You’ve heard it ad nauseum. “Find Work-Life Balance”, it’s the holy grail of being a professional. Or perhaps you’ve read about version two, “Work-Life integration”, in more recent articles that encourage the breaking down of barriers between work and life in our hyper-connected world.

Unfortunately, we’ve been sold a big fat lie. Both the concepts of balance and integration fail to reveal to us what is really happening in our lives. The entire concept assumes that there’s separation between work and life. Let’s examine both a little more closely. Work is how 8 or 10 hours a day passes. Life is there when you wake up, when you slack off, when you work hard and when you go to bed.

The Work/Life dichotomy can’t exist because by definition, one contains the other. You cannot take a city out of a state any more than you can try to remove yourself from your family tree. There’s no “work you” and “rest of life you”. You may project some version of yourself for eight hours a day – it’s still just you and your life. Whether you leave work at the office right at 5pm or have blended the lines with creative scheduling and work email on your personal phone, it’s your life before you started working, throughout the day and when you finally call it quits. So what’s really going on?

Every single minute you are working, life is happening. Every single minute you’re it giving it your all, life is happening. Every single moment you are reacting, deciding, operating, expressing, etc… life is happening! At every moment of your work day, it is you in your real life. There’s no distinction between work and life. In fact, it’s totally unnecessary to put energy towards balance or integration – what a relief!

In each moment of our job or career, we have the opportunity through our words, actions and thoughts to define who we are in life. Greatness cannot be achieved from 5pm to 8am. Hustle doesn’t take a break from 9a to 5p. To become your possibility, you have the option to realize that in every moment, who you are choosing to be only reinforces who you are – or aren’t. What an opportunity! If you decide to take advantage of it…

  • To be a loving family member, exhibit care and compassion for others at work rather than spread negativity.
  • To be a person who gets really great at a hobby, practice excellence at work by accepting nothing but your best work rather than “mailing it in”.
  • To be a person who triumphs and perseveres in life, book the extra hours and always get the job done well rather than punching the clock and thinking it’s not your problem.
  • To be a member of the community, take action when you see something that affects another department even if devoting your attention to it has no direct benefit to you.
  • To be a person who gets the most of their time, figure out how you can get 15 to 30 minutes more work done each day rather than squander your time.
  • To be a person who takes care of their health, learn how hard to push and when to call it quits rather than working yourself sick.
  • To be a trustworthy person, honor and fulfill all of the commitments you make rather than making empty promises that diminish the power of your word.
  • To be a punctual person, be on time everyday and acknowledge your tardiness.
  • To be a cool, calm and collected person, practice being calm and organized under deadlines rather than working in a chaotic fluster.

Who we are at work is who we are in life. When you step into this paradigm, you realize that in each moment you are defining what it means to be you. Nothing is an action unto itself. Rather, how you think about work and at work reinforces yourself as a [insert adjective here] person. The actions you take and the way you go about your work creates habits that extend far beyond work hours. The higher your awareness about who you are being and the outcomes of those states, the greater your ability to consciously choose who you want to be.

Tearing down the fabricated narrative that work and life are separate is an opening to realize how powerful we are in creating our own success and our lives. It is easy to get lost in the busyness of modernity and go into auto-pilot. As you go on, now, browsing LinkedIn or getting back to work, know that you are defining who you are as a professional – and as a person. Maybe you’re at work. Or maybe you’re at play. Either way, your life is now. What are you making of it?

“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play, his labour and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing.”        ~L.P. Jacks~