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Why Work-Life Balance Is A Lie

Written by: Dr. Sydney Ceruto, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Striving for work-life balance isn't a zero-sum game. Being fully present wherever you are, and whoever you are with, is what matters.

A hand of a man protecting the wooden balancer between work and life with family paper cut out on seesaw.

Right up there with win-win in the office lexicon, you'll be familiar with the tired term, work-life balance. But, in truth, there is no such thing. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the very idea is an insidious lie. It implies that "work" and "life" are two different things. If "work" is not "life," then what is it? Death. Which, of course, it isn't.

But even I agree that there is some reality behind the catchphrase. To manage being a devoted family member and spouse, plus a high-performing leader or business owner, sometimes is a balancing act – one everybody wants to master.

And, good news, mastering it absolutely does not require you to be a slacker in either area.

In fact, one study found that top performers in business are the people most likely to achieve happiness in all dimensions of their lives. What person, and what person's family, doesn't want that? If you'll forgive me, I'll call that a "win-win." Here are three steps to get you there.

1. Work harder at loving your whole life.

If you think there should be a bright line separating "work" and "life," you are missing out on fulfillment. Consider the philosophy of one of our era's most successful entrepreneurs, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, who thinks the whole separate-existence idea is too limiting. "The reality is, if I am happy at home, I come into the office with tremendous energy," he said. "And if I am happy at work, I come home with tremendous energy."

So, instead of thinking of this as a zero-sum tradeoff, try giving 100 percent to your work and 100 percent to your personal life. Both deserve the best from you. For us mid-career adults, that translates to: love your job with sincerity and conviction. But also love your home life, and commit to that as well, unequivocally, all the time.

2. View your life as a circle you complete, not a finish line to aim at.

As Bezos describes it, and I agree, your life is not a railroad track that stops you at Point A in the morning and Point B in the evening. It's more of a circle that contains everything you do and care about, with you at its center.

There's no doubt that being happy and satisfied with your life 200 percent of the time is not easy. It requires work to turn work into play. Rather than feel guilty that you're not home during the day, then guilty that you're enjoying yourself during your off hours, be truly present in whatever place you find yourself, and tune in fully to the people who are with you – whether employees, colleagues, customers, or your loved ones at home. That requires that you bring your best self, and that you recognize and accept there is "some assembly required" to maintain those relationships. To understand that concept, let's take a little trip to IKEA.

3. Appreciate what's great about doing the work.

What has ready-to-assemble furniture got to do with balance in your life? Surprisingly, quite a bit. A Harvard Business School working paper explored the "IKEA Effect" – the idea that if personal labor is involved, satisfaction increases. If you go to IKEA and buy a piece of furniture and assemble it yourself, you are happier with the purchase than if it came already assembled, the report concluded. Needing to do a little labor doesn't take away from happiness; it adds to it.

Let's substitute "love" for "labor." Doesn't it make sense that if you do the work of bonding and getting close to the people you work with, and experience strong feelings of commitment and attachment to your projects, your people, and your place of work, you will be more satisfied with the experience? And from there, doesn't it also make sense that employees will appreciate your deep commitment, customers will feel better taken care of, and you will be a better leader?

And, to Bezos' observation, how can that experience not carry over to your relationships and activities at home too?

Life is life. You live some of it at home and with friends and family and some of it in your work responsibilities with colleagues, customers, and, yes, friends.

Do we have to balance our roles and responsibilities? Do we have to balance our relationships? Do we have to balance the things we do for a paycheck with the things we do strictly for fun? Yes, to all the above. But we don't balance "work" and "life." We live. And we need to maximize our life experience wherever we are, in whatever activity we're engaged in.

So, I'm driving a stake through the phrase "work-life balance” and so have my clients. How about you?

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info! Read more from Dr. Sydney!


Dr. Sydney Ceruto, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Dr. Sydney Ceruto has completed her doctoral education in the field of Cognitive & Behavioral Neuroscience & is a leading specialist in using your brains natural ability to change neuroplasticity to ensure you reach your desired goals. Her specialty is in helping clients recognize their faulty thinking patterns, change undesirable behaviors, developmental & emotional resiliency, & gain mental clarity.

When Dr. Ceruto was a teenager, she tragically lost both parents. As an only child, the loss of family completely broke her. She became profoundly depressed & began suffering from chronic anxiety. Sydney felt lost, & any form of happiness, confidence, or clarity seemed a long way off. Soon after, she began to pursue her education in medicine at Yale & obtained three masters in psychology & two Ph.D.’s in both cognitive & behavioral neuroscience at NYU. Studying the mind-brain connection was indeed the paradigm for her healing & growth. Dr. Sydney Ceruto created MindLAB Neuroscience over two decades ago. She pioneered an integrative approach based on hard science that has genuinely changed the way people make positive &, more importantly, permanent changes in all areas of their lives. Her program is highly venerated & has debunked all the myths regarding the efficacy of “traditional therapy” & the sad misnomer that you need to be on a counselor’s couch for years or even decades. Several publications have Dr. Sydney Ceruto on staff as a senior writer. She is a proud member of the Forbes Executive Council, Positive Performance Alliance, Wharton Executive Education Program, and Executive Writer for Alternatives Watch and Brainz Magazine. She has an avid intellect, a keen understanding of human nature, & an uncanny ability to connect deeply with clients. Dr. Ceruto is hands-on, accessible, highly intuitive, compassionate & is told … pretty funny!

One of her passions is traveling, which she has done extensively. Dr. Ceruto is an avid sports enthusiast and watches everything from football to Formula 1 racing. She plays golf whenever she can and enjoys exploring other cultures. Dr. Ceruto has one son who graduated from Princeton University and is studying to become a corporate attorney. She also has an affinity for animals and is an adoring mom to her 1.5-pound Micro Cuban Chihuahua, Lolita.



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