True Work-Life Balance? It’s a Myth We Need to Quit Worrying About

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Work-Life balance.

As a Baby Boomer teen born to Depression-era parents, I never heard that term once.

It didn’t exist back then and, if it had, it would have never come out of my father’s mouth. Hard work was his life, and when he had a day off, he worked. To my dad and those who were his age and older, balance was something you did to your checkbook when the statement arrived.

It wasn’t until the late 1980s when this three-word term entered the American lexicon, and it wasn’t popularized until the late 1990s. Now, those three words are said in conjunction as frequently as pass the salt.

Work is what interrupts the “life” part

When was the last time you made it through a day without hearing a co-worker, friend, or associate talk about achieving work-life balance? It’s almost as if this had become the ultimate destination where everyone wants to go — a Shangri-La where life and work co-exist in perfect harmony; the intersection of meaningful contribution, passion, relaxation, and prosperity.

Who doesn’t want to go there, even if only for a weekend visit?

Trouble is, true work-life balance is a myth. I’ve never met the individual who says they work just the right amount of time (and no more) and that their work provides them everything they need and want, making their life balance perfectly.

We know what work is. It’s the “life” part of the equation that interrupts the balance.

Life is an all-inclusive term that encompasses our health and fitness, our social relationships, our family time, our personal interests and recreational pursuits, our spiritual growth, etc.

Now, what King or Queen lives a fairy tale existence where all of those things by themselves are in balance–not-to-mention, in balance with work?

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I confess that my life is rarely “in balance.” And I carry around a lot of guilt and angst about that.

Why I’m not pursuing work-life balance anymore

This weekend, a good friend sent me this video of a brilliant Ted talk. It’s changed my perspective

I’m certainly not going to stop working hard, nor will I abandon my desire to seek balance with the various aspects of my life. But what I’ve discovered from Dan Thurmon’s inspiring 18-minute presentation is that it’s OK – make that it’s perfectly natural and normal – to be out of balance, as long as I do so on purpose.

So beginning today, I’m going to let go of my pursuit of work-life balance and focus on staying on purpose.

Heck, I’m even going to finally learn to juggle; something I’ve always wanted to do but never have purposely created the space to pursue.

This was originally published on Eric Chester’s Reviving Work Ethic blog. His new book is Reviving Work Ethic: A Leader’s Guide to Ending Entitlement and Restoring Pride in the Emerging Workforce. For copies, visit

Eric Chester is a leading voice in the global dialogue on employee engagement, and building a world-class workplace culture. He's an in-the-trenches researcher on the topic of the millennial mindset, and the dynamics of attracting, managing, motivating and retaining top talent. Chester is a Hall-of-Fame keynote speaker and the author of 4 leadership books including his newly released Amazon #1 Bestseller On Fire at Work: How Great Companies Ignite Passion in their People without Burning Them Out.  Learn more at and follow him at @eric_chester