September 26, 2018

The Myth of Balance

What a couple of weeks it’s been.

Two weeks ago I had intended to write a post about balance. I’ve decided to try having a theme every week on my blog and Instagram, and balance fits nicely into the theme of “struggle”.

But then my Wee Bear started into Leap 7 and began teething.

Then she started crawling.

Then I threw out my back.

Then Little Potato got the back-to-school flu (cue tween angst).

Then the weather changed almost overnight and I realized Wee Bear had no winter clothes…or even a fall jacket that fit (thank you, growth spurt).

Then I remembered that THREE weeks ago, I committed to judging 21 show homes in our annual Parade of Homes.

Suffice it to say there was a lot going on. Struggle, indeed. Oh, the irony.

Two nights ago, after both kids had finally (FINALLY) gone to sleep, I lay on the floor to try to stretch out my back…and it was absolutely wonderful.

Lying there, on the floor, in the dark and quiet…I realized something.

There’s no such thing as balance.

Seriously. There isn’t. I’ve been chasing it forever. And I’ve never even seen a glimmer of it. So I finally let the notion go.

Oh there’s an entire school of thought (and even an industry) designed around the idea of work / life balance, life balance, finding balance, whatever you want to call it.

They have us believing that once we find balance our lives will be happy. We need balance in order to live our best and most fulfilled life.

But the truth is…balance is an absolute myth.

The mainstream concept of balance requires you to add or subtract from your life. On the face of it, that sounds pretty straightforward…obvious, even. But what do you cut out and what do you add? (See, everyone’s life is so very different, it’s impossible to prescribe something that fits everyone’s reality).

When I think of the word “balance”, it brings to mind images of scales, where in order to make the arms balance, you have to keep adding weight to either side. Or the image of someone balancing on a tight rope, teetering from side to side, trying not to fall.

Or the image of one of those circus performers balancing all those plates on poles while they ride around on a flaming unicycle. (God, that last one is an analogy for my life if ever there was one. HAHAHA!)

The point is, our concept of finding balance is to try to keep adding things to cancel other things out. It implies struggle. It makes us feel like life has to be hard. It has to be a constant juggling act. A constant battle to NOT FALL OVER.

For example, you’re stressed out, so you need to add meditation to your daily agenda. So now you’re adding to your stress by trying to carve time out daily to meditate for 5 mins, instead of addressing what is actually stressing you out in the first place.

At work, we’re working harder and doing more in the hope of having more “free time” once work is over.

With the kids, we schedule them into more and more activities to try to ensure they become “well-rounded” people, and in the process run ourselves ragged. Meanwhile, they probably hate 90% of the stuff they’re doing and won’t be doing it in 5 years anyway. (Relax, I’m not saying they shouldn’t do anything…I’m just saying don’t beat yourself up if they get bored once in a while.)

We over-commit. We over-promise. We live with the constant pressure of feeling like everyone else around us has got their shit together and it’s just us that is a hot mess.

The reality is, we’re all barely hanging on by a thread.

We do too much. Plain and simple. Goodness knows I do. I have a really hard time saying no. If I’m totally honest with myself, I do suffer from a touch of FOMO. (That’s “fear of missing out” for all you non-hip cats out there.)

This past July, Little Potato nailed her first professional audition. We were both SUPER excited. She accepted the role, and then I got the rehearsal schedule. Rehearsals were 3 hours a day, 3 days a week, with an additional 4 hour rehearsal on the weekend. With only 5 weeks until showtime, I understood the need for such an intense schedule.

But seeing that schedule and knowing that if she was going to be at rehearsal, *I* was going to be at rehearsal… well, it gave me no end of anxiety.

But the universe stepped in. The show lost its Canadian license, and so was cancelled. I won’t lie. I was relieved.

But we all do this, don’t we? We worry about disappointing people. We bend over backwards to please the people around us to keep the peace. To keep the love flowing. To keep everyone happy. Often at our own expense.

Or we do the exact opposite. We set up such rigid boundaries that we end up missing out on opportunities, or we piss people off. We lose the ability to be flexible, and with it goes our empathy and compassion for those of us on the other end of the spectrum.

Surely there has to be a happy middle ground? One that doesn’t require juggling or teetering?

There is. But it requires changing your thinking on what it is that actually makes for a happy life.

In my former life as a business coach, I talked to a LOT of clients about this very thing. I came across some Harvard research on the subject that I found very interesting.

They looked at people who said they led fulfilling lives. Not balanced. FULFILLING. As in lives with “happiness and satisfaction”. They found that there are essentially 4 areas (buckets, if you will) that those fulfilled people regularly put deposits into. Not all at once, and not every day, but each one got attention at some point.

Bucket 1 – Happiness: Are you enjoying what you’re doing?

This doesn’t mean that you wake up every day and absolutely love the shit out of everything you are doing. It doesn’t mean that you are constantly experiencing joy and that you ache to go to work each day because you just love it that much.

If that IS you, you’re probably a sociopath. And a liar.

We all have good and bad days. We all have parts of our job that we hate. We all have moments in our day with our loved ones that make us whisper “for fuck’s sake” under our breath.

But on average, are you enjoying what you’re doing? If you can’t find ANYTHING in your job, or your life that you enjoy doing, then it doesn’t matter how much you add to your day or your life. Happiness, fulfillment, they will elude you.

Bucket 2 – Achievement: Do you have goals? Are you getting closer to them?

God, I’m so over all the self-proclaimed coaches who tell you that in order to be successful and happy you need to have these ENORMOUS GOALS WHERE YOU DREAM BIG AND ACT BIGGER AND ACHIEVE, ACHIEVE, ACHIEVE!

Goals don’t have to be big, or hairy, or audacious.

They can be as simple as decluttering your desk drawer.

Or taking your kids out for burgers this week so you can enjoy some distraction-free time with them.

It could mean finally registering for an online class that you wanted to take.

Or finding time today to read that book you enjoy.

We all need to work toward something, big or small. But in our culture of pseudo-entrepreneurialism and social media one-upping, we all subconsciously feel that if our goals aren’t Insta-worthy, they’re somehow deficient. That WE are somehow deficient.

I’m here to tell you that’s BS. You do you. Just DO something. Set a task, accomplish something. Even cleaning out that junk drawer.

The act of accomplishing something is HUUUUGE. (Why do you think it feels so good to cross an item off of a to do list?)

Case in point: today’s blog post makes me feel very good. I finally got it done!

Bucket 3 – Significance: Is what you’re doing having an impact on the people you love, and who love you?

Another problem that has come as the result of our current culture of “likes and shares, thoughts and prayers” is that we do everything with the focus on the wrong people.

We do things we may not enjoy. We make things appear shinier than they really are. We are trying to win the love and approval of people who mean nothing in the grand scheme of things.

I’m not saying shun social media. I mean, the irony alone of me saying that would be staggering.

What I AM saying is that you need to have things or moments in your life that are private. Things that impact the people who really and truly love you.

Make time for meals a couple of times a week bare minimum where you all sit together.

Wake up 10 mins earlier and spend those 10 mins cuddling with your kids before the chaos of the day starts.

Have a phone-free hour with your best friend over coffee.

Are we actively involved in the lives of the people most important to us? If we know what we do matters — to the RIGHT PEOPLE — it really can change the way we approach it and the way we process it.

Bucket 4 – Legacy: To some degree or another, are you making a positive impact on the world?

And when I say “world” I interpret that as is your immediate circle. The people you have a direct impact on. The people in your daily sphere.

Those are the people who you have the most regular access to. Those are the people who will learn the most from you and your example. And they will, in turn, go out and impact the people in their sphere. And so on, and so on.

And THAT is how you create a positive impact. Little ripples in your own pond, that grow bigger and bigger.

That impact doesn’t have to be enormous. It can honestly be as simple (yet as critical) as loving your people fiercely. Letting them know they’re loved. And proving it every day by showing up.

Most people will not listen to your words, nor remember them. But they WILL remember how you made them feel. They will remember your actions.

But how cute is this owl hug??

So my loves, to me balance isn’t about finding a way to do ALL THE THINGS.

It’s about finding the RIGHT THINGS TO DO.

Each day we have to ask ourselves:

What is important for me to do with my time today?

Every. Single. Day.

The beauty of this question is that no matter what your reality is, it works. Because what’s important is different for everyone. And what’s important will change every day. And that’s okay.

So lead with what’s important.

Everything else will find its place. And if it doesn’t, it had no place to begin with.

My home doesn’t have to be immaculate all the time. But some days it’s important that I spend time cleaning.

My kids don’t always have to be engaged in meaningful activities, and sometimes being on their device in the evening so I can have some free time is more important than having a mom who is stressed.

Some days it’s okay to do the bare minimum. At work, at home, at life. Some days that’s important.

So my friends, let me ask you…

What is important for you to do with your time today…and what can be set aside for another time?

Leave a comment below and let me know what you wish you spent more time doing…and less time as well!

Have a great week, loves.

Sarah xo

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