It seems as if everyone is searching for balance today. It’s all over social media – stressed out adults who are looking without finding the mythical work/life balance. The reason they aren’t finding it is, if you’ll excuse my language because balance is bullshit.
You read that correctly. No one finds true balance between work and life. In order to do so, one would have to spend 8 hours working, 8 hours sleeping and 8 hours with their families. Do you know anyone who’s doing that? Me either. Every time we talk about balance, we’re setting ourselves up for an unachievable goal only to feel more stress when we don’t reach it. Balance can’t be found, but seasons are another story.
I was blessed to grow up on a farm and among many incredible life lessons, one that has always remained with me is that there is a season for everything. It was behavior modeled for me by my dad. In the spring of every year, Dad was busy. There was ground to be worked, planting to be done, side dressing, spraying and a never-ending list of things that farmers do to get a crop in the ground. Planting time on a farm is a stressful time because it requires good weather meaning we had to take advantage of it when we got it. My dad would start his days early and end them well after dark which meant that my family didn’t see a lot of him that time of year.
The story would repeat in the fall when it was time to harvest. It takes dry weather to cut soybeans or to shell corn and when it was dry and the crops were ready, it was go time. Dad was busy from morning until night and if he was shelling corn, darkness couldn’t slow him down.
This left summer and winter as the times of the year when Dad wasn’t under constant pressure to get things done. It didn’t mean he wasn’t busy, it meant it was the time of the year when he was in control rather than the weather. There was still plenty of machinery to service and hay to bale but during the winter and summer, he called the shots. Since I was a little kid, this has been the kind of life I’ve known and I couldn’t have picked a better one to prepare me for a successful one. Had my dad tried to balance everything, we might have seen him a little more often, but we would have gone hungry. In the spring and the fall, he had to work when he could to either get the crops out or in. It’s a formula that works just as well off the farm.
Every industry has seasons and if it doesn’t, we should make our own. There should be times when we meet ourselves coming and going – that we work insanely hard on little sleep and accomplish great things. There should also be times when we’re more in control of what we do and when we do it. Without the first one, we’ll go broke and without the second one, we’ll go insane. We’re going to have springs and falls when we have to get the deal done, the project up and going or the new policy implemented. We should also have summer and winters when we service our equipment and make time for the other parts of our lives that are important. We truly can’t enjoy one without the other.
Seeking balance set us up to fail before we start. It’s because balance is bullshit. The only way to truly build a meaningful life is to take a lesson from our agrarian roots and work the seasons to our advantage. There will be springs and falls, summers, and winters. We must use them well or pay the price.