Why Finding Balance as an Entrepreneur is Impossible (And How to Make Peace with It)
“My life feels so shitty and out of balance right now! All I want is for this phase to end so that we can live a normal life.”
I can’t even begin to guess how many times I have said this over the past seven years to my husband. The moment I quit my job teaching and decided to take the plunge as a full-time entrepreneur I knew my life would change.
I just didn’t know how much.
Fairly quickly I learned that everything that sounded amazing when I was working a traditional job were the same things that turned out to be the most difficult parts about working for myself.
“It’s so great, I get to set my own schedule!” turns into “All I do is work! When will I ever know it’s time to quit?”
“I get to work from home and never worry about what I have to wear!” turns into “I’m such a slob. I think I showered once this week and no one even noticed.”
“I don’t ever have to sit through a boring meeting again!” turns into “God I wish someone would tell me what I should be doing!”
And the list goes on and on.
But, I found ways to cope. I changed my habits by becoming more disciplined and organized. Five years later, I feel like I’ve finally mastered the work-from-home and be-my-own-boss thing…
Except that my life never (ever) feels balanced.
And that has driven me fucking crazy.
As a married mom of three, I always feel like the minute I succeed at one thing, everything else starts to fall apart. For example, if I spend the day working on my business, then the moment I step out of my room I’m greeted by a literal laundry list of chores - clothes everywhere, toys scattered, dishes piled high in the sink. So, the next day, I spend time tidying and cleaning, doing baking projects with my kids and going on a lunch date with my husband. The only problem is that the entire time I’m feeling guilty about not working. (Which means I stay up late to get work done and then feel exhausted the next day.)
If you’re an entrepreneur (especially if you have kids), then I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.
Balance isn’t only difficult, it’s straight up impossible.
It’s like those jugglers who have ten things in the air and then someone keeps throwing them more from offstage. (Only I don’t know how to juggle so it’s just one giant shit show with broken plates everywhere.)
At first, I spent a lot of nights crying over the plates I felt like I was breaking on stage.
Then, I got super frustrated. I vowed to quit the entrepreneur life altogether, searching for something else that would be easier.
But, after realizing that there was nothing else better than what I was already doing (although selling candles at Anthropologie came in at a close second) I fought the imbalance in every way I could - like setting literal timers around my house so that I could evenly distribute my time. (Hint: This doesn’t work.)
So, not knowing what else to do, I got back to work, doing my best to prioritize what really mattered. And then something magical happened: I forgot about trying to be balanced. Instead of worrying about finding balance, I started to ask myself one simple question at the end of each day:
Do I feel satisfied?
And, let me tell you, this changed everything.
Not only am I happier, but I no longer feel controlled by expectations and all of the “should’s” that used to run through my head. I feel free to create and work when I want - and to rest and play when I need. Rather than trying to compare how much I do of each every day or every week, I bend more easily. If I work every day this week but feel great about it, then I don’t beat myself up about the laundry piling up a bit. And, if I decide to volunteer at my son’s school or get out the paints with my daughter, then I expect to see the emails stacking up - and I don’t freak out when it comes time to go through them.
Truth be told, the idea of balance in life and work is overrated. In fact, life is so much better when you let the scales tip and just enjoy the ride, as wild and out of control as it may seem.
“Peace is harder to come by these days with the iPhone, the constant “on” with technology and the many ways we are being presented more and more information. But peace isn’t something that comes with a lack of stress, it comes in the midst of it.”
The only real balance you need is internal, and focusing on satisfaction, rather than getting it all done, is the best way to get it.