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The Quest For a Balanced Life

This article was written by in Best Of, Career and Work. 10 comments.


A person feels most at peace with his or herself when the major aspects of life are balanced. We look at workaholics and overachievers and wonder about all the interesting or wonderful parts of life they may be missing.

My first boss was a workaholic and overachiever, and he had trouble understanding that not everyone was like him with the same goals and priorities. On occasion, he would work in the office until three o’clock in the morning, fall asleep at his desk, and wake up at six o’clock to continue. I convinced myself of the importance of sleep for maintaining a healthy and long life at that time, and it may be needless to say he and I had a number of philosophical differences.

He was the executive director of an understaffed non-profit organization that had a tiny operating budget and a grand mission, so his work was never done. When you run the only company in the world that does all that this organization does and you manage a product that is considered one of the best of its kind in the world, you can’t get to that point by trying to achieve balance in your own life.

In the office where I work now, we talk about “work/life balance.” This is the idea that the life someone has outside the office is important, and work should not always prevent emphasizing things that make a person more than just an employee. Most people do not want to be fully defined by their job.

The goal of balance between work and “life” is more achievable when there is little pressure to be the best in the world. At the non-profit organization, which I can’t describe in more detail without identifying myself, work was life. That’s just the way it had to be in order to operate on the level that was expected of us as employees and as an organization. And it works when you have the right team.

Business owners are often in a similar situation, especially when first getting their business off the ground. For them, there may be no such thing as work/life balance. Often, new business owners spend as much effort and time as possible working on their project in order to make it viable. In order to do this, they must make sacrifices in other aspects of life.

Olympic athletes don’t have a balanced life. CEOs of global corporations know that they make sacrifices in order to achieve their goals. The most successful musicians and bands don’t rest until they’ve perfected their instruments of choice. Scientists who make paradigm-shifting discoveries don’t clock out at five o’clock and go home to their families.

Over time, our goals may change; someone who started their adult life looking for balance may feel the need to achieve something great while another individual who came out of the gate with a clear mission to succeed may find other aspects of life more important. It’s always important to pay attention to your inner desires and follow the path that works best for you at that particular time.

The good news is that not everyone has lofty goals and expectations. For most people, striving for balance is a reasonable and admirable approach. Nevertheless, balance is not the path to world-class achievements.

Updated December 21, 2010 and originally published June 10, 2010. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar allan jacobson

My one suggestion is to shop and purchase for need rather than want when possible.Moderation in every thing including moderation itself.

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avatar Dr Dean

I agree that balance is essential.

Now some decide that balance to them means, when off work, plopping in front of the TV, for “Family Time”. That may be Laziness, rather than “balance”.

You can be busy doing things outside of work, that may provide balance-hobbies, charity work, and REAL family time….

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avatar Kevin

Work/life balance is different for everybody. Trying to find that balance is a journey through different jobs that demand different things from you. Perhaps the journey will lead you to a life where you make your own time, Entrepreneurship. That’s where I hope my journey ends up.

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avatar Peggy

I’d suggest that balance, besides being individual for everyone as Kevin says, might also extend to an entire LIFETIME, not just a day or a week or a month. That start-up business owner may spend every waking minute for months to get his business off the ground, but once that’s done, he may be able to rearrange his schedule so that he has more leisure time.

And, of course, if you love what you’re doing, you probably don’t care too much about balancing it out with other things that you don’t love as much. Which plays back into the individual nature of it all.

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avatar Financial Samurai

Good point on this on Flexo! If you want to be the best at your occupation, independet or otherwise, there’s not going to be balance at all.

Balance is sought for someone too unbalanced and going overboard.

Cheers, Sam

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avatar savvysavingbytes

Another reason some people spend so much time on their work or their business or sport or talent is that they love it so much and would rather spend time doing the thing they love rather than anything else. They work not so much for the result and achievement as for work itself. Such as a painter who paints not because he’s going to sell a painting for a bundle, but because of the fun and challenge and thrill of creating it.

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avatar Kim at MMI

Hi Flexo- Great article.

I think time is a lot like money. When you use it one place, you can’t use it somewhere else. It’s about making choices based on your own personal values. I think that anyone who spends their time and money doing what is important to them is a world-class achiever!

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avatar Greag

The take-away from this is you can not have it all.

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avatar faithfueledbennetts ♦264 (Nickel)

I agree that goals have a lot to do with balance. Yes, as our goals change in life, we may feel the need to sacrifice more, putting our lives off balance temporarily for a better cause. As long as you can keep a clear healthy perspective and keep yourself in check, a little unbalance is ok. If we never experienced the life of overachiever, whether by watching or being one, we may not appreciate the balance in our own lives.

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avatar tigernicole86 ♦55 (Newbie)

I’ll be honest. I don’t have a good work/life balance because of some of the pressure that is put on us to get EVERYTHING done in the 8 hours we have because we’re not allowed overtime and they really don’t like us to take sick time or vacation(not that they can stop me if all I’m going to do is make really good friends with my trash can. For a while when things were really crazy and they had just laid off a lot of people, I would go home thinking, “crap, I never got this done for that person.”

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