Illustrated by Tania Lili.
I used to think I was looking for work-life balance. If I could just balance out my time at work with all my other interests and priorities, I thought, I’d feel balanced and content.
-getting up super early and creating a morning routine before work
-packing healthy lunches the night before
-squeezing in gym time during my work lunch hour
-packing my weekends with fun plans with friends
-working on my side hustle/passion project in the evenings
-and tons of other balancing strategies...
Just reading back over that list makes me tired!
I was trying to create balance by fitting in my life outside of the 40-plus hours I was at work (not to mention the extra hours commuting, getting ready for work, and answering late-night “emergency” emails). But, all I ended up feeling was drained.
It took me a long time to realize that having balance and freedom are not the same thing. One of my core desired feelings is freedom, and I kept hoping that once I finally had that elusive work-life balance, I would finally feel free.
But, you know what? I finally realized that working a 40-hour week in a cubicle is never going to feel like freedom for me, no matter how much I try to balance it with the rest of my life. I don’t actually want to balance my work with my life.
I don’t like thinking of work as this separate category from life anyway — to me, that implies that your life is put on hold while you’re at work (which, honestly, is how I felt at times in my previous desk jobs). In fact, I don’t really want to work at all, at least in the traditional definition of the word. And, as a life and career coach for millennials, I’m hearing a lot of my peers saying the same thing.
It turns out, what I want doesn’t have a title yet. I’ve heard of work-life integration, and that feels like it’s getting closer to what I’m looking for, but it still categorizes life as something separate from work.
So, I’m creating my own term: What I want is work-life freedom.
Here’s how I define that for myself: Having the freedom to spend my life doing things that fire up my passion, tap into my natural abilities and interests, and make a tangible impact on the people I most want to help. [Did you notice that work wasn’t even part of the definition?]
It took me years to finally realize what my definition of freedom was, and everyone’s is unique.
So, in the hopes that it won’t take you that long to figure out what makes you feel fulfilled, free, and completely authentic, I encourage you to ask yourself if you truly want work-life balance, or if you might actually be looking for work-life freedom.
Now, I’d love to hear from you — how do you feel about the phrase work-life freedom?" How would you define it for yourself? Leave a comment below.