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3 Reasons Why Work-Life Balance Is A Stupid Ideal

3 Reasons Why Work-Life Balance Is A Stupid Ideal

I teach Leadership Communications to MBAs and corporate leaders. I have had over 20,000 people participate in my courses over the last 12 years.  At the beginning of my course, I often ask people to make a short list of their current challenges. “Work-life balance” comes up for more than half of the people.

Balance is an ideal. It doesn’t exist. When we are walking, we aren’t in balance. We fall to the left, we fall to the right.  When we are running, we aren’t in balance.  We fall to the left, we fall to the right.  When we are cycling, we aren’t in balance… I think I’ve labored the point.

All natural forward progress by humans comes from imbalance.

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3 Reasons Why Work-Life Balance is a Stupid Idea

  1. It doesn’t exist – Humans have 2 legs, not 3.  Triangles are naturally in balance, humans are not.
  2. You wouldn’t want it if you actually got it – It is the journey that is meaningful, not the seat at the end.  We are journey creatures, not “sitting-on-a-sofa-at-the-end” creatures.
  3. It causes endless frustration.  The search for balance is asking for frustration. It is strong foundations that allow for tall buildings to stay up, not balance.

Instead of seeking balance, work on your foundations and work on your wings.

Build Strong Foundations and Trust your Wings

There is an old story that tells of 3 men.  The first, he built his house on the sand.  When the storms came, he lost his house.  The second, he build his house on the dirt.  When the storms came, he lost his house.  The third, he built his house on the rock.  When the storms came, his house stood firm.

Success is built on strong foundations.  Are you building your house on the rock?  Jim Rohn often said “work harder on yourself than you do on your job.”  You should be learning and training for the job you wish to have, not the job that you have now.  If you don’t know anything deeply, learn something deeply.  If you know one thing deeply, learn another skill.

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Trust Your Wings

I remember my father taking me to the park to learn to ride a bicycle.  I was 8 years old.  I sat on the bike and he held the seat from behind.  He said “I’m holding you up, you can pedal”.  I started to pedal.  He was walking and then running to stay with me.  I said “don’t let go!”.  He said “I am not holding you”.  He had let me go.  I was on my own.  I made it another 10 meters and then fell off (on the soft grass).  I was angry that he had let me go, he was so excited that I had cycled by myself.  His joy won.

I’d have liked my father to keep his hand on the bike seat for longer.  I would not have asked him to let go.  He trusted me.  Now, I need to learn to trust me.  I am a preparation freak.  I like to over-plan.  It is a big challenge for me to put myself into a situation where I don’t feel that I am fully ready yet.  However, life has taught me that it is only there, outside my comfort zone, that the magic happens.

This is not a call to throw yourself recklessly into dangerous situations.  My granny would say “look before you leap”.  She was right.  Only a fool would jump between 2 cliffs that were 20 meters apart with a 200 meter drop.  If there is a 1 meter gap, and the other side looks interesting – make the leap.  My granny’s saying says “look before” but it implies that you should be taking the leap.  Trust your wings, make the leaps.

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Let’s Stop the Search for Balance

If we were supposed to be balanced, humans would have 3 legs.  We don’t.  We have 2.  We are constantly falling, but constantly finding our wings to regain our balance, only to lose it again.

Now, if you don’t know where you are going, or are walking round in circles then maybe you do have a bigger problem…  but that is not the aim of this post.

Keep on falling, keep on recovering.

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Featured photo credit: Eric.Parker via flickr.com

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Conor Neill

Professor of Leadership, President Vistage Spain

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Last Updated on October 16, 2019

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Do you like making mistakes?

I certainly don’t.

Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

  • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
  • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
  • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
  • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

  1. Point us to something we did not know.
  2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
  3. Deepen our knowledge.
  4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
  5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
  6. Inform us more about our values.
  7. Teach us more about others.
  8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
  9. Show us when someone else has changed.
  10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
  11. Remind us of our humanity.
  12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
  13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
  14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
  15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
  16. Invite us to better choices.
  17. Can teach us how to experiment.
  18. Can reveal a new insight.
  19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
  20. Can serve as a warning.
  21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
  22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
  23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
  24. Remind us how we are like others.
  25. Make us more humble.
  26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
  27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
  28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
  29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
  30. Expose our true feelings.
  31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
  32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
  33. Point us in a more creative direction.
  34. Show us when we are not listening.
  35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
  36. Can create distance with someone else.
  37. Slow us down when we need to.
  38. Can hasten change.
  39. Reveal our blind spots.
  40. Are the invisible made visible.

Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

The secret to handling mistakes is to:

  • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
  • Have an experimental mindset.
  • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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