Futile Pursuit of Work-Life Balance

The constant battle of humans is to find balance in our lives with everything going on. “Busy” does not just mean busy with work. And in fact, as part of the Millenial generation I truly do seek to find purpose within AND outside of work.

The concept of having balance insinuates that within 24 hours of each day we must equally divide them between the activities we want to accomplish. 8 hours work + 8 hours play + 8 hours sleep. If we polled everyone in the world I would bet that is something <1% of the population actually achieves.

Does that mean we are hopeless to never find balance? Are we doomed to lives of either all work or all play (and no sleep)?

I propose we all change the conversation that “balance” as we know it should not be achieved, but rather establishment of boundaries and being comfortable making choices in our own lives.

After 6 years of post-undergraduate school work, and the past two years as a pharmacy resident I am no stranger to the challenge of finding purpose in work and personal life when one held the keys to the future I need to pay of all of my loans and the other held the key to mental survival. I’ve attended seminars and read many articles about the art of finding balance, but the pursuit almost always leads to feelings of failure and disappointment.

Mentorship from those who also found balance a dead end goal has instilled in me the desire to dump the balance and instead set boundaries.

I was lucky to find this advice in the earlier part of residency after years of pharmacy school being extremely UN-balanced and without ANY boundaries. This lead me to being completely burnt out and spending my month off before residency dreading the potential for it to happen again but 10x over.

Throughout residency I tried to set boundaries instead of balance. Many (MANY) times I failed, but I learned a lot along the way.

  • Set boundaries and be happy with the decision. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty because you want to be the first to leave a social gathering. Embrace that you have needs – everyone does.
  • Be willing to change the boundaries fluidly. Don’t feel guilty about needing to break your own “rules”. Boundaries are not set in stone, especially since rarely anything in life is.
  • Have support structures around you to keep you accountable. Surround yourself with people who enrich and fulfill your life, make you feel empowered to achieve your goals but also keep you in check when you’re falling into your Hobbit hole.

What are some of your strategies to creating boundaries?  I’d love to hear them.

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