I don’t believe in balance.
Well I believe that we need to be more careful when we talk about life balance. As a society, we perpetuate the idea that the desired state of being is one of balance. While this is may be true in a holistic, generic sense, this can’t be true for cycles of growth for an individual.
Like any life cycle that exists in nature or society, people have cycles. The difference for us as humans, is that we can make choices about our cycles and spur a growth cycle or choose a cycle of balance.
As a physically healthy mother of three daughters, a co-founder and co-producer of a wellness festival, a professional Project Manager, a relationship coach and co-founder of the Girls Changing the World project, I look back at my own cycle of personal growth over the past five years and I can say for sure it was not a balanced journey.
You see, I believe that balance is, well, bogus.
How can you grow or move forward in your own development journey and at the same time maintain balance?
As someone who has explored and transformed in the personal development world, there wasn’t one leg of my growth and transformation journey where I had maintained a balanced lifestyle. There are cycles of balance, but those cycles are sandwiched by cycles of growth on either side.
Consider this question – how can you grow or move forward in your own development journey and at the same time maintain balance?
Think of a three-legged stool. Each leg represents one of the main areas of life – health, wealth or relationships.
Now if you had a balanced life, you would sit on that stool and all three legs would be perfectly balanced. You wouldn’t fall off. All three legs would have equal amounts of weight, attention and focus.
Where do you get capacity from?
But if you decided that it was time to put a focus on and pursue health goals, you will have to find the capacity to focus on those goals and grow. You may have to find time to go to the gym or workout. You may have to find money and time to shop for better, and more nutritious food or time to educate or manage any misalignment of values in the household Now where would you get capacity from? You would have to take capacity from another area.
Go back to that stool. If you want to grow the healthy leg so that one of your stool legs becomes longer than the other. You would have to purposefully and consciously make choices and spend resources that allow you to grow in that particular area. You would have to make concessions in other areas of your life. There is no magic pill that can grow your capacity so that other areas of your life are not affected.
The trick to being able to juggle it all is to recognize what gaps you create in the other areas of your life while you focus on the growth area. If you are focused on health as an example, how could focusing on this area affect the other areas of your life. Keep in mind that growing one area can also have positive impacts on another area. For example, becoming healthier can give you more energy that can ripple into how you parent. Becoming healthier can also boost your emotional component and you might find that you are growing your love relationship as a result.
In reality, we have about 12 areas of life, not just the three generic categories.
Human beings are a complex mix of Social, Emotional, Intellectual, Sexual, Parenting, Financial, Career, Love relationships, Spiritual, Lifestyle, Health, ., …
Focusing on one area often does result in a ripple effect to other areas, but usually requires pulling capacity from other areas in the short-term in order to fulfill goals.
You don’t have to be super human when you are an intelligent individual
Another example is when a mother has career goals. This often means that they are going to invest additional hours and brain property in to those career goals. Where do those hours and brain property typically come from? Usually, when a parent focuses on other areas of their life it leaves a gap in time spent with family as well as on self-care. In the short-term, this doesn’t have an immediate negative impact on the other areas of life, although we may be guilted to believe. However, in the long-term, those gaps can have a ripple effect that does affect the overall health and happiness of a person not to mention the health and happiness of the people surrounding the individual. Long-term effects can range from kids acting out because they are missing something to mental breakdowns because of lack of self-care. As much as we want to believe that we are superhuman, the fact is, well, we are not.
But you don’t have to be super human when you are an intelligent and strategic individual making conscious choices. In pursuing goals in one area, look for the gaps you create in another area and plan to have a person, process or resource support you and fill that gap. For a working mom, that might be connecting with a village of moms that can be positive role models for your children during the busy years of your career.
I can feel the guilt welling up in you as you read this. How can I prioritize my career goals over my family?
What are the things that make you the best person you can be?
You’ll want to ask yourself the question, what are the things that make you the best person you can be? For some, this means having a successful career and contributing at a grand scale. For others, this is staying at home and nurturing children. If your vision of yourself includes a successful career and your time commitments mean that you can’t get them to their events or you can’t be at all their events during this particular phase of your life, you can connect to a community that children can lean in to and feel supported. And you get to what you can, be entirely present when you are there and bring your best self to them.
And should you feel guilty? I know that my kids are better off because they have the best version of me show up AND they have a village of moms that love them like their own that they can go to for guidance and support. Research shows the social and emotional benefits of positive role models. Kids grow up more confident and happy and feel less alone.
So I have a career, my passion projects, volunteer work and my friends and family. As I have transformed and am fortunate to enjoy the feeling of a successful life, I find myself being a better human being for my kids. Something they didn’t have when I was trying to be superhuman and do it all. I am living proof of this philosophy. But you don’t have to trust me, it’s something you can try by treating yourself to a massage or a hot bath free of guilt. Just experience what type of human shows up at the supper table. One that has more patience, is more relaxed and might even joke around and have fun.
There is no balance. Only a conscious choice about what you need.
There is no balance folks, I’m sorry. Only a conscious choice about what you need, a solid understanding of why that is important and a plan to fill in the gaps while you work towards your goal. Because when you know what you want and, more importantly, why it’s important to you, you can always figure out how. That’s what intelligent people do.
Eventually, you’ll find that you establish new capacity. When your growth area integrates in to your core being, you’ll develop healthy habits and can implement systems to support long-term sustainability of your growth. But in the short-term you have no other choice but to take from an area as you focus on a growth area.
Tracy Thibodeau is a mother of three, a working professional, business owner and life coach. The opinion expressed in this post is her personal opinion as it pertains to her own personal experience.