Work/Life Integration, not Work/Life Balance
Over the past few years, there has been more and more emphasis on having a work/life balance. This notion that "hustling" is bad for your wellbeing and mental health.
It's not that I don't agree with it. I think if your work brings you a lot of stress, to the point of burnout or depression, you do need to find more balance. Maybe that means spending more time with your family or taking a vacation.
However, I think the bigger underlying problem isn't being addressed. What people need isn't just work/life balance, but instead have work/life integration. And what this means is that you integrate your values, your story, your knowledge, your passion, and your mission to your work.
If you talk to anyone who has a grand vision, are aligned with their passions or have a sense of purpose with their work, it seems that they work harder and longer, without tiring themselves out. When you integrate your work with a sense of purpose, you can tap into a well of energy you didn't know you had.
How do you find work/life integration?
Work/life integration starts with a lot of self-awareness. Understanding your strengths, your values, your passions, your motivations, your ambitions, and your WHY. This is a lifelong journey, however it gets more clear the more you think and reflect on these.
Once you know what direction you need to go with your work, you want to find a job (or start a business) that aligns with you. You want to look beyond the job's pay or qualifications. See if there's a match in the vision you have for your life and where the company is going. As you align yourself with your work, you become more engaged and bring more results. At that point you have earned a higher pay.
What many people do is start a business instead. If you are unable to find a job that resonates with you, you can find a way to monetize your passion or purpose. Especially with technology, this is becoming more and more a viable option. However, you want to be strategic about it. You don't want to quit your job to "follow your passion" and find yourself in financial stress 3 months later.
Why is work/life integration important?
Like I mentioned earlier, the reason people burn out is that they aren't emotionally connected with their work.
Was there a time in your life when you had so much energy to do something, even with very little sleep? Like going on a grand adventure or waking up energized in Las Vegas after a long night partying?
We are capable of doing amazing things, and it starts with the head and heart. If you aren't emotionally connected with your work, you won't be able to sustain meaningful work without burning out or getting bored.
Moreover, your work literally takes up half of your waking hours. If you sleep 8 hours, you have 16 waking hours. If work takes up at least 8 hours, that's literally half your life during your working years. Most people hate their work. This means that they hate half of their life. Is it possible to live life a different way?
To me, work/life integration is the answer. You find work that's exciting and purposeful. You constantly grow and change the lives around you. You work harder while feeling energized. And the funny thing is that because you're working hard, adding value, and improving yourself, you will probably make more money as well. They all "integrate" together to create a meaningful life.
This doesn't mean that work/life balance isn't important. This doesn't mean working 16 hours a day and sleeping 4 hours is all of a sudden good for you. It's still important to make time for your family, your hobbies, a vacation and a personal life to enjoy. Even peak performers work in seasons, where there is time to push themselves then slow down.
The point is that for many people, working too much isn't the problem. The problem is a lack of purpose. The answer is getting clear with the life you want and "integrating" your work so that it's no longer work.