It’s easy to assume most people want more balance in their lives. In a Branded Research poll in 2018, participants were asked “is work-life balance important to you” and were given five answers to choose from. Below are the results of this poll.
Yes, work-life balance means more time for family (57% respondents)
Yes, work-life balance means time for self-care (17% respondents)
Yes, work-life balance means time to stay healthy (13% respondents)
Yes, work-life balance means time for hobbies (8% respondents)
No, I prioritize work (4% respondents)
What this poll doesn’t measure, however, is what does balance mean? What does it mean to have a balanced life? What would it look like? Feel like?
When my life isn’t in balance, it feels chaotic and frustrating. I feel frazzled, like I’m barely keeping all of the plates spinning (some may even be dropping). It’s easy for me to describe to you what it’s like when my life isn’t in balance. It’s harder to describe what it feels like when it is in balance. The absence of the feelings associated with imbalance? Things flow?
I think it’s so challenging because balance isn’t static. Even when you balance on one foot, there is motion in your ankle and maybe in your arms. Balancing well on one foot doesn’t mean your ankle, eyes and ears aren’t working hard to keep you that way. What happens when we achieve balance in our lives? It doesn’t take much to knock us off balance again.
Another challenge with maintaining balance is the overcorrection or counterbalance that’s necessary to maintain overall balance. If it’s 80 degrees in your house, and you set the thermostat to 70, the AC doesn’t kick out 70-degree air until the house is 70 degrees. It kicks out much cooler air to mix with hot air, which balances to achieve the desired 70 degrees. The same is true to balance blood sugar or hormones. The same should be true in our lives. If we spend more time and energy focusing on work, it needs to be “balanced out” with more time with family. If we spend more time or energy focusing on others, it needs to be “balanced out” with more time for ourselves.
In our lives, it can feel like we are spending so much time on one end and not enough time on the other. When we try to achieve balance, we do so by inching towards the center and ignore that an overcorrection is often necessary before we can return to balance.
Instead of keeping my life in perfect balance, I’m trying to think of ebbs and flows like the tide. Over the course of the tide, it should all average out. There are times when work will demand more of me, times when family demands more of me, times when my needs demand more of me. And that’s okay. The scales shouldn’t be perpetually tipped in one direction at the expense of all others. There shouldn’t be an area that’s neglected. There should, however, be an understanding that your needs and priorities shift.
I don’t want to keep perfect balance and be impervious to outside influences. That’s not life. I want to ride the waves, to know things will ebb and flow, and to know I can get back up if I fall.
To get better at balancing, or riding the waves, there are things you can do. First, get clear on what you want. Paint a picture for yourself of what this balance would actually look like and feel like for you. Does it mean more time in a particular area of your life? Does it mean setting boundaries and protecting yourself? Once you get this picture in your mind, you need to check and see if it’s realistic. It’s not realistic to give 100% to all areas of your life 100% of the time. It’s not realistic to expect you will handle every moment, every change, every hassle, with grace and ease, 100% of the time. If your mental image isn’t realistic, you need to change it until it is.
Second, if you’re shooting for balance, balance how you spend your energy. The things in your life that demand energy from you should be balanced with things that draw energy back in. For example, helping kids with their homework or sitting in meetings may be very draining. These things should be balanced with things like self-care, play, and invigorating projects. Additionally, any one domain of your life should have a balance of demanding and rejuvenating. For example, there should be exciting and energizing aspects of your work, not just demanding and draining aspects. Aim to balance the energy you invest in demanding and draining tasks with the energy you regain from exciting and invigorating tasks.
Finally, understand it’s not a destination; it’s a constantly moving target. This is the most elusive part about “achieving balance.” Your life changes, your needs change, the demands you face change. If you think about balance as a destination, you aren’t going to spend much time there, but you will spend A LOT of time chasing it. You may feel you’re getting close, but as a moving target, you’re not as close as you think. Riding the waves of your life, establishing a rhythm with the ebbs and flows of needs and demands, however, is achievable.
Jacob, C. (2019, June 08). Why Is Work Life Balance so Important in Today's World? Retrieved from https://upjourney.com/why-is-work-life-balance-important