Sunday, January 31, 2010

Long Run Revelations, Part I - There Is No Such Thing as Work/Life Balance

"There is no such thing as work/life balance....there is only life balance."

I'm starting a new section of my blog called "Long Run Revelations" in honor of those moments of clarity that often kick in on those weekend 20-milers. For me, it's about two hours into the run when my body transcends the pain, my brain goes into hyper-awareness, and my soul opens up like a sun-hungry flower. It's a blissful state, and when it happens I always feel like I've stumbled upon something divine.

Usually about the time I'm thinking of nothing but the rhythm of my feet, the most profound thoughts enter my head. This week was a repeat of one of my favorites - "there is no such thing as work/life balance...there is only life balance".

The term work/life balance defines itself with unneeded polarity,  putting "work" and "life" as the two opposing forces on your emotional and spiritual see saw. I don't remember where I heard it first, but it was long enough ago to absorb without question. The contrast of work and life distracts one from the last word in the phrase - "balance" - and by doing so, kind of defeats the purpose of the term. By simplifying even further, I think it provides clarity.

"Life balance" rings more true for me. Life has many facets, and each of them can be tapped into for positive energy, including work. What's most important is to understand every part of your life where passion gives you energy and optimism, and make sure you get regular feedings.As the band Us3 once said, "you gotta get mad knowledge of self". Work does not have to be the black hole that sucks everything else into its vortex. If you work on things that excite you, surround yourself with fun and passionate people, you shouldn't need to compromise. Know thyself and there is no excuse for being in a job that erodes your passions.

That goes for any dimension of your life. Occasionally assessing to make sure no one part is becoming the black hole of your world (ie, training, parenthood, hobbies, etc) is the best way to determine your life balance. The long run is a great place to do it.

Hope you are all having a great week!

- SD


  1. As usual, you speak my own mind, my friend. This is why I come back to your blog, always. Thanks!

  2. Thank you, Scott. You a great writer

  3. You "are" a great writer. Me? not so good.

  4. well is life kids have taught me that

  5. i really, really needed to read that.

    I'm quitting my office job and following my passion.

    thank you.

  6. Well said! Nothing better than a long run, you can really open and free the your head of everything.

  7. Excellent topic. I have often felt that the long run is our peyote. It triggers a state of deep introspection and insight- and that is why it is so difficult to deal with life's problems when injured.

    Your revelation of life's balance reminds me of Joseph Campbell's advice to "follow your bliss." Read/watch Campbell/Moyers "Power of Myth" and go for a long run. Good stuff.

  8. I've had many long run revelations in my time. Unfortunately most of them have the theme of "things I wish I had done differently". How do you get your mind set to think about the future, istead of wallowing in regret?

  9. My work days are so intense that I can talk myself out of being able to exercise those days, but find if I do a little something, even a 30 minute run in the woods, it is easier to find joy in work itself. Nice post.

  10. Great post Scott! I'm actually going to be doing a presentation at work on how running can help with finding balance in your life. I'll use some of your insights.



  11. I've been thinking about your posting all day. It really is true. Work doesn't have to be a black hole and if you can balance that part of your life (or any part) that has to make the other parts better. I'm tired of going on runs to escape from a cage I built myself. I want to run to cap off the day, like a nice big exclamation point or a cherry on top. Interesting that Runner's World just had an article that said you are more likely to get injured when you run with stress than without.

  12. Scott,

    Thanks for turning the term "work/life" balance on its head and sharing your thoughts. I like your term "life balance" a lot better. There really is no work/life balance for most folks in this day and age and thinking about it another way helps.

    My work life is like Spiffer's right now, very busy, intense. Am just trying to get a 6 miler in at lunch each day and a long run on the weekend.

    Another phrase/thought I have heard a lot these past two years when a friend or strangers are being laid off from their jobs is that "it's not personal".

    That's exactly right, it's impersonal, and that right there is the problem.

    In some cases, where folks are competent, work hard, but still are laid off, while the highest of upper management still get the fat bonuses and big salaries, it's criminal. But, it's "business". It's not personal! Of course. We all know that.

    Thank goodness there is running, and mountain trails to spend time on, no matter what, to help achieve more of that life balance you speak of. I haven't lost my job and hope it doesn't happen. My thoughts are especially with anyone out there who has.

  13. Great thoughts, everyone. Thank you for sharing!

    Long run = peyote. That explains a lot. ;-)

    Robert - I have an age old trick for fitting in the 6-mile run. Schedule it on your work calendar! I put it in Outlook, always calling it something like "strategy session" or "360 review". But when it's on the calendar (particularly if it means not arriving in the office until 9:30am or 10am), everyone manages to schedule around it. After a while, nobody even questions that time slot.

    Same goes for kids. I often feel the gift of swimming lessons is that I have to book some time in the afternoon to go play with my daughter. Don't think of it as taking time, think of it as making time.


  14. Scott -- kudos from this clinical psychologist, long time trail runner, and now aspiring ultra runner (registered for my first in May!). Balance and "spontaneity" can be planned and scheduled. And if one day, or one week, is out of balance, we must remember to step back and look for balance over time. Of course, we all know there's no better or more organic way to give the brain restorative balance than time on the trail.

  15. Hello Scott, been following your blog a while tru RSS and sometimes take a deeper plunge on the website. Thanks for the inside look. I will use your positive energy and turn it into something for me ;-) Keep running!!

  16. Thanks for that !! I needed to hear it.. I just started running and look forward to reaching those plains of divinity !! :)

  17. yes those long runs lull the linear part of your brain to a kind of "sleep" or turn off which allows your creative side to be heard. during daily life such as work, meetings, whatever we are sucked into the linear world and we do not pay attention to our creative side. When we occupy ourselves with a monotonous or somewhat automatic activity we perceive the ideas from our creative side. They are always there we just need to stop the chatter inside the brain. I solve most of my programing/analysis problems when I run during lunch, because the right idea just pops up.

  18. And so, now that we are all well-balanced, perhaps you can give some advice: Am running my first ultra in May, but still struggling between 50k and 50m, i.e., trying to "balance" my rational (50k) and passionate (50m) sides. (I have run 3 marathons, run trails all the time, and training is going extremely well). Advice?

  19. Ah, the age old dilemma of "should I start with a 50k or 50m"!

    You are right that the practical thing is to do the 50k. It's weird how just 5 extra miles changes the whole nature of the race, requiring better nutrition and hydration. It would certainly be a good experience and the wise choice.

    That being said, the REAL ultra experience lies in the 50-miler. It is so different from the marathon, it will rock your world.

    I would recommend this. Can you go out and do a combo run/hike for 5+ hours and still feel fairly good? That means you keep moving the whole time, eating and drinking, and be tired but still positive at the end. If so, I say go for the 50-miler. If not, and you find yourself having a lot of trouble after 3-4 hours, then it's best to ease your way into it with a 50k.

    And if you do the 50-miler, be sure to come again and try the 50k. You won't believe how you'll say "this is so short!". ;-)

    Good luck, Andy!


  20. Thanks, Scott, for fabulous advice (which is exactly what I expected). I say "fabulous" because I am already at 3-4 hours on tough singletrack with no real walking and finding it pretty easy (e.g., want to run the next day). Well, so much for balance -- bring on the 50m!

    Thanks for a great resource and a great blog.

  21. I tell you, its all about having a balance and many die before they do it. Reading that did me some good. Am inspired.

  22. Great perspective, thanks for sharing this simple truth. Awareness is empowering and gives us opportunity to move deliberately forward towards those "energizers" in the balance. Something for me to ponder more this morning as I hit my 22.

  23. The comments are just as aspiring as the post. Thanks to all for sharing.

    I'm new to trail running. Can anyone recommend 50+ miler for trail runs, prefer charity events. Here are a list of some of my events My events THanks... The desert has been calling my name. Any recommendations are appreciated: Thanks..

  24. I cannot help but think that if my work was running and writing a blog about running that I too would have more life balance. However, because I have one of those 24/7 jobs that means when I am running I am not working and when I am working I am not running and so they do feel diametrically opposed, mostly cause more often then not work wins. Maybe what this ultimately means is that I do indeed need life balance and that means I need to let the work first mentality go.

  25. I fairly agree with the new word life balance.
    you have mentioned

    do you think every body would be as lucky.

    Write for those people who have not been lucky to get this privilege. Think about these people who are passionate about few things and are not able to do it because either their work/family doesn't allow them to do it.
    It is nice to read these kind of blogs and articles.
    But none address those day to day daily sufferers who are passionate and have the material to do some thing nice and good but life cheats them with different kind of oppurtunities.
    It's back to work life balance and in essence that is life balance.


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