This article originally appeared in Forbes.com.
Work-life balance is a phrase we’re all familiar with, but what does it really mean? Does anyone know?
I don’t believe in balance. I believe in harmony. We’ve got one life to live, and work is part of our life, just like the time with our families is part of our life. The time we spend running errands, driving in the car, pursuing our hobbies — it’s all part of our life.
I don’t like the word “balance.” To me, it conjures up an image of a seesaw on the playground, with children scrambling around to make sure that each side is weighted exactly the same. It’s not realistic. If, by chance, everything aligns and you achieve balance, it’s not sustainable. That’s just not how life works.
Work doesn’t fit into a neat little bundle, and neither does your family, and neither do your hobbies. Trying to “balance” it all out doesn’t make sense. Instead, I believe in creating harmony throughout our lives: harmony among your career, your family, your personal hobbies and your friends.
Here are three steps to make this happen:
1. Don’t let anyone else tell you what your life should look like.
Too many people spend their lives trying to meet the expectations of other people. Sometimes it’s our parents or boss. Sometimes it’s our friends or neighbors. Sometimes it’s colleagues.
Here’s the truth: It’s your life, not theirs. You’re the only person who gets to define success, and your opinion is the only one that really counts. You don’t have to dedicate your life to climbing the corporate ladder if you don’t want to. You don’t have to drive a Mercedes. You don’t have to have kids. You don’t have to settle down in the suburbs. None of these are bad things. If you want some or all of that and you attain it, that’s amazing. What’s important is that you don’t spend your life trying to meet other people’s expectations of what your life should look like.
You’re the only person who gets to decide that.
2. Define the goals and priorities that truly matter to you.
Now that we’re clear that you are in the driver’s seat of your own life, the next step is to honestly and clearly define the goals and priorities that matter to you.
What do you want to accomplish? For example, do you want to make partner at your law firm? Or maybe go out and start your own company? Raise a large family? Travel the world? Be honest with yourself: What do you really want your life to look like?
Then, reflect on your priorities. What’s important to you and how do you want to spend your time? Your priorities might be time with your family, time spent pursuing personal hobbies, time with your friends, time building your business or whatever else fuels you.
There are no right or wrong answers. All that matters is that you’re honest with yourself about what’s really important in your life.
3. Get creative and ‘integrate’ your life.
Once you’ve defined what you want your life to look like, the next step is making it a reality. The truth is, if you’re willing to think outside the box and get creative, you’ll be surprised at the harmony you can develop.
For example, I live and serve clients primarily in Miami, but I have family in Denver. For years I struggled to “balance” those two realities. And then it hit me one day: Integrate. So I began to develop a book of business in Denver, and now I coach clients there — and also get to spend quality time with my mom.
What does this look like for you? How can you integrate your life?
I have a client who’s a licensed pilot and loves to fly. He integrates this passion with his work by flying his plane all across the state to meet with clients.
Perhaps getting involved in your child’s school is important to you, but you’re also building a business. Can you use your child’s school events as an opportunity to network with other parents and potentially develop business?
What are your goals, what are your priorities, and how can you shape your life in order to create harmony?
You’ve got one life to live, so live it your way.
Our time is too precious to waste conforming to the expectations other people have for us. What really matters is what you want your life to look like. If you’re willing to be honest with yourself and define your goals, I believe that with some creativity, you can create real harmony in your life.
Not balance, but harmony.
That’s a goal worth pursuing.