When I first entered the workforce a few years ago, all I kept hearing about was the need to achieve work-life balance. Because it seemed so important, I kept chasing after it.

During this time, I was working at a full-time job, running a content marketing business on the side, taking classes 10 hours a week, at the gym at least twice a week and trying to have some semblance of a social life so that I could "have balance". I was exhausted.

Fast forward a few years, and a lot of people are still chasing this balance, but I've completely given up on it. If there's anything I've learned about starting a business from scratch in my 20s - and you know, just living - it's that work-life balance as we've come to know it doesn't actually exist.

Balance is what you make of it.

Perhaps it's because I have a little streak of rebellion in me, but one of the things I hated about the idea of work-life balance is that people kept telling me what it should look like.

Create a thriving business that only requires a four-hour work week. Go to a 90-minute yoga class every day. Meditate for an hour a day. Drink green juice until you can't anymore. Socialize every weekend and make sure to carve out time for fulfilling relationships. Are you kidding me? When are you supposed to sleep let alone actually make a living?

No matter how hard we try, we can't put different parts of our lives into these neatly packaged little compartments. Not to mention this is totally unrealistic. Can you eventually only work for four hours a week? Sure. But you'll need to put in your 10,000 hours first.

Most of all, this is someone else's idea of a work-life balance. A balanced life is sure as heck not going to look the same for me as it does for you because there are too many variables and personal preferences at play.

So rather than trying to achieve someone else's version of balance, you're better off trying to figure out what balance looks like in your own life.

For me, that sometimes looks like busting my behind on weekends so I can take off and explore a new city mid-week. Or, sometimes it looks like sleeping. And sometimes it really just looks like binge watching my guilty pleasure TV shows.

Life is too messy for exact balance.

Another thing that bothers me about the pursuit of work-life balance is that it seems like you're trying to control life. This begs the question, isn't the act of being controlling the polar opposite of balance?

The reality is that life ebbs and flows. Sometimes you're busy and stressed, and sometimes you're not. Things like, starting a business, having a child, experiencing health issues or moving across the country are not conducive to the idea of balance that's constantly thrust upon us. They just aren't and that's life so why fight it?

The focus should be on work-life integration, not balance.

When everyone around me was obsessed with the idea of balance, it seemed like there were exact moments when you were supposed to work and exact moments when weren't supposed to work.

This meant I would often feel guilty for working on Sundays and playing hooky on Wednesday. Or, I would feel like a terrible person if I had a major work deadline and couldn't go out to a bar with friends.

After I quit my job to work for myself, I realized that it's not really about balance, but rather integration. How can we integrate our lives and our work instead of pinning them at against each other?

For instance, if I know I'm going to be traveling chances are I'll be working like an animal the week before leaving so I can relax when I'm out and about. Or, I'm probably getting work done while on a plane since I'm stuck in a steel tube for a while.

Sometimes I'll work from home to help out with my grandmother instead of going to the office. Or, maybe I'll work on a weekend so I can check out a cool art exhibit mid week.

The point is I find ways for my work and personal life to co-exist rather than believing they need to be mutually exclusive.

Stop feeling guilty for not achieving balance.

The bottom line is this: The idea of balance that society tries to force upon us doesn't actually work with this thing called life. Stop feeling guilty for not achieving the ideal of balance and instead work on what makes you feel balanced.

Published on: Mar 24, 2017