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Does Work-Life Balance Even Exist?

Does Work-Life Balance Even Exist?

By James Beeman

There is no such thing as work-life balance for me. Maybe there is for you and that's great - more power to you. Here are a couple of thoughts on what I assume is a well meaning label for the internal tug of war that so many feel.

For most of the people close to me, work is a meaningful part of life and therefore this label could imply that when we're working we're not living. Which, according to Gallup, is pretty close to the truth, most Americans are disengaged from their work. This is hardly death, but doing something that drains life from your bones everyday may begin to feel like being hooked up to the machine that sucked the life out of everybody's favorite hero in the Princess Bride. Believe me, I've talked with people who need their own personal Miracle Max. I prefer to live when I work and to work with other non-zombies. Here's a tip - if work is draining you of life, get a new job - especially if you live in America.

Also, the term balance seems to imply what I think is a well-intended picture, but is an oversimplification of what really is going on. If you think about a balance in a mathematical sense there are two sides that again are separate from each other. I'll say it again, I don't think work and life need to be separated from each other like this.

But more to my point on balance, work-life balance could also imply that there are two things that need balanced in our short existence here on earth - work and life. Again, maybe your life is simpler than mine and if it is, cool, but there's a lot more going on for me than work and life. Here are a few: faith, friends, finances, fun, food, fatherhood, faith, health, marriage, personal development, and the list goes on. Yes, I ran out of Fs. Help me out here if you're creative like that.

So instead of balance, I submit to you the idea of integration or harmony as an idea closer to what is really going on.

For me, life is like a beautiful symphony that has so many sections and instruments in each section with a conductor who is attempting to guide each player towards creating something greater together than apart. A melody, harmony, and counterpoint built on motives, cadences, movements, and tonality. There are absolutely dissonances. There are absolutely clashes. And some resolve and some do not. Life is an emotional, sensory, and imaginative experience full of wonder, adventure, rhythms, and textures.

For me, work-life balance is too boring a description for what's actually at play. It's too mathematical and too limiting. It's too logical. There are so many more layers and nuances that the term balance simply doesn't cut the mustard for me.

Life is a beautiful symphony.


James works with job seekers, rising leaders, and executives who want less stress and more success. In his quest to help hundreds of clients, James earned a Master of Arts in Management & Leadership and multiple professional coaching and career certifications including the Certified Career Management Coach from Susan Whitcomb’s The Academies and the Professional Coach Certification from the International Coach Federation

James is a gifted trainer bringing his in-depth knowledge of coaching into the CCE coach training learning environment.

To check out his website site, Clear Career, click here.