family-fitness balance, welcome to the club.
Bert Jacobs, the co-founder of Life is Good, once said, “I don’t really believe in the whole work-life balance thing because work is just one facet of your life. Trying to find balance implies conflict. If you’re doing what you love, your work should just be an extension of your life.”
There are two things I love about what he said. First, work and life are not in opposition to each other. So much of my life consists of work. They aren’t fighting; they are playing off of each other. And secondly, your WHY matters. The WHY — your True North — helps remind you that the work matters.
What You Can Learn From Feeling Unbalanced
Sure, feeling out of balance sucks. But there is something to gain from the experience. Psychologists use the term distress tolerance to describe one’s ability to tolerate emotional disease or discomfort. Studies have shown that individuals with little distress tolerance are more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors to cope. Firefighters, for example, who think that they can’t handle negative emotions or painful feelings are more likely to use alcohol excessively than those who feel capable of tolerating hard emotions.
Find Passion in All of It
One of the things that I can’t help is being passionate about everything that I do, not just my work. As I mentioned above, spend one day with me and you’ll see the passion that I put into all that I do with Spartan. But spend the same day with me when I’m with my family, and you’ll see the same passion. We collapse under the pressure to find balance when we aren’t distributing our passion. Rather than trying to find balance in the amount of time you spend in each arena, work on finding equal passion in all areas.
Don't Waste Time With Comparisons
It’s easy to stand outside of other people’s lives and assume that they’ve got everything balanced. But normally, you don’t have a clue what’s really going on inside. Spend less time comparing yourself to your friend, or that Instagram influencer who keeps popping up. If you’re putting in the hustle, you will feel unbalanced. That's good. Tolerate the feelings, take care of yourself, and remember that this is how life is.
This constant pursuit of balance is probably making you feel inadequate and incapable, when in reality, achieving it is impossible. Life is not about finding comfort, and it’s not about balancing the see-saw. Feel free to buy into a few things in the new year — cleaner foods, more workouts, giving back — but balance? Don't waste your time.