Why Work-Life Balance is Not a Worthy Goal

balance
For the last few years every water cooler conversation, aspirational Instagram post,  business blog or podcast, and phone call with your mother has centered around the work-life balance debate. And yes, I call it a debate because as great as work-life balance sounds, is it really all it’s cracked up to be? Do the people who are looking for work-life balance really know what it is they are after? What does work-life balance even mean?
As Gary Keller and Jay Papasan explained in their best-selling book, The One Thing, work-life balance is a myth. They wrote, “Seen as something we ultimately attain, balance is actually something we constantly do. A ‘balanced life’ is a myth — a misleading concept most accept as a worthy and attainable goal without ever stopping to truly consider it.”
Well, let’s stop and consider it. Why would you want a balanced life in the first place? If you think about it, a week has 168 hours, and in theory, most Americans are only working 40-50 hours of that, which leaves well over 100 hours a week for “life.” That already sounds pretty balanced to me. And really, if your life was perfectly balanced between work and life, then wouldn’t that just mean you are living in the middle (i.e. living in mediocrity)? Success doesn’t happen in the middle. Success and growth happens at the extremes. That means that some days you may be working for 16 hours and taking a three day weekend. It may also mean that you could be working for 16 hours a day for three months to push a project forward or build your business and then you counter-balance that with a three week vacation with your family. Work and life will require different amounts of time and energy and focus in different phases of you life (and can often change daily). If work and life were truly balanced, it would not only be pretty boring, you would end up ultimately accomplishing very little in any area of your life. Sometimes, you just need to put a disproportionate amount of time or energy in to your physical health, or to your spouse, or a work project. That’s just life.
Now, I think what people really mean by work-life balance is that they want freedom and flexibility. They want the option to work from home, to travel and work remotely, to set their own hours, to run errands in the middle of the day, and to integrate their work into their life. That concept, I can get behind. Work-life balance for some people may mean not working nights and weekends to be there for their kid’s activities. For others, it means only working nights and weekends in order to take care of an aging parent or small children during the day.
One of the reasons I first got into real estate and starting building my own businesses was for that concept of freedom. Not work-life balance. Freedom and flexibility. I probably “work” more now than ever, but I don’t really consider it work. It’s a part of my life, a part of who I am. I wanted a life that worked for me and my family, where I could work when and where I wanted to and take time for hobbies, vacations, family-time, fitness training, conferences, etc. when I wanted to. A recent analysis by Indeed actually found that of the 15 companies with the best work-life balance, three were real estate companies (Keller Williams Realty ranking #1). For that reason, and many more, a lot of people begin careers in real estate. Note how I said, begin? Well… not everyone is cut out for a career in real estate.
Since this blog post is all about dispelling myths, let’s break down another one. Real estate careers may offer freedom and flexibility, but they don’t necessarily offer “balance.” And it certainly isn’t a career where you can just sit back and have that “work-life” balance without a lot of, well, work (Newsflash: Real estate is nothing like it looks on HGTV or Bravo). Especially not in the early stages of your career. And real estate professionals will never achieve the freedom they are ultimately after if they don’t have great systems, efficiencies, consistent lead generations habits, and a whole lot of support behind them. Beginning a career in real estate as an individual agent is harder today, even with all the technological advances. Why? Because individual agents just can’t compete with the models, systems, marketing, and administrative/operational support that they get by being on a team.
Regardless if Realtors opt to join a team or go it on their own, without a steady stream of business and a whole lot of leverage (again, systems, marketing, administrative support, etc.) then they will not achieve freedom and instead will remain at the mercy of their clients. If you are desperate for business and only have two clients to work work, you’re going to miss a lot of those life things that you are working so hard for just to make a deal. On the flip side, once you have cultivated a business with many clients in the pipeline, you are in control. You feel confident saying no and only working with the clients that you want to work with. Now, joining a team doesn’t magically create this freedom for you, but it does fast-track your success as long as you follow the model laid out for you. And who wouldn’t want that life of control, freedom, and “work-life balance” faster? If that sounds like something you want, just shoot us an email and we’ll tell you exactly how to get there. 
Work-life balance, or rather work-life integration with freedom and flexibility isn’t exclusive to entrepreneurs, business owners, or real estate professionals. If you prefer to be an intraprenuer (an employee), great! It will be your responsibility to align yourself with an organization that gets it – that understands the importance of, and encourages, creating a work schedule that allows you to integrate your kid’s activities, date nights, morning training sessions, and long weekends. One of my employees, Ben Avery, has this concept figured out better than almost anyone I know and wrote about it in a blog post for us last Fall.
He says, “…we always seem to be everywhere we want to be, all the time, and from a life experience standpoint, we leave nothing on the table!” He goes on to explain, “Our rule of thumb is called the 50/50, 50 days a year on the ski slopes and 50 nights a year on the boat. Sounds crazy, but we almost always exceed that and our lives are so much richer for it. Vacation for us isn’t yearly, or even monthly… its WEEKLY! That is the goal… We make the time, we execute on the plans and subsequently, we are always where WE want to be!”
This may sound like work-life balance to some, but if that were the case, Ben would only work 50 days a year! He works much more than that, but has figured out a way to incorporate his family and life and work in such a way that he disproportionately focuses on different aspects of his life at different times.
Now that we know that work-life balance is a bunch of BS, take a hard look at what you are really after. Have you been too far out of balance for so long on the work side of the equation that you are burned out and need to swing in the other direction? Maybe you took a break from work and are ready to get back at it. Do you need to make a career change that allows for more flexibility and for you to feel fulfilled? Do you need to volunteer more? Do you need to find a company that aligns with your values? I don’t think what you are really after is balance, it’s these things above.
In a perfect world most people want to create income doing something that fulfills them, while being able to integrate their work and life. Attack life. Make every minute count. Balance be damned.
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