Goodbye work-life balance!


Why ‘Work-Life Balance’ is a bad phrase

We’ve been talking a lot lately about building a great business that endures here at ModCloth over the last several months.  One of the phrases that often comes up in this context is “work-life balance.’  The more I think about the phrase, the more I realize that it is framed incorrectly.  It drives people towards an unhealthy way of thinking.  So we should change it.

When I search the net for the definition of the word ‘balance,’ here are some definitions that come up:

  • a state of equilibrium
  • equality of distribution
  • harmonious arrangement or relation of parts or elements within a whole
  • the difference in magnitude between opposing forces or influences

All of these definitions get me to thinking the same thing: balance is about having the ‘right amount’ of something.  If you have too much or too little of something, you are inherently out of balance.  So the term ‘work-life balance’ makes me feel like my work and my life are somehow at odds.  They are opposing forces that I must find a way to balance.

Bottom line: I don’t like it. I want more from life.  I spend my time working because I want to — I enjoy spending my time doing it.  The things I enjoy should not be at odds with my life; they are my life.

So, it’s time to use a new term: Work-Life Alignment.

Why ‘Work-Life Alignment’ is better

Now we’re talking!  Work-life alignment jives a lot better with the kind of life I want to live.  The thing that I do for more than 10 hours a day should not have to be ‘balanced’ with my life.  It should be aligned with my life.

When I look up the word ‘alignment,’ I find:

  • bring into proper or desirable coordination correlation
  • alliance or union with a party, cause, etc.
  • integration or harmonization of aims, practices

I spend my time working with excellent people who  challenge me everyday.  The skills I want to hone align directly with what I do for a living.  I also am fortunate enough to spend some time ‘working’ with my wife — on a business that she started and I invested in.  For me, my work happens to be a big part of my life.   The word ‘alignment’ captures that much better than ‘balance’ does!

When people ask me about ‘work-life balance,’ I have a hard time answering them because I think their question is framed incorrectly.  Next time, I’ll tell them that I don’t believe in work-life balance; I believe in work-life alignment!

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