Time to Stop Using the Term ‘Work/Life Balance’

Abundance Organizational leadership Productivity


Key Point: Stop the work/life balance debate because it causes us to think about life in a scarce versus abundant way. Our last blog on Flow and Funnel created quite a buzz. It reinforced my belief that people at all levels and walks of life are more consumed than ever. They say they’re, “slammed,” “crazy busy,” “overwhelmed,” etc. In fact, many of us have become trapped into starting conversations (including me sometimes) about how much we have going on at the moment. And perhaps too often the tone switches to us suggesting we’re out of control, or on some horrible nightmare treadmill we can’t get off.

Occasionally we subtly or not so subtly have a complaint trade off, one-upping each other on who is actually busier. Then the inevitable “work/life balance” discussion emerges. Complaining about time shortage and win/lose, work/life balance discussions is negatively impacting our mental health! I’m not belittling workloads or anyone’s “to do” list, including my own, but I believe we need to change our mindset and behavior on the topic. So, the following continues where the “flow” blog left off:

In his new book, Leading the Life You Want, Stewart D. Friedman, founding director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project and a practice professor of management, demonstrates that there are skills we can learn and apply to integrate life and work more successfully. Friedman profiles six very successful people who he says embody these necessary skills – being real, being whole, and being innovative – and helps readers to begin to apply these skills and strategies in their own lives. In a recent Wharton blog discussing his book’s premise, Friedman notes:

“I am not saying here that you can have everything all the time and that you can have success without sacrifice, without effort, without discipline, and without persistence in the face of disappointment. But what I am saying is that not only is it possible to create a greater sense of harmony among the different parts of your life while achieving greatness, it is necessary. The people who are most successful — even by external markers of fame and wealth and power — are the folks who are able to figure out, in their own way, how to bring together the different parts of their lives over the course of their lives. Indeed, it is their commitments to family, to community, and to their private selves — their minds, bodies and spirits — that gives them the strength, the resources and the support that they need to be successful in the professional world. Reason one was to address this issue of you have to sacrifice everything: Not true.

To think in terms of the binary work-life balance does not work because it forces you to think in terms of tradeoffs. [‘Work-life balance’] is a term that I have been railing against for decades, and we are making some progress there because more people are talking instead about work-and-life integration or harmony over the course of life… If your mindset is what am I going to have — work or life — then you are always thinking in terms of what you have to give up.”

By thinking in terms of more, of being abundant versus scarce, the discussion becomes more about flow and integration versus trading one thing for the other.

Character Moves: 

  1. Move number one involves changing your mindset to be more abundant and it comes from Friedman: “We really have to be focusing the conversation on what I refer to as four-way wins: Things that you can do that are within your control that enable you to create value in some way and demonstrably improve results not just at work, not just for yourself, not just for your community, not just for your family, but for all four. What I have discovered in asking that question of students and clients around the world — tens of thousands of them now — is that everybody can answer that question with an affirmative response: Here is something I can try!”
  2. Recognize that EVERYONE is living a life where they have lots going on, including every day “ups and downs,” etc.  Try to avoid and eventually STOP using the “busy,” “slammed,” statements as conversation starters. Instead, consider talking about what you’re doing that has meaning to you, is creating value for others and what you’re doing to actually do MORE of.
  3. Read Friedman’s book. Take his online survey to learn more how think and act about leading the life you want… Now! You know, if you’re not too “slammed” or “busy” to do so.

Living the life in the Triangle,


One Millennial View: “Busy” is a laughable excuse. Sure, there are times of the day when we’re “too busy” to return that text or make plans… But let’s get real. We’re also streaming plenty of Netflix. We all need those escapes, alone time, and the “busy” excuse isn’t going anywhere. It’s understandable. But, little by little, everyone’s starting to become aware just how B.S. it is… If something’s important to you, you maneuver your work/life schedule to make time for it.

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis.