A few months ago a journalist asked me if I had any advice for women entrepreneurs to better balance work with raising children. I am not sure if the first thought that crossed my mind was to avoid the question by saying that I do not have children, or to lie and hide the fact that I was the least balanced person in the world, or to tell the truth, which is that I could not even imagine how other people with fuller personal lives even managed.
Balance is a concept that just does not suit me. Yet for the last ten years it has found first place on my resolution list. Each year ends in disappointment because I fail to divide time consistently between what I consider to be most important in my life. In general I find that balance is a concept that correlates poorly with passion. So why do we love the concept so much? Because a state of balance symbolizes control over your life, while its opposite suggests that elements of life are leading you, or in other words you are not moving ahead in the best possible way, but instead are struggling to tread water. And seen from the outside lack of balance reeks of inefficiency. Not only do I believe that idea to be wrong because achieving balance is impossible, but it is also a dangerous ideal to aspire to because balance is out of one's control. And lacking balance is not the equivalent of losing control over one's own life.
Truth be told, as an entrepreneur you will never be balanced, at least not in the beginning. You cannot control many of the things that come at you externally, and before you can hire people you have to work long and hard at playing multiple positions at once to make sure everything is done on time. Opportunities show at your doorstep, plans suddenly change, and it's very hard to say "no thank you." I've learned that things never end because when I'm not doing I'm meeting, I'm promoting and I'm organizing. Today I live and I am what I do. I am so entrenched in my projects that I don't know where they end and where other areas of my life begin.
The night before our TEDx I had a conversation with another speaker about the things we felt had given up in our lives. She told me the advice that a journalist in Kenya had given her years back seeing that she was upset over the months she spent away from her son traveling to build her organization: "Never ever feel guilty about not being there and most importantly, never, ever apologize. The difference is that when you are there just make the most of it." I find that that advice stems from a very healthy truth, which is that pursuing our own happiness is the greatest gift we can give those around us. And that we should not sacrifice the moments we have by begging ourselves and those around us for forgiveness for what we've missed; instead we should always give precedence to what we are doing at any precise moment in time.
Since then I've stopped searching for balance and try to set priorities, which I shift as I need. But most importantly I've learned to make the most out of the rest of the time I have. I stopped focusing on what I miss out on and I think much more about how I use the time I'm actually there for others. I've realized what is most important is not how many things you attend to in life or the quantity of time you put into things, but rather the way you live things, or in other words, your presence. Yet we never cultivate that simplest of solutions. Taken to an extreme presence can be dangerous if time is excessively cut, but my point is that balance on the contrary is inherently flawed because dedicating oneself equally to all areas of life at any given moment is just not possible. In exchange, I've progressively learned to master the art of being here now. I try to fit smaller things in between and squeeze more happiness out of them. I select what I go to, the people I am there for, but when I am there for them I am only there for them. And your own thoughts at any given moment in time are the only thing in life over which you have control. And I love that all of it, in the end, comes down to me.