The myth of work-life balance - by Charlotte Murray
What does work-life balance mean for you? I am becoming more and more convinced that it is a magical, mythical ideal borne out of the ever-busy world. And, depending on your context, culture or life stage, it might have completely different meanings. According to Wikipedia, Work–life balance is a concept including proper prioritizing between "work" (career and ambition) and "lifestyle" (health, pleasure, leisure, family and spiritual development/meditation). It’s not a bad definition, but I don’t find it encompasses everything.
Several years ago, working in the corporate world, I probably would have agreed more with this kind of definition. Likely feeling that doing well at work and in life is something I was expected to strive for as part of ‘having it all’. What this definition is missing for me, is professional and personal fulfillment, taking risks, managing stress, being happy and true to yourself, truly appreciating being able to connect with people. All of these things combined is where the magic really happens, and, you need to be present in the moment to appreciate that magic.
How does work-life balance fit into my un-corporate entrepreneurial life? It’s more like entrepreneur-life un-balance. Firstly, entrepreneurship does not necessarily promote a healthy lifestyle. The reality is that entrepreneurship is lots of late nights working, no weekends/days off, no or little income, no or basic health insurance, little/no time for friends and family. But, if all that doesn’t faze you, entrepreneurship is fulfilling, challenging, and rewarding, and you can choose to take a break in the middle of the day to do yoga or go for a run (I recommend it!).
While I admit that I sometimes think about those days of working for someone else, taking vacation and deciding where to go hiking on the weekend, I’ve never been happier building the business with my co-founder and husband, and launching our product with customers within just a short 8 months (!).
I’ll never look back from replacing work-life balance with entrepreneur-life un-balance. Instead of working tirelessly to achieve the mythical state of balance that never seems quite right, I’m creating an awesome company, connecting and re-connecting with inspiring people, constantly learning, and enjoying every moment. In order for me to do this and to achieve my own definition of success and self-fulfillment, I need to take care of myself to stay energized – sleep well, eat well, and exercise. But for fulfillment to happen for me, these three things need to be combined.
What makes you feel fulfilled?
Looking back over the last 8 months since I launched into my latest entrepreneurial venture, the idea of uncertainty and risk was far different from what it is now. Before it was a concept more than anything else. Now it’s a daily occurrence. Instead of fearing it, I embrace it. Risk is always present, and jumping off the corporate train was definitely a risk. But a calculated one. Being in what some might consider a high risk environment forces me to be more resourceful and creative to overcome challenges; the fewer resources and the higher the risk, the more resourceful you become.
How can taking more calculated risks help you?
We all experience stress. Some people thrive on it, others implode. I can’t say whether there is a certain level of stress that is healthy or makes me effective, but what I can say is that throwing the work-life balance concept out the window actually reduces my stress levels because I’m no longer thinking about whether I’m balanced or not. Instead, I’m thinking about being effective and focused, being a good person and working on something that creates lasting value; it’s positive pressure.
What opportunities are there that can help you turn stress into focus and value?
When I hear the word happy, all I can think of is Pharrell Williams. It might be cheesy and superficial, but that song actually does make me happy. I feel that taking the time to reflect regularly during my entrepreneurial adventures makes me more thankful and appreciative every day. Doing meaningful work with amazing and inspiring people does make me happy. To top it all, I get to work with my husband every day on the business and in life.
What makes you so genuinely happy that you would dance in public?
Being able to connect with people is underrated. And I mean truly connect. You know those friends who you can call for the first time in years and start up again where you left off? For the first time in my life, my live(s) have connected in new ways. Being able to be both the facilitator of creating, and the recipient of meaningful connections with people near and far. Re-kindling childhood and university friendships and seeing these old friends interact with new colleagues, friends and family; connecting former colleagues with new ones around the globe to help them progress in their own ventures; being introduced to people and finding you have ideas and experiences in common and have a mutual interest in helping out. When there’s a genuine appreciation and connection on a human level, magic happens.
How can you create magic today?