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Shaking up the Idea of Balance

| James Riley |

Balancing Act

There is a lot of talk in our society about finding balance in life. For me, sometimes, it seems like there is so much pressure and focus on this topic that I have to have everything in perfect balance every moment of every day and, if I don’t, I’m failing. Often, this perceived failure causes me to end up even more out of balance as I try to drop what I’m doing to fix the imbalance which, inherently, causes more imbalance. If you’ve ever seen the I Love Lucy episode where they are working on the factory line, yep, sometimes it feels just like that!

This all starts with a base theory that you should maintain a constant balance in life. You should work x hours, spend y hours with family, spend z hours in personal improvement and w hours resting…or something like that. In theory, you should perfectly maintain this at all times throughout every day. If we give it a little space, maybe we shouldn’t worry too much about keeping it per day but we should at least keep it in balance on a weekly basis, right? This might be viable if NOTHING odd comes up. However, when the unexpected happens, you can quickly end up out of balance and in a panic because this perfect world MUST immediately get put into balance or something is going to go wrong, right?

The problem is that life doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Just as traffic, weather and many other things happen in waves and seasons, life is much the same. Significant personal events, like getting married, having a child, losing a significant person, etc. are, by their very nature, abnormal events that will upset the balance in your life. Work events, like a big project, a new promotion, a new product line and more can have similar effects that throw the equilibrium out of balance.

What if we gave up on the idea of trying to constantly have everything in balance and gave ourselves permission to be imbalanced, at least for periods of time? So, when we have a personal event, we go to our co-workers and boss, let them know and work out reasonable expectations of what we can deliver. Similarly, when work has a surge of demand, we go to our friends and family and work out reasonable expectations of our availability for that period of time.

I’m not talking about completely giving up the idea of balance, I’m just talking about looking at balance over a larger period of time. In our business, I do something similar with our financials. When I look at monthly reports, there can be significant swings. It can be dangerous to over-react to these swings. I find that the more significant reports are our quarterly reports as they tend to smooth out the swings and give a more accurate picture of what is going on. Even that can be problematic if we have something going on that has a longer-term pay-out or something like that. This principle is true in many other areas as well.

How do you think it might impact your life, work, productivity and mental health if you shifted your focus on balance to a larger sample of time?