I think I have realized there are 2 layers (at least) of balance – internal balance which the one you own that you can directly impact by the choices and actions you make and external balance the energy and choices of others that impact you regardless of your actions.
Examples of the external balance layer might be the boss with unclear goals and expectations on the team, the manager who is always changing direction, the family member who never has their act together or the friend who is perpetually late.
Let’s talk about the manager who is always changing directions creating an unpredictable environment for the team. On one level you have certain degree of control over how you respond when a change comes up, “I was working on XWY and changing direction now will cause Blah to happen”. On other level you are forced to react to the situation, maybe its working late, changing your entire project plan, or hiring new vendors and depending on the situation it might cause you stress and anxiety to never know when a change might occur – which contributes to feeling out of balance, regardless of how many boundaries you set or how accountable you are to yourself.
So then, because this is reality and these types of people will always be in our lives, how do you find balance when those around you are imbalanced? What can you do to mitigate the stress this type of external layer plays in your life?
I don’t have the answer. Sure some of it is about confidence and clearly articulating a response in a way that is not defensive or wont get you fired, but outside that I’m at a loss. What comes to mind is the game “hot potato” and finding the way to develop some sort of skill that lets you catch and throw the wonky mojo as fast as possible so you don’t get burned by a potato that is not yours.
Funny that writing about being out of balance – made me feel a bit more in balance. I find it odd that that just by admitting something, your perspective can change and the power something holds dissipates to something a bit more manageable.
So now what? It’s simple – I’m going to spend the next 2 months enjoying what I have right now, and appreciate the incredible opportunities and choices I have in my life. I will resist the urge (and sometimes it’s a big one) to live in the future – I will live only in the moment as best as I can through the rest of 2008.
Professionally, that means enjoying my corporate clients, embracing the projects I have, being open to new projects I might not have considered before and most importantly – being opened to my creative self. That means listening to my ideas about how to begin a conversation so much larger then this blog, talking to people about what they have experienced, lost and found in their journeys for balance and finding my voice and the best way to tell the stories that millions of people can learn from and relate to.
Maybe Obama inspired me more than I realized – the change begins here on this random blog, the change is now in how I think about what I’m doing and being opened to what is around me. The change is in how the dialogue takes shape, a change I can impact if I have enough courage to do so. Because what I’m learning is that choosing a life of balance is not for the weak at heart.
I’m not always in balance. You can tell when I’m out of balance because I write less. I avoid my blog because I feel like an imposter writing about balance when I’m not feeling it. I know that these are the times that I should be writing more – because that is the whole point – to talk about the real issues when life gets out of balance.
I left my full time job 8 months ago to dedicate more time to working on work life balance issues – which started with developing a program for work life balance with an executive leadership coach. Well, the pilot program didn’t happen – with the economy the way it is the belt on corporate training programs got tight real fast. And the hard truth is, that belt isn’t going to loosen up any time soon, so now what, because I have too much passion to wait around for Wall Street to get it’s shit together. This set back got me thinking that maybe I’m on the wrong path all together.
In an effort to collect my thoughts I bought a giant white board. The thinking was I’d grab a marker and start organizing my thoughts– maybe color code some things – draw some arrows and boxes and develop a new plan. What came out was a list of 8 items, a list I wrote before almost 2 years ago to the day sitting on a beach in Hawaii watching a documentary film festival for my birthday. It was a to do list for a book and documentary about people working themselves to death. Note to self: create interview question about avoiding the obvious and how that relates to balance.
I had an interesting conversation last week with a close friend about balance. He suggested that some people might be more pre-disposed to being in balance than others – maybe even to the point where the desire to be in balance is in the genes.
It is possible, for example when you look at addiction, his hypothesis could be true. Some people are built a certain way and are predisposed to act a certain way based on the chemistry in their body. After thinking about this and wondering if a drunk can sober up or a smoker can quit smoking why then can’t someone who is used to living in chaos learn to live in a more balanced way?
Just like an addict has to learn new routines, identify triggers and place themselves in new scenarios, so does a person striving for a more balanced life. For example in one of my early blog posts I talked about how I had built my life around others who were out of balance like I was – so when I was late, I missed dinner or simply didn’t show up – the behavior was tolerated and forgiven.
So is it that because being out of balance isn’t life threatening (at least on the surface) it’s easier not to try to be in balance? Has a relationship ever been destroyed or a family torn about because one of the members is out of balance? Maybe not in a way that is as dramatic as with drugs or alcohol, but my guess is its slower more drawn out way, that over times builds and builds.
So then the question I ask is how do you motivate a person to aspire to live a more balance life if they see no perceived threat and/or benefit to their life? I assume that it is just like with an addict – the one seeking balance must want it enough to make the lifestyle changes to support it – because in the end balance is a personal lifestyle choice.
As I see it, a huge threat to being in balance is the struggle faced being true to yourself. There are so many influencers on an individual every day that impact how someone feels about something, but in the end the feeling that matters most is your own.
If you are like most people, you want people to like/love you, so it’s easy to honor other people’s wants and desires over your own, for example putting the feelings of your partner, children, boss/co-worker before your own.
In the end, you end up paying a higher cost to your life’s state of balance by ignoring your true feelings and instincts. Most times when you don’t honor how you feel it ends up coming out (normally quite sideways) and does more harm to your state of balance than if you’d taken the difficult path and honored your feelings in the first place.
So why then do we cause ourselves harm and emotional hardship by ignoring our true wants and desires? Why then do we do things we know we shouldn’t do or don’t want to do, make commitments we know we are not going to keep or say things we don’t actually mean?
I think we do it because managing the internal balance between horning what’s right for yourself and supporting those around you is one of the most difficult things we as humans do. There is no guidebook, and there is no support or encouragement for this behavior as we grow up from our families or society at large. We are taught to please people that ego is negative and there is a very thin line between confidence and conceit.
The part that is most amazing to me is that say for example your partner/spouse treated your emotions with such lack of regard, constantly not listening to you saying one then doing another time and time again; most of us would end that relationship. So why then we do tolerate such disrespect from ourselves?
I think a year from now the world might be better off having experienced the economic turmoil of today. I certainly don’t want to see businesses fail; people lose their jobs/ homes and families fall into bankruptcy. What I’m talking about is a potential shift in values and re-examination of self-worth that could be a possible output of these times.
One of the reasons I started this blog months ago is I see so many people, (and I did it myself for years) define themselves by their job. I feel passionate about the conversation that work and life needed to be balanced because the perception is they are 2 different things – work and the rest of your life. And what I have found is work is part of life, not a separate segmentation or subset of who you are.
As we see people get laid off and companies dissolve many people will experience a crisis of self – who am I if I’m not a banker, mortgage broker, real estate agent? The answer is simple – you are the same person you were the day before you your job went away. Only your perception of who that is has changed.
That is the essence of my passion on this topic, why I blog and talk about work life balance – to help people discover that work and life are not separate – you have one life, one self and being honest with yourself about what you want in all areas of your life closes the gap between feeling torn between the two.
So what does this have to do with the economy? It is simple, hopefully people struggling will find they are the same person and that what they value and how they treat people doesn’t change because of how they earn a living or what zip code they call home.
With any luck, because of this experience people might choose to live with less in order to close the gap between work and “the rest of life” to have more in other areas, areas that maybe until now didn’t seem as important.
As I watch and read about the current economic climate – I keep going back to the same central thought – need vs want. One could overly simplify the current situation and argue that we are in this situation because people’s individual wants far exceeded their actual needs.
As I see it, the prime examples that are ground zero for “the meltdown” are people who bought more house then they could afford on their current income, and people who flat out lied about their income so they could buy a bigger house then they could afford.
Just because banks offered to loan people more money than they could afford to pay back, it didn’t mean people had to take the money. Let me ask you this – if someone offers you pot, does it mean you need to smoke it? Of course not, my point is there are many things that are offered in life that you don’t actually need or might not be in your best interest to accept. And it is up to you to say no when it doesn’t make sense or feel right, in this case – not many people said no and borrowed as much as the bank was willing to give.
Why didn’t people say no or only take what they needed? Perhaps it felt good to have more than what was needed, or perhaps people are not used to asking themselves is this really what I need?
Perhaps it’s a balance issue and that if people had the skills to be clear about what is important to them and understand why it is important they might make different choices. Was it really about having a bigger house, or was it about not knowing how to fill the homes people already had with things you can’t buy.