The whole balance thing is always in the news. Work-life balance, balanced living, strike a balance between family and self…it has almost become a meaningless buzzword. Yet, if you ask most people, they yearn for more balance. By that they mean more time for things that matter and less time chasing and seeking. Some people simply want to get a little sleep and down time and they’d call that a wild improvement in balance. Others are so stressed trying to figure out how to have everything be neatly and exactly sliced like a perfect store-bought pie that they feel like failures when it comes to balance if everything is not perfect.
Well, I’m here to tell you that balance in this “exactly proportional” way is impossible. Unless you’re living the life of a Stepford Wife, this illusion of perfection is just that – an illusion. (Of course anyone who looked beyond the surface knew that the whole Stepford Wife thing was far from perfection and in there lays the irony of it all.) There’s a new kind of balance that can leave you feeling great about all areas of your life and it doesn’t look at all like what you might think.
Let’s look at a great example of balance that illustrates the power of this new kind of balance I am referring to. Let’s start with my favorite – athletics. When you think of a highly trained athlete you don’t think of a balanced life. And, in fact I’d guess most elite athletes do put their sport above all else in their life because of the sheer commitment required. Yet, in their training routine is a hidden lesson that the rest of us can apply to the full spectrum of our life with great results.
Let’s take the example of an elite bike rider. They don’t train the same way every day. What makes them successful is the combination of variety (cross-training), intensity, consistency, and quality of their workouts. Some days they ride for long hours at a time at a steady pace. Other days they do intervals until they are totally spent. Some days they don’t ride the bike at all but spend their time concentrating in the weight room or doing another activity to cross-train. At other times they do recovery rides to let the benefits of the hard days integrate into their body. Sometimes they have a complete rest day where they don’t do anything at all enabling body, mind, and spirit to rest fully.
Now, compare these different types of workouts to different areas of your life. What if balance in your life were to look more like this bike riders’ training program? Some periods of time might be really hard efforts focused on career. You do extra work and devote a bunch of time to a special project. Other times you might do a hard effort on relationships. You’d spend some fully present quality time really connecting and visiting with people who matter to you. Other stretches of time might be devoted to your home and surroundings. Perhaps you have a big house project and spend a lot of time and effort working that. Then, when it is complete you take a complete rest from the house and devote time to your inner life and spiritual practice by taking a weekend retreat. Get the picture? It doesn’t have to look like a perfectly sliced pizza pie, just an ebb and flow of quality focus that works for you. Of course you can’t neglect one area for long stretches of time and expect it to function any more than an athlete could avoid one part of the body, let’s say abs, and then expect their core to be strong when they need it in competition.
How does this new definition of balance resonate with you? How can you incorporate it into your life to get more quality and focus in each area of your life without feeling like you have to do it all or have it be perfect?
(I often work with my clients using a tool called a life wheel which is great for getting a handle on your life as a whole. If you’d like to work with a copy, contact me and let me know.)