For the many, many entrepreneurs out there struggling to find the right work-life balance (or work-life blend, if that's more your style), there is no shortage of advice.

From novel scheduling systems, to exhortations to invest in health, and even spiritual reminders that 'work-life balance' is really a modern spin on the ancient and fundamentally difficult question of what constitutes a life well lived, you can spend hours upon hours neither working nor living but simply reading through posts and columns on the topic.

But if you're hip deep in this sort of advice, it is possible you've put the cart well before the horse. The first step to achieving something vastly important but fuzzily defined like work-life balance isn't soul-searching or reading up on the issue, it's nailing down what you mean by the term in the first place.

You need to define it to achieve it.

Take the case of "success," for example. Success is another inexhaustible goldmine for bloggers (trust me on this) with nearly any post offering advice on achieving it generating huge interest. But while many such posts are chock full of useful insights, a shocking percentage of them fail to acknowledge that "success" as a term means next to nothing outside of each person's personal definition. Your success might be how much security and opportunity you can provide for your loved ones. Mine might be the amount of human suffering I've removed from the world. Another guy's might involve flash cars and fancy job titles.

Without taking the time to think carefully about where your notions of achievement and purpose come from and what success means to you, you're in a terrible position to decide if this week's hot "how to be successful" advice applies to you or only to someone who thinks the point of life is something you actually don't value much at all.

The same goes for balance.

And what's true for "success" is also true for "work-life balance," a recent post on Fast Company suggests. The fascinating piece by Vivian Giang has a simple premise--ask CEOs and founders for their personal definitions of work-life balance.

Answers ranged from finding time for naps and meditation (that's Brian Halligan, co-founder of HubSpot) and ensuring you're doing work you love (Jeremy Wickremer, founder of Transformational Media Summit) to simply feeling that you've made a free choice to work 24/7 (Amy Errett, co-founder of Madison Reed) and making sure that there's still time for fun in life (Monif Clarke, CEO of Monif C. Plus Sizes).

The fact that these business leaders have incredibly different notions of work-life balance underlines the truth that the term is not self-defining. Before you begin reading up and ruminating on specific tactics, you need to know what your strategic aim is when it comes to work-life balance.

Can you answer this essential question: what's your personal definition of work-life balance?

Published on: Oct 24, 2014
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