Why Searching for Balance Isn’t Working (and What to Focus on Instead)

The overemphasis on searching for balance has led us to focus primarily on productivity hacks, time management skills, and increased workplace flexibility. But these “fixes” are false trails because they don’t address the underlying causes of why you feel stuck, stressed, and out-of-balance in the first place.

Work-life balance. Almost everyone wants it, searches for it, and follows conventional wisdom on how to get it. Yet very few find it. You’d think that all this discussion about how to find more balance would get better results.

So, why is finding “balance” so elusive?

Searching for Balance

Let’s start with the obvious: work-life balance doesn’t exist. It’s impossible to equalize the number of hours spent working and the number of hours spent doing everything else. And life is too complex to be divisible into two distinct categories. Work is part of your life and your non-work life is comprised of more than one thing (and can’t be tidily put into a box).

Here’s the thing: you’re not looking to be balanced.

Through my years of mentoring young attorneys and within my coaching career, I’ve noted that people who search for more “balance” want:

  • A life that feels purposeful.
  • To feel calm and at peace from within.
  • The ability to be present in the moment and stop worrying about what’s yet to be done.
  • Enough time to spend on true priorities.
  • More physical, spiritual, and mental energy.

Ultimately, these can be boiled down into what I call the three P’s: purpose, peace, and prosperity (of time, energy, and spirit).

Work-Life Balance “Solutions” Won’t Fix What Troubles You

The overemphasis on searching for balance has led us to focus primarily on productivity hacks, time management skills, and increased workplace flexibility. But these “fixes” are false trails because they don’t address the underlying causes of why you feel stuck, stressed, and out-of-balance in the first place.

In my experience, there are four things that cause people to feel so out-of-balance:

  • Improper prioritization;
  • Little to no self-care;
  • Adoption of roles, projects, and tasks because you “should”;
  • Weak boundaries.

Note that these are internal issues relating to how you’re choosing to live your life. And, regardless of how well you use your calendar, what method you use to manage your to-do list, or whether you work from home, you’ll continue to struggle if you don’t first deal with how you’re making these choices.

At the end of the day, it’s about learning how to live with more intention. What’s needed are solutions designed to help you live more intentionally (and in choice).

Solution #1: Prioritize Self-Care

I once had a client that understood (at least rationally) that she should prioritize her own self-care yet still had trouble saying “no”. Her problem was that she defined self-care as something you do to “feel good” and “get away”. And this made her feel as though prioritizing self-care would be selfish and take too much time.

But she was wrong about what self-care is.

Self-care is about doing what’s necessary physically, mentally, and spiritually to feel at peace with yourself and your life so that you don’t feel a need to escape it. And there’s nothing selfish about that.

Moreover, good self-care doesn’t always have to take up a lot of time.

And doing something to escape your life isn’t self-care – regardless of whether it could be included in a self-care plan. Because if you’re doing it to escape, then you’re ignoring the point for taking care of yourself in the first place.

Prioritization of self-care includes getting your needs met, maintaining strong boundaries, giving yourself time and space to think, and taking care of yourself physically, mentally, and spiritually. And it’s necessary if you want to find any semblance of peace or prosperity in your life.

Solution #2: Live Your Values

If you’re searching for more purpose or something “more” in your life, it’s a sure sign that you’re not aligning how you live with your values. Your core personal values are what give you meaning in life –they make up your identity.

Living your values simply means that you learn to use your values as your compass for how you live your life and make decisions for yourself. Thus, your behavior will honor your values, your goals will be values-based, and big decisions will be made with your values in mind.

Getting clarity around (and aligning your behavior and decisions with) your core personal values is the single most important ingredient to finding more purpose in life, feeling fulfilled, and being happy. And it will also (1) make it easier to determine your true priorities and to let go of non- priorities (including those pesky “shoulds”) and (2) help you more confidently enforce your boundaries.

Solution #3: Practice Peaceful Productivity

This step involves (a) cultivating a mentally resilient and growth-oriented mindset (what I call a success mindset), and (2) integrating mindfulness and simple productivity strategies into your daily routine and habits.

Taking care of yourself and aligning how you live with your values will already help to facilitate the right mindset. But I want you to go further by accepting that you’re imperfectly human, life is a marathon (and includes falls and missteps), and much is learned from those falls and missteps (it’s how you grow). This is necessary to get to a place of peace – about who you are and your life (even while striving to be better).

To bring more focus and peace into your life, try incorporating meditation or other mindfulness techniques into your daily routine. Meditation increases focus, stress resiliency, and your ability to think creatively. Plus, it will give your brain “white space” to think and allow your subconscious thoughts to the surface (helping you feel more relaxed and at peace).

Finally, to help keep stress and overwhelm at bay, incorporate some simple productivity techniques into your daily routine (such as time blocking and using your calendar to keep you on task). I know that I complained about productivity strategies above, but they work once you learn to prioritize properly, simplify, and take care of yourself. And, so long as you’re using them to further your priorities, they’ll help keep you organized, focused, and moving forward.

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Heather Moulder

Heather Moulder is a recovering attorney, a cancer survivor, devoted mom + wife, and executive coach for high-achieving women relentless in their pursuit of both personal and professional success on their own terms (without sacrificing one for the other). To connect with Heather and read more about how to find and live with more purpose (all while having fun), go to coursecorrectioncoaching.com

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