“What do you do?”
“Oh! I am a photographer and small business owner! I used to be a social worker/hairstylist/researcher.”
When people ask what we do, we usually answer with what we do for a living. This one facet of our life becomes what we are, our identity. It’s totally normal to define and redefine ourselves by what we do for work. We work to pay our bills, obviously, but for the fortunate few, we work because we want to spend our days engaged in fulfilling accomplishments. But we do other things, too! We do things related to our health, our families, our spirituality, our friends, our pleasure.
People refer to managing these activities and identities as “work-life balance.” As in, work, which is often how we define ourselves or we are defined by society, versus all of those other things -- life. Guys, that’s crazy talk. As a former social worker who worked with people at the end of their lives, I can tell you that the things that people care about at the end aren’t primarily their work accomplishments. But when people ask us what we do, we say, “I am a [insert job title here].”
In my opinion, the real key to work-life balance is turning those nouns we use to define ourselves into a list of verbs. I am not a small business owner, I am a person that operates a small business. I am not a photographer. I am a person that gleefully photographs events, children, births, and boudoir. I am not even just a mother. I am a human being who happily gets to help raise an incredible human being that I made! I believe that defining ourselves with a series of verbs rather than nouns more accurately reflects our changing identities, as well as helps us prioritize our activities to achieve work-life balance.
The first step is identifying those verbs that truly make up who you are. Then parse out your priorities and visualize what you want your life to look like. If working from 6am until 10pm fills you up, great! Make friends at the office or coworking space and find a local gym. But if you are deeply missing your partner and your child’s bedtime, than it might be time to reconsider if you can only do a good job working those hours. Or if that workload is even making you a better worker.
Maybe work-life balance is a misnomer. I think that really, it’s just life balance. We all identify success, productivity, and accomplishment differently and what you choose to prioritize will look different than the next person. Just make sure that you are engaging in these actions with intention. If someone asks you what you do, don’t tell them you are a designer, tell them that you create graphic design, crochet small animals, garden, dance, and/or raise a tiny human. Verb those nouns and then live those verbs intentionally. You’ll find that balance follows naturally.