storytelling, pottery, and sculpture. The desire to create is not limited by beliefs, nationality,
creed, educational background or era. Your involvement in this tradition (is) not limited to the
arts, but can encompass all of your life, from the mundane to the profound.”
– Robert Fritz from Path of Least Resistance
Ultimately, life as art is a process. And, as such, it is more about achieving the right creative tension among myriad, ever-changing, inputs and influences than about finding balance among arbitrary dichotomies. It’s about the energy of creation and action and reflection rather than the presumed comfort of equilibrium.
We have all heard about work/life balance. Most of us have probably read a book about it, or even sat through some sort of seminar or workshop on the topic (probably called something like “7 Easy Steps to Balance Work and Life”) by some guy who has it all figured out. He has a framework. He has a picture. He has 7 easy steps. Maybe he wrote the book.
But, the paradigm is corrupt. As presented, work exists on one end of a continuum; life happens on the other. And, our goal is to find the balance and personal nirvana that is supposedly somewhere in between. It is fundamentally uncreative.
Here are a few critical specific problems to consider:
Problem #1: The work/life duality is zero sum and linear. The nearer I am to work, the further I am from life, and vice versa. One side takes from the other. As such, it promotes identity schizophrenia, anxiety, and even guilt. In other words, the diametrically opposed forces create potentially paralyzing external pressures rather than generative, creative, internal motivation.
Problem #2: Life, in and of itself, is entirely non-linear and is its own “balancing” act of an endless number of variables, one of which is work. Work and life aren’t distinct, but rather collectively come from, create, and reinforce (or, worst-case, dismantle) our sense of self.
Problem #3: Work and life require different energy and different types of investment and skills. One doesn’t really take from the other, but they all do come from the same source (the self). So, cultivation of the self is the source of balance, if such a concept actually applies.
Who we are and who we are trying to become is complex. It’s messy. It’s emerging. It’s creative. It evolves over time in all kinds of (broadly defined) work and amid the relational and existential craziness that is often called life. However each is defined, work and life are just different contexts for who we are and what we are becoming. It is about us (not about them).
If we are focused on cultivating our best selves, then we will recognize when our current work becomes a barrier rather than a facilitator of that process. Alternately, we will acknowledge when things happening in our relationships, or otherwise in our personal lives, are inhibiting us from becoming who we want/need to become. We then must have the discipline and courage to adjust our course as needed. We must have the creativity to define a new course and live into it.
But, our goal should not be work/life balance. Work and life are mediums in the art of becoming fully human. We are works in progress.
Our goal should be finding art in our life, life in our work, and work in our life.