Change Your Expectations to Change Your Life

Is it even possible to have work-life balance? Not according to Olga Khazan of The Atlantic who wrote:

On a recent cross-country trip to see my parents, I spent a day doing my work expenses. Constant pressure in my profession has made me go to great lengths to minimize how much labor I perform outside of work. I once made my boyfriend pay me for the hours I spent booking flights and hotels for our vacation.

Can you even imagine? How do you get into such dire straits that you’re charging your loved ones for the time you spend planning your own vacation?

The Impossibility of Work-life Balance

Khazan argues–with the help of Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed:¬†Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time and director of the Better Life Lab–that work-life balance isn’t actually possible.

Schulte goes so far as to say successfully balancing work and life is “an act of subversion, of resistance…”

Long hours. Uneven distribution of household responsibilities. It’s all to blame for the lack of balance. In fact, research finds that two income families and the more highly educated have worse work-life balance. Have freedom over your schedule? That probably just means you work at all hours of the day and night.

But I’d argue that a lot of this has to do with your own expectations.

Manage Expectations, Find Balance

What does success look like to you? Does it involve a new car and a McMansion on the hill? Do you need awards and accolades? Maybe it involves a kid on a fancy travel sports team that has you on the road all weekend long. Maybe it involves 3 kids instead of the one you’ve already got and are struggling to find time for.

These things all have one thing in common. They are decisions you make that are totally within your control.

How would having a smaller house or driving an older car change your life? Could you work less? Would you spend less time cleaning?

What if your kid just played basketball at the Y? Would you get your weekends back? Could you spend less money on fancy coaches and hotel rooms at out-of-state tournaments?

Sure, there are plenty of structural problems with the world we work in, but there are also ways to opt out. But the first step to changing your life, is changing your mindset–about what you have, what you need, and what you want.

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