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Balance - Love, Play, Work, Health

Lesson 3 from: Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life

Bill Burnett, Dave Evans

Balance - Love, Play, Work, Health

Lesson 3 from: Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life

Bill Burnett, Dave Evans

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Lesson Info

3. Balance - Love, Play, Work, Health

Summary (Generated from Transcript)

The topic of the lesson is about designing a well-lived, joyful life by finding balance in love, play, work, and health.


  1. What is the false belief about work-life balance?

    The false belief is that work and life are a dichotomy, and if you have more work, you have less life and vice versa.

  2. What are the four elements that contribute to a well-lived life?

    The four elements are love, play, work, and health.

  3. What does love refer to in this context?

    Love refers to having meaningful relationships and being part of a community.

  4. How is play defined?

    Play is defined as doing things just for fun, not for merit or competition.

  5. What is the importance of work in a well-lived life?

    Work is necessary for both meaning and financial stability.

  6. What does health encompass?

    Health includes mental, physical, and spiritual well-being.

  7. How can one assess their balance in these areas?

    One can imagine a dashboard with gauges for love, play, work, and health and rate themselves on each area.

  8. Can one improve their balance in one area without sacrificing other areas?

    Yes, it is not a zero-sum game. Making an improvement in one area does not necessarily mean a decline in the others.

  9. How can one make incremental changes to improve their balance?

    One can identify one area they would like to improve and think of small, actionable steps to make a change.

  10. Is there a right answer for what a balanced life should look like?

    No, balance is subjective and personal. It depends on what works for each individual in their current season of life.

Lesson Info

Balance - Love, Play, Work, Health

Now how many people have kind of wrestled with this notion of work-life balance? Anyone feel any tension between work and, yeah, okay. Work too much particularly here in the Valley I think that people are working a lot of hours and then they're also having families and trying to have lives. And everybody's thing is like, "I want the perfect sundae. "I want the yogurt in there, I want the nuts I love. "I want the berries, everything's in there "everything's exactly in the right place "my life is completely balanced all the time. "That every moment in time it's balanced "and it tastes great, and it's not gonna change." This is just impossible. Impossible to get. No matter what you're doing in your life raising children is a hectic thing and hard to have balance for, time raising the kids plus time for myself. Working and kids and two careers and all of the other stuff that people are challenged with in our modern society. This idea of balance is one of those almost dysfunctional beli...

efs, like if it's not perfect there's something wrong. It's even worse because it's posed as a dichotomy, I can have work, and I have life. If I get more work, I get less life. If I get more life, I get less work, right? And we believe that's actually a false dichotomy. Because that doesn't cover everything in your world and so we want to back to the positive psychology guys and we said, "What really makes a person thrive? "What really makes a person happy "and feel like their life is in balance?" And it turns out it's not two things. It's more like four. We divided into these four things because we think, if you, first of all blow up the false dichotomy and it's balance it's four things, it's kind of a portfolio of stuff, and they change during the week. They can change during the year. It's a much more generative way of looking at it. So, first of all, love. Every piece of research on having a meaningful life having a life that thrives says you have to have relationships, you have to have people in the world that are important to you and people who view you as important in a loving relationship. Play. We don't do enough play here at Silicon Valley. Play is defined by the things you do just for the fun of doing them. If you have a hobby, if you play tennis or golf or something, not to keep score not to beat the other team, but simply to enjoy yourself while doing it. Work, of course, we all have a lot of work in our lives, and then health. And health includes mental health, physical health sort of spiritual health. The things that make you feel grounded and the things that make you feel, "I'm starting "from a strong place." And it's difficult to have the others if you're not feeling like you have a strong set of health. So, we turn this into a very simple exercise and we can imagine like a dash, imagine this the dashboard of your car of your life-driving car and the dashboard has these four gages on it. Love, play, work and health, and you put a bar on here that says, "Hey, lots of people. "I love lots of people, I have lots of great relationships "lots of people love me, I feel like I'm part "of a community, I'm full on that. "Play, I don't do anything for play." This was my dashboard, by the way, from the book. "I don't do anything for play, I'm screwed here. "I just work all the time." Work was at 120% in the red gage, blinking. "And my health was I could probably lose some weight "I could probably work out some more. "I don't have a meditation or mindfulness practice." So, I rated that as sort of 50-50. That was my way of rating it. Now, these are completely subjective and completely self-reported, but you'll find that your probably pretty good at this. So, what I want you to do is there's a worksheet coming your way, the first worksheet of the day. The love, play, work, health balance worksheet. Again, so now what you're trying to do and I'll walk you through all these worksheets we'll walk you through exactly how to do it and if there's a, if you're confused about something, raise your hand. The first part of this is I've explained kind of love is about relationships in and out of your life. Play is about the things you do for fun not for merit. Work is the thing you do, hopefully, for meaning but also for money. And then health is your mental and physical health. So, the first task here is, look at your dashboard and just kind of mark on there, put a bar on there for whatever you feel you are. Be fair to yourself, but sort of take a second to observe, "Where do I think I am on love, play, work "and health?" Don't overthink it, just mark it up real quick. According to you, not your partner, not your boss. Not your dad. Your assessment. Okay, so if you've done that, if you've got sort of a subjective analysis of that, now the next question is if you could make one incremental adjustment what would it be? What would you do to improve the dashboard? And the one below in the revised section what I did, was I said, "I need more play in my life. "I need to do something to make sure that I have play." Whatever gage on your dashboard concerns you. What could you do, what incremental adjustment on the dashboard itself, which dial would you like to have in a different position? Just make a quick decision on that. Here's the key thing. On our dashboard, when one bar moves the other ones don't have to. No, no. In the work-life balance, your brain on a dichotomy makes it a teeter-totter and everything that goes up, something goes down zero sum game, you are not a zero sum game. You're a human being. You can move one bar and the others stay where they are. This is not a zero sum game. Does everybody got an idea of how to make an improvement? Just one, a little bit. Now we believe that you start with setting the bar really low, clearing that, and then taking on another challenge, clearing that and building up your confidence that you have the ability to change. So, my question to you is if you could actually if they could actually make that change if I could actually move my play dashboard up a little what would I get out of it? What would happen in my life? What would change for me if that were true? If I could make that true, just assuming that I could make that change, what would happen? Qualitatively, in my life, how would it be different? Spread a little note to yourself. Imagine it just happened. You pulled it off, good job, now is there a way to make that change actually actionable? Is there an incremental change that you could do something in your behavior, something in your day that would allow you to live this way for just two weeks. Just two weeks. I'll tell you what I did. To me play is like having more hobbies more interesting things to do. I signed up for a letter press class. Fantastic, I'm going to learn printing. I signed up for a knitting class. I'm halfway through my first scarf. I'm very excited (laughs). I like those kinds of things. I signed up for silk-screening class because I've never done silk-screening before but those, to me, they're like creative, playful things to do. So, what could you do? Could you sign up for a class? Could you find something that will just two or just like a two week change. This isn't a lifestyle change, this is like for two weeks I could, or in two weeks, I could do this. Pick one simple thing, incremental thing you could do that would actually make the dashboard move. Again, if you're stuck, we can come over and brainstorm with you. Everybody got something? Okay, this is the first time we're gonna do something in the group, remember, one of the things on our support layer is community. Well, this is our community for the next six or eight hours. The little six groups, clusters of tables are your local community, so now what we'd like you to do is just, we'll do this, turn to the person next to you, that's your pair. But we want to do one thing. So, come here, Dave. We're just big gorillas, right? So, if we're talking to each other like this. "Hey, Dave, what did you come up with?" "Oh, I dunno, Bill, I'm not really sure what to do." Yeah, that's not good, so, but if it's like, "Hey "what did you come up with your idea for change?" "Actually, I bought an espresso machine "for like two minutes a day, just screw around "with making a shot and it's so much fun." Yeah, and the dangerous part about that it's true and now he drinks so much espresso, you can't deal with him. So, turn your chairs, so you're actually facing each other. That's all we're asking you to do. And we'll mix you up. You'll get to talk to lots of people today. Yeah, we get to mix you up. And just share like, "Okay, this is my dashboard. "Here's what my change was, and here's how I think "I might actually be able to experiment "with that for the next two weeks." Give you a couple of minutes. I actually feel really good about most things in my life, the work part is not as dialed up but I'm like, "What is the incremental change "I could make?" So, I consult, so it's like, I guess have more conversations with potential clients? I have to continue to get clients and different projects and everything, so I have to go design symposiums for architects, even though we're builders. Because those are people that bring the jobs and then go to real estate events even though it's not real estate, so, anyway. We're gonna do this at the end of each of these little things. We're really curious cause you get to be in this conversation. We're up here, we don't get to hear it. We're kind of curious what were either some questions you have about this, this notion that it's not a false dichotomy. You can actually have four things, and you can optimize all four, and what came up for you around making a small but useful incremental change? So, any questions, or, yes? One of our questions was almost in the ranking is what do you mean by balance? Is it satisfaction or is it actually time? So, interestingly, we each took it slightly differently. So, for me, I heard it more as the red working a 120% red light going off. Yeah, how much time do I spend on each thing and what's over? And for her ironically it was more, the satisfaction was how she ranked things. Yeah, that's actually a great question. Let me see if there's other questions and we'll put them all together. We got anything else? Yeah, if you guys want the online audience that was similar to that, Minky Jun had posted this one saying, "Should you strive for a full gage "on all four dashboards when you're limited "by 24 hours a day?" Another angle of the same question. So, we'll deal with that. What do we mean by balance? What's a good looking gage look like? What else you got? Any other questions, yeah? Quality versus quantity. Is that what your? It's a little bit like her question. So, are we looking just amount of time I spend on these things or what the quality is? Let me grab the first two, I'll let you do quality. So, on the what should it look like? What's fuller, what' not? Frankly, calling it balance, we're sort of acquiescing to the way the culture talks about this all the time? It really isn't balance. It's really about thriving. That's a portfolio of things. Portfolios are, a balanced portfolio is one that works for you. Just like investment, what's your risk return proclivity? What do you like to buy, what are you willing to do? So, your portfolio may look way different than mine, there is no right answer and so balance doesn't necessarily mean some perfect shape. It means what works for me at this time in my life? My older sister got her PhD in her late 50s while working full time, got a PhD in Los Angeles while working full time in Fresno. All she did was work for six years. She had six unscheduled hours in six years time. Terribly unbalanced, exactly the right portfolio for that period of time. You figure it out, it's what you define it to be. And you know what thriving feels like in your life it depends on the season that you're in. As far as quantity, as far as the issue of what the right shape is, it just depends on who you are and how you value it. We don't have a right answer, you're the expert. What about quality? Yeah, the quality, I think is really not so much the time, but your sense of satisfaction. Do I have enough play in my life? Do I have enough love? When I was younger, I did all sorts of sports and play and stuff, and then we got married and had kids, my play was just with my children. But it was wonderful, it was wonderful play going to the playground and goofing around. My kids grew up with two designer parents so we didn't buy them toys, but they did have a hot melt gun and an Exacto at about age four. After they burned themselves once or twice. And bought bandages. Yeah, they figured it out. So, playing with them was a different thing than it is in my life now. Now, it's much more about my own hobbies and the things that my wife and I do together. So, I think it is a qualitative assessment not necessarily just hours. But it is absolutely true, and in the book we talked about a guy who was in a start-up and he said, "Well, I'm going to be in a start-up. "I know I'm going to be working 90 hours a week. "But I'm not going to let my family down "so I'm going to make sure there's enough love "from my family, and I'm not gonna be unhealthy "because, actually, one of the attributes "of a successful entrepreneur is they're healthy." They can work hard, but work's gonna be 120% play's gonna be at zero, and that's fine for me right now. Because the thing that's true about this is if you make the decision that this is the shape you like, you're gonna be happy with it and we're gonna talk a lot about how decision making changes even your biochemistry. When you decide this is the shape you want Dave was fond of saying, "We don't do should." Don't should on yourselves, we won't should on you. We won't should on you, you know your life you know what's going to work for you right now so it's a qualitative assessment. Any takeaways, any insights, any quick, "Hey, you know "what I thought was interesting about this?" What was interesting to me that on my dashboard for example, love was pretty full but there was some key areas where I was like "Oh, but I wish that was different." So, I wanted to focus on it, but when I looked at the full dashboard, I thought, "But actually where "I would incrementally change is play." And so, it was just interesting to notice that tension in me of, "Oh, I want to focus on the love "but gosh, what would happen if I focused on play?" Great, that's a great job of recognizing just make one step. We can always do everything better. That's not the point, we're trying to be real mortal people living in real time, good job. Small incremental changes. Successes that build on successes is the best way to change behavior. Our takeaways are that's a false dichotomy. Don't fall into the work-life trap. One of our tidbits, I forget which comedian says this, "It's not work-life, it's just life-life." Paula Poundstone. Yeah, Paula Poundstone. It's life-life. I've got life, I got life. I've got the life of work, I've got the life at home. I've got the life of my kids, I've got the life of my colleagues. So, don't fall into that trap, but find a mix that works for you and check in every once in awhile to say, "Hey, did something change?" If you're starting to feel unwell or like something's just not right, go back to the dashboard and see what's missing. And remember that it is that connection to other people, and a connection to something outside yourself. Which the positive psychologist's have said is the highest indicator that you are living a life that's useful, meaningful, purposeful, whatever it is that you're looking for, and this is the way to discover if something's missing.

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Ratings and Reviews


A fantastic class for someone seeking to optimize their life for a greater sense of satisfaction and especially for someone who is considering a career transition. We are taught effective methods for brainstorming, examining, and prototyping our options, and we are given an approach for the hardest task of all: how to make a choice when faced with multiple good options! Also great tips for networking and getting your foot in the door. This class was very timely for me as I've been struggling with making a decision on what my next career was going to be. I now feel equipped with tools that will help me make that decision with less agony and more fun! Also, I'm a huge fan of design thinking, so it was great to see how that methodology could be applied to making one of the most important decisions in our life.

Karen Vitto

Great course! Great for who like me is on their 30's starting life in a new country with a new language and have been out of the industry for 4 years. Designing new goals, making new networking and starting a MBA for some updates on my carrear. Really helped with some focus. Super recommend!


Loved this class! It was high energy, fast paced and well organized, as well as inspiring. It helped me to make more concrete things I've been thinking and dreaming about. I'm so glad I took it. I made great contacts and will definitely use this material in the future!

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