Boundaries over Balance

— 3 minute read

Over the years, I've spoken about the inappropriateness of pursuing work-life balance. The thing being: life is not about work, and work isn't about life. Life, in itself, is something each being moves through, ebbing and flowing—forward.

Work-life balance doesn't exist permalink

A balanced teeter-totter is boring. Pursuing balance is a futile effort, constantly working towards something that's unachievable. One event can throw everything out of whack and the stress of being imbalance can make things even worse.

It creates a false separation of living one's life and doing your life's work. As humans, most of us can't switch into "work mode" and disregard all the bits that influence who and what we bring to our work.

It's detrimental to individuals, disregarding the complexity of being human. We are dynamic, complex beings filled with emotion, thought, and flow.

There's more to life than work, though work is a necessity to facilitate that life.

Boundaries are Better than Balance permalink

We have a finite amount of time and energy. To continue doing—day to day, month to month, year to year—we have to be purposeful of how we use that energy.

If we use all our spoons at work, we lose the spoons for others. We can't grow in capacity, doing more, if we don't have the energy needed to keep it up.

Listening to yourself, understanding one's bounds & needs, then setting those boundaries is extremely difficult. When we have none, everything becomes unsustainable and overwhelming. We quickly progress towards burnout, overwork, and misunderstood expectations.

Lessons from Moss permalink

I'm a big fan of the Ologies podcast by Alie Ward. Every podcast is filled with delightful and interesting science, made much more enjoyable by the Alie's enthusiasm: on the science itself & her excitement interviewing interesting people studying interesting things.

One of the most personally impactful episodes was with Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer on Bryology, "a world-renowned author, botanist, Indigenous ecology professor and byrologist." I can't recommend this podcast enough, but this episode: give it a good listen.

Once; twice; thrice.

There was one moment that struck and stuck—HA! Puns—a chord.

Moss is an extraordinary plant. They can grow on anything because of how they attach themselves to things. They grow everywhere because they take advantage of physics, using extremely thin boundary layers, operating in the stillness of air, capturing moisture to germinate, spread, and grow.

Dr. Kimmerer describes mosses as:

A little green house that occurs naturally over every surface, a place which is warmer, moister, and as it happens, richer in carbon dioxide than any place else, and that's where the mosses live. They’re exploiting these little microhabitats, rather than trying to dominate and control the habitat, they're taking advantage of the laws of physics and exploiting these naturally occurring little greenhouses.

They're using these boundary layers to thrive in extreme hostile environments, the first to "colonize land 350 million years ago." Sophisticated simplicity.

Boundaries are powerful. permalink

Only the individual has the power to create, define, and communicate their own bounds of what they need in life & work.

  • They require reflection to create, especially for one's self.
  • They're the limits, the lines we say can or cannot be crossed.
  • They manage personal expectations and expectations others put onto us.
  • Defining them fosters respect for self and others.
  • With them, we operate towards equilibrium—not constant pursuit of unattainable balance.
  • When set, we create personal micro-habitats to thrive.

Be like moss. permalink

Use layers of boundaries to create a greenhouse, creating your environment towards something better than balancing solely work with life. permalink