Balance… it’s been a buzz word for as long as I can remember, it’s like the elusive unicorn in life as an adult… the quest to find balance. But it’s not something to find, you have to create it. And what if the reason we can’t create it is because we’ve been thinking about it all wrong? And so we continue to spin our wheels and feel overwhelmed and outsmarted by this concept.
When I think about balance I don’t necessarily conjure the image of a scale where weight is even on either side, or even one of those playground teeter-totters where the goal is to maintain balance by keeping all sides equally weighted. My visual on balance is standing in various awkward poses on one foot. You’re balanced so as not to fall over, but depending on the pose, you have to engage different muscles and work harder in certain areas.
The struggle and the effort is focused, you’re working that muscle and getting stronger, but no matter how strong it gets, eventually you’ll have to shift and adjust – put something down, switch things up, hand something off, or you risk dropping everything. That’s how I view balance in my life.
Starting a new business is like learning a new pose and honing in on new muscles to engage. Moving? Hosting a big event? Changing jobs? Marriage/ divorce? All of these life changes and new iterations mean that there will be a shift, and to keep from falling over (mostly in the metaphorical sense) certain areas of your body or your life will have to work harder and shift to accommodate.
As I’d been mulling this over a few weeks ago I walked into my OrangeTheory class to see a section of single leg squats awaiting me… I didn’t even know that was a thing, and yet in the midst of trying not to fall on my face, I was literally the physical manifestation of my vision on balance. Twenty minutes of attempting to stand up and sit down while holding a dumbbell and balancing on one foot, over and over and over. It was different than anything I’d ever done before, it required me to change my focus, engage new muscles, adjust my footing and go slowly at first until I figured out how it should all feel. And for the next three days, DANG! I realized there are muscles in my tush I never knew existed… turns out, they’re there to assist when you’re attempting this very move.
Starting a new business, getting married/ divorced or having a baby can be similar. The feelings you feel, the emotions that can overwhelm you – they’re things you never knew existed within you, “muscles” you’ve never flexed and exercises that you’ve never done.
When your feet are firmly planted on the ground and your weight is evenly distributed, that’s called standing – no new muscles are engaged and nothing hurts, seems simple enough and you could probably stand around like that all day. But you don’t get anywhere, it’s not a place where change or growth occurs. If growth (even if only within your mindset or beliefs) is part of your plan, standing still and not adding anything new to your world, likely won’t get you there.
The work in balance is a series of shifts and adjustments, strengthening in new areas, learning new skills, creating new things… but it’s not stagnant. You don’t pick everything up and just stand there, you get stronger and take that strength into your next move.
The thing that can throw us off in our perception of what we should be able to do while being “balanced” is that nothing on it’s own seems unbearably heavy. It all makes sense when you look at the individual components of life, they’re each manageable and in most cases you’ve seen others master them with what appears to be great ease. But in reality, they don’t exist in a vacuum. It’s not the weight of holding your new business or new baby that’s overwhelming, it’s the balancing act you have to do to keep one foot on the floor while also holding onto motherhood, being healthy, washing your hair occasionally, date nights, dance recitals, dog walks…
Imagine standing, two feet firmly planted on the ground and you’re holding motherhood (or baby raising) in one hand and taking care of a house in the other – definitely not as easy as standing with your hands on your hips or just holding a coffee cup (my personal favorite pose) – sometimes you’ll have to adjust your grip on one thing or the other, but you can mostly manage. Add in a PTA or volunteer role, different muscles are engaged, you’re still holding all these things but maybe you tip a bit of the excess off that housework pile so you don’t fall over. Start a new job or business and you’ll really start to feel the burn as you lift one foot up to hold all these things in the air and not fall flat on your face…
One of my favorite podcasts is The Goal Digger, by Jenna Kutcher and she has an episode in the fall about knowing “what’s enough” as an entrepreneur, and it was really eye opening! The season of her life where she put down a lot of heavy stuff and scaled back was the one where she was able to look at her life without the struggle of balancing everything she could be doing. She gave herself the gift of rest and it allowed her time and perspective to hone in on what was most important and the direction she’d take her life. What started as the slowest season of her life, became a turning point of massive growth, but it wouldn’t have been possible if she was trying to do all the things at the same time.
In a world where there is so much stuff and everyone has a product to solve your problems it can be easy to think that the woman over there who seems to be doing it ALL is just more organized, more focused, has a better storage system or day planner and THAT’S why she can hold all of these things at once. There were years where I ran a business, worked a ton, had a clean house, kids that were well fed and well cared for and my house NEVER ran out of paper towels and toilet paper (that’s my big measure of having your act together). It might have seemed like I had all of these balls in the air and I was a master at balance. But I wasn’t. I had a nanny who took amazing care of my children while I worked. She had my credit card that she’d use to buy all of the essentials for my house and kids, she read school flyers and made sure everyone was well prepared for each day. I had a woman who cleaned my house. I had the ability to focus on my work and spending time with my kids. My pose in those years included the financial responsibility of outsourcing a lot of help, my business and being present for my kids. But if you didn’t bother to look closer you might think that I went to target everyday, spent all my time both growing a business and raising three kids, cleaning toilets, making lunches, making beds and cooking dinner. That balancing act wouldn’t have lasted long and I’d have been sore for a very long time after it all came crashing down.
The other piece of this puzzle, and one that Jenna highlights in her podcast (episode #312) is to understand the different seasons of life. This is something that my business coach talks a lot about and it’s not a concept that gets nearly enough attention. In different seasons of life our capacity shifts, our focus shifts, our needs and desires and obligations shift. Recognize it, be aware of this and know that today’s decision isn’t forever. The pose you’re holding today is for this season, this area of growth, it’s bringing you to the next season, where maybe you’ll adjust what you’re holding in the future. Maybe you’ll put something down, shift something from one hand to the other and pick up something new. You’ll find different muscles to engage and you’ll know that you’re moving a little differently now, moving in a way that brings you to the next season. Some seasons you are meant to put everything down, rest and take it all in. Figure out what you need, pick up the bare minimum and only add on what’s necessary.
Balance isn’t a destination… I used to have this idea that I’d “find” balance and all of the aspects of life would work together, magically in sync while I enjoyed the feeling of living a balanced life. But that’s not what balance is. It’s not a destination or some feat to be conquered. You have to be keenly aware of your strengths, of what you want, of what’s most important and of what you’re willing to do for the sake of your goals. Stop thinking of how you should be able to do things, stop worrying about what it seems like someone else is capable of and realize that your balancing act is going to be based on your strengths, on the muscles you continue to work and how you want to dictate your journey.
Step one – check your perception…
Step two – pick up what’s most important, engage those muscles and work!
Step three – rest and reassess