The 3 Most Unhelpful Words in Wellbeing

There is a confusing, misleading and unhelpful bit of terminology that is embedded in the public consciousness. Unfortunately, it is in common everyday use and so often causes a snigger or groan when mentioned.

That phrase is ‘Work Life Balance’. 

It’s confusing because it suggests that ‘Work’ and ‘Life’ are somehow the opposite of each other. 

Clearly, they are not. 

No matter how much we may at times despise our jobs or aspects of them anyway, that doesn’t make ‘work’ the same as ‘death’, which is technically and undeniably the opposite of ‘life’.

Even if we accept that ‘work’ and ‘life’ are the two main elements of our existence, the phrase is misleading as it implies that they are somehow two diametrically opposed states. Like ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, ‘good’ and ‘bad’ or ‘black’ and ‘white’.

Again, they are not. 

The problem of false beliefs

Many people really enjoy their work, and work is, of course, an essential part of what gives our lives meaning and purpose. You could even say that most of us are to some extent defined by what we do to earn our crust.

The reason this phrase is unhelpful is that it sets up an expectation in our minds. An expectation that the two components of ‘our work’ and ‘our lives outside of work’ can, with a bit of effort, be slid back and forth along some kind of theoretical see-saw balance scales, until they are perfectly in balance.

And then what? Presumably, everything will be OK. Hmm.

A better approach

There is a much better phrase we can use to describe the above concept. It’s much more constructive and sets up a positive and more accurate expectation in our minds of what perhaps we should be aiming for.

That phrase is ‘The Busy Being Mix’.

‘Busy’ represents activities in which we are actively ‘Doing’ things. In other words, we are Busy, our engines are revving and we are effectively ‘switched on’.

Then ’Being’ – these are activities where we are not actively ‘Busy’. So our engines are idling and we are to all intents and purposes in ‘switched off’ mode. Our systems are just ticking over.

Just think about the difference between the two states for a moment and about the mix of them in your life.

I’ve called it ‘Mix’ by the way, because the metaphor is more suitable. Just like mixing recipe ingredients, you get the right amount of each by weighing or measuring them so that they are essentially ‘balanced’. Once they go into the bowl they only produce a tasty product if they are mixed in together.

Clearly, we need to ‘Do’ things. Being busy is, after all, how we get things ‘Done’. If we didn’t get things done we’d still be in the stone age. Yet it’s the sheer number of ‘Doing’ activities that can overwhelm us, especially now that we have the technology to provide us with the means of being permanently in the ‘Busy’ mode.

For most of us, the mix is just not right. There’s too much ‘Busy’ and not enough ‘Being’.

And here’s the real conundrum.

The ‘Busy’ things are not the culprits, they may seem like it at times but they are not. They give our lives a sense of direction and purpose.

The goals and targets we strive for when we are busy drive us to be our best and to accomplish things. This brings success in our jobs, sport, personal challenges, living environment, computer games, and more.

Ultimately we are rewarded for being busy in a combination of ways, such as:

  • a sense of achievement
  • personal satisfaction
  • salary raise or bonus
  • increase in status

We also get to feel justified in being able to do some ‘Being’ things, such as:

  • holidays
  • time with family and friends
  • relaxing
  • hobbies
  • generally reconnecting with nature

In the final assessment, the ‘Busy’ things make life happen, but the ‘Being’ things make life worthwhile.

Too much of one without the other leads to a sense of pointlessness and futility – too much ‘Busy’ and words such as treadmill, rat-race and hollow existence spring to mind, too much ‘Being’ and we feel self-indulgent and directionless.

Which brings us back to The Mix. The Busy Being Mix.

Go find your Mix, then share what you discover below.

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About the Author

Jon is a highly experienced wellbeing specialist, trainer and clinician who helps busy, overwhelmed people to boost joy, bounce-back-ability and performance in and outside of work.