"Balance is not something you find, it's something you create." - Jana Kingsford
A mentee once asked me: "What is the right work/life balance? How do you find it and how do you maintain it?"
These types of questions seem more pressing these days. Perhaps it's because we hear that millennials value work/life balance very highly (presumably after seeing the sacrifices their parents made). Balance is a great and important topic indeed. There are no straightforward answers to these questions. And that's not necessarily a bad thing.
We all have our passions, our limits, our frustrations and our ambitions. What are you willing to trade to get what you need? What are you willing to trade to get what you want?
My belief is that the right work/life balance is a very individual and very personal mix. I'm certain we'll find an entrepreneur's perspective of work/life balance is quite different from an actor's or from a police officer's or from a single mom of 3, etc.
As the quote at the beginning states - it's more about creating the right balance for yourself rather than finding it. This is a crucial difference in the way of thinking about the answer to the question because creating it implies you have to take action. It is not some magical equilibrium point you're supposed to discover. You have the power and the responsibility to figure out what it means in your life. Whether you are intentional about it or not, you are at some mix of work/life activity right now. This mix is impacting your career trajectory, your income and your personal relationships. And even when you are intentional and do define it, that point will evolve over time.
So how do you know that you've achieved the 'right' balance? By honestly answering this question to yourself: Are you happy?
It is as simple as that. You will know the answer. What you need to do is to pay attention to that answer, and if it's not the result you desire then take action to re-balance.
Amazon's immensely successful CEO Jeff Bezos said: "I get asked about work/life balance all the time. And my view is, that's a debilitating phrase because it implies there's a strict trade-off. It actually is a circle. It's not a balance."
That may be the right framing for him. But he makes it sound like he's not making any tradeoffs. I doubt that. I disagree that his advice is widely applicable or that one can avoid making tough choices.
In the end, it's a prioritization exercise. As we evolve throughout our lives, those choices we make will likely evolve with us. It's critical to check in with yourself and challenge the path you are on. Periodically ask yourself if you're happy. Don't fall asleep with choices a younger version of yourself made.
Because if you're asleep, it's impossible to keep your balance.