Several years ago I blogged about work-life balance and said that everyone has a different idea of what it really means.  Actually, it was a rant about how annoyed I get when others try to impose their definitions on me.

This week I read a great blog by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic called Embrace Work-Life Imbalance and I thought, ah ha!  That’s really what it is.  Forget about different definitions and call it what it is; something that everyone assumes is bad but it isn’t necessarily so.

Chamorro-Premuzic’s point is simple.  It isn’t that overworking is bad in and of itself, he says; it’s only bad when you don’t love your work.  People who are passionate about what they do, on the other hand, tend to work all the time and be energized rather than drained by it.  In other words, the discussion is really about engagement and meaningful work—the stuff we are (or should be) focused on as trainers and consultants.

In Chamorro-Premuzic’s words,  “According to one urban legend, based on 1950s pop psychology, workaholics are greedy and selfish people who are bound to die from a heart attack.  Not really. As the great David Ogilvy once said: ‘Men die of boredom, psychological conflict, and disease. They do not die of hard work.’  This is especially true if your work is meaningful…Engagement is the difference between the bright and dark side of workaholism.”

People responded in the comments that Chamorro-Premuzic had failed to address where family fits in.  Well, think about the bios of famous people who achieved great things and were obsessed with their work, having little desire to find some elusive concept called balance.  Didn’t many of them have spouses and partners that became part of their achievement, by understanding the obsession and acting as a support system?  Sure, there were also children who felt neglected by one parent, but to suggest that there is no price to pay for great achievement is perhaps naive.  We all make choices and sacrifices, we all accept trade-offs in life.

And so once again, for me it all comes down to the idea that we each make our own definitions of balance and meaningfulness in our lives.  Don’t tell me what mine should be, and I won’t tell you about yours.

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