Is Achieving "Balance" Possible?
I have coached many people over the years who want more balance in their life.
Generally, what they mean is that they are trying to find some state of perfection that they think they SHOULD have in order to feel happy.
Which got me to thinking: I don’t remember thinking about “being balanced” when I was young.
I was too busy living. I was too busy getting into college, then getting out of college, then landing that first great job, then getting that next promotion, then moving to a new city and making new friends and going to parties where I did fun things like dance, or ride bikes.
I was living life.
But now that we’re older, well, we need “balance.”
We desperately want to believe it exists.
Because we really, really (did I say really) want to achieve this ideal state of perfection.
We think that a day will come, we’ll call it “someday” where you will feel like you have it together:
The laundry will be put away.
Your house will be spotless for the impromptu visit by your friends or in-laws.
You will be at the correct weight for your height.
You will have eaten only 2 Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies per the serving size not an entire sleeve as your serving has been (or is that just me?).
You work out regularly.
You meditate for exactly 30 minutes every morning.
Your children will be happy.
If you are partnered your partner will be deliriously in love with you and you in love with him or her.
If you are single you will finally have found your own true love or loves if that is your thing.
You will love your body, every inch of it, from the top of your head to the bottom of your toes including your protruding belly, the pimples you still seem to get every month, the divets in your thighs or your one droopy boob.
You never feel behind in anything.
Clients are knocking down your door.
No one cuts you off on the highway.
You will have time to do everything you’ve always wanted to do with your life.
And you will always have the serene smile on your face of Mother Teresa, which reflects the true inner peace you have achieved.
Life is perfect. There are no ups and down, everything is on a completely even keel.
Sound familiar? It should because that is also what shows up on the CT Monitor in a hospital room when someone flatlines.
But “balance” is baloney because life is not about being balanced.
Life isn’t meant to be comfortable. Life is meant to be like, well, like that perfect pair of underwear that the young lady at Victoria Secret sold you convincing you you’d have no panty lines and now they are crawling up your butt like a crab trying to come out of a pot of boiling water.
We learn when we are uncomfortable. If you can pick that wedgie out of your rear end when no one is looking during your office Christmas party, wouldn’t you feel just a tiny bit victorious? “If I can do that, I can do anything!”
We stretch ourselves when we are challenged. There are so many things I once thought were impossible pipe dreams—like writing a best-selling book, coaching CEOs or speaking from a stage to an audience of over 500 people. I had to go outside of my comfort zone to achieve those dreams and I’m all the wiser for it.
Besides, wouldn’t you be bored if life was comfortable all the time?
I think you’d be looking for that next challenge.
How do I know? Look back at your life and think of a time when everything seemed to be in balance. What happened soon after?
You likely found yourself volunteering to run for office or sit on the board of the local symphony. Or maybe you found yourself organizing a fundraiser, putting together that book group you always mean to start, or volunteering at the local food bank.
Balance is not a state of perfection to achieve.
It happens between the ebbs and flows of life.
It’s like the ocean tide that hesitates briefly just before going out.
If we can connect to those moments in our lives, that is, identify our own unique sense of balance, they become opportunities to take a deep soul cleansing breath before exhaling deeply and continuing on with our day.
Yet we push ourselves to the limit.
We know that we are healthier when we take time for ourselves. But knowing this kind of information makes no difference.
We must begin by discovering what our unique sense of balance is, so that we can stop chasing the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
One person may want more time to be with their kids or grandkids. Someone else may want to spend more time developing a new talent. Another person may want to finally use up the vacation days that they never use.
Let’s talk about all your unused vacation days.
Did you know that 52% of Americans leave vacation on the table at the end of the year? Project Time Off conducts an annual study and found that Americans forfeited 212 million days, which is equivalent to $62.2 billion in lost benefits. That means employees effectively donated an individual average of $561 in work time to their employer in 2017.
The two biggest reasons people don’t take vacation is because either they think they will look replaceable or they feel their workload is too heavy.
Companies know that when employees use their vacation days, they are happier, healthier and more productive. The point of the study is to influence companies to create a more positive vacation culture.
Throughout my career I’ve had my own struggles with feeling overloaded with work. In the beginning I would work 90 hours a week until I was exhausted. But I was not doing anyone any favors.
Later I began to leave my work at home and go out and enjoy myself. I encouraged my staff to do the same. I learned this when my Mom was diagnosed with cancer, which I wrote about in my first book “When I Die, Take My Panties.”
The idea of taking time for yourself may seem difficult to work into your already overloaded calendar, but your changes do not have to be big.
You can incorporate small but important changes into your everyday self-care routine that give you a sense of balance.
Here are 10 things I do:
1. I make bullet-proof coffee every morning and with a dash of cinnamon.
2. I drink my coffee while writing in a special morning journal where I write down five things I’m grateful for, ten dreams I’ve already made happen and the one goal I want to achieve first. (I stole this from the amazing Rachel Hollis.)
4. I work out daily for at least 30 minutes. Sometimes it is yoga. Sometimes is a spin class. Sometimes it is going out dancing. Sometimes it is walking with a friend. I don’t stress about how long the class is or how much I sweat (like I used to), I just make sure to move my body daily.
5. I sing in the shower. The acoustics are great. I sound amazing. The audience of one (me) always gives me a standing ovation.
6. I follow the Whole 30 way of eating at least 80% of the time and cook delicious and nutritious meals for myself.
7. I indulge in a glass of red wine and dark chocolate sometimes daily.
8. I write every morning for one hour with a writing partner.
9. When I think about a friend or family member, I pick up the phone and call. If they don’t answer I leave a message letting them know what I appreciate about them with no need to call me back.
10. At the end of my day, I write down what I accomplished and five to ten more things I am grateful for before going to sleep so I fall asleep in a state of gratitude. (I wrote a lengthy post about this last week in case you missed it.)
If you feel overwhelmed by even starting this process, don’t fret.
Use this special “Balance and Self-Care Checklist” that I’ve put together, so you can get a handle on where to start taking care of yourself.
What small changes will you make going into 2019?
I look forward to hearing from you.