The Imbalance of Balance
(Note: This is a rewrite of an earlier post.)
Chances are you’ve either read, been part of, or have overheard this conversation:
Person A: How are you doing?
Person B: I’m a wreck. I’m really feeling out of balance.
The conversation continues with the reasons that have led to this feeling of imbalance. They’re all familiar. We’re either working too much and have lost connection with our spouses and kids. Or we’re not working and have lost our sense of “self worth, or have forgotten what it’s like to “be an adult.” Or we’re so busy being a parent AND a spouse AND an employee/employer that we’re not getting enough “me time.” Regardless, the conclusion is the same – we feel terribly out of balance.
Being out of balance can be debilitating. You just can’t seem to get anything right. You can’t start anything. Or worse, you start a million different projects, but you can’t finish any of them. For me being out of balance manifests itself in the worst ways. I snap at my kid. I get more frustrated by my clients. I feel more anxious around my friends. When I don’t write, travel, exercise, play with my kid, see movies, have date night and yes, take time to just “veg out,” my life seems incredibly difficult to navigate. When I’m out of balance, drama never seems to be far off.
However, just as I’ve long said that perspective is easy to find, but difficult to keep (that’s for another post), I’ve also long felt that my problem with finding balance was in my very definition for what balance actually is. Maybe we feel so consistently out of balance because our expectations of balance aren’t realistic. Achieving balance is difficult enough, especially when “real life” – that big heavy boulder that is made up of layers like mortgage payments, car payments, insurance and tuition (to only name a few) – is constantly on the other half of the scale. But, when we add the pressure of the common definition of balance (most notably “being in the moment”) to the mix…no wonder we often feel like we’re flailing (or worse…failing).
I believe that living “in the moment” actually means that we need to accept living out of balance? I’m the king of being out of balance because I often work from home. I don’t keep the standard “office hours.” As a result, I often need to be in “the work moment” while I’m at home. By default, this puts me out of balance on my fatherhood scale – especially since, more likely than not, the kid is asking me to play videogames with him. If I’m thinking about my kid when I’m supposed to be working, I’m out of balance on my work scale. And, if I take time out for myself, I’m out of whack on everything else. (Then there’s that thought that balance or being in the moment is about focusing completely on one thing at a time. Wait. That’s possible?) In short, the best way to have balance, I think, is to actually stop trying to be in a state of it.
I’ve learned think of balance is an average. Whether you take that average at the end of a day, week, month, year, or all of the above, being in balance means that “on average,” you did the things that you needed to do to stay centered and true to your authentic core. I wrote this week. I researched a trip. I got my work done. And, I played with the kid. Or maybe I didn’t do anything related to travel this week, but I will next week. On average, though, I’m doing what I need to do. When I tally it all up…I’m balanced over time.
My point in all of this is simple: We have to stop beating ourselves because we feel out of balance. Of course we do; we’re spinning plates. And not just any plates, but our really expensive China. (You know the stuff you got for your wedding, but never use.) We can’t expect to get it right all the time. Don’t worry about the every day balance. Focus on the average. How did you feel at the end of the week? Or month? Most importantly, perhaps, how did you feel at the end of the year? Looking back, was there balance?
As far as I’m concerned…that’s the only way “it” can ever be achieved.