I recently completed one of those 360-degree review things, where you are reviewed by associates, clients, coworkers, supervisors, and supervisees, who evaluate your leadership qualities. Most of the results were pretty predictable, from my point of view. Except for one: People rated me in, like, the 96th percentile on "balance." You know: balance of work and social life, family, friends, health, and all that. My life coach asked what I thought about that. I laughed. I'd rated myself much lower.
"That's funny," I told him. "It's not something I have ever tried for. I'm not sure I even believe in balance."
My coach persisted. "But other people -- many of whom are striving for balance and not achieving it -- see you as balanced. Extraordinarily so. What do you think they are seeing that makes them say that?"
His question gave me pause. What is this elusive thing called "balance" that I apparently have, even though I have never aspired to it? What are people seeing?
"I think they see engagement, " I said finally.
Everything counts. I am engaged, no matter what I am doing. If I am giving a dinner party or salon, I engage in every detail of meal-planning, cooking, and serving. If I am traveling, I take a big bite out of whatever place I am going, drinking it into every pore. I am engaged with my friends, making time to talk with them, email them, and meet them for a drink to celebrate whatever needs celebrating -- including nothing. I take time to spend the evening over a leisurely dinner, discussing life, the universe and everything, with people whose company I enjoy. I am engaged with my family, often spending a night a week on my VOIP phone visiting with my mother, while preparing and eating dinner. Because we live six hours apart, sometimes she is fixing her pre-dinner cocktail as I am heading for bed, and we realize we have been on the phone for four or five hours. I am engaged in my political activities, whether doing voter registration for Democrats Abroad or signing yet another petition against "Frankenfoods." I engage with my clients, my business, my ministry, my writing, the weddings I perform, rigorous workouts and yoga classes, diet, academic work, and the wine I taste. I try to give them all my best.
When my beloved was killed, I was actively unbalanced for a long time. I engaged fully in grieving for as long as it took me to be able to stand up again and resume life. When I take a day of "downtime," I am happily engaged in being disengaged, just puttering, reading, or watching old episodes of Sex and the City.
Balance is static. As soon as you move, it is lost. Nothing is static in a living system; anything static for long, dies. You walk by continually moving off-balance, leaning into where you want to go. It's a state of shifting off-balance to move forward evenly, going from one imbalance to the next. It's called equilibrium, and it is achieved by using all of yourself. Try to walk without your arms. You lose balance. Try to do it with just one foot. Even harder. Equilibrium is achieved by engaging all your parts.
It's ironic. I, who have never desired balance, seem to have achieved it. Could that mean that we are looking for balance in all the wrong places, trying to live lives of moderation, while fearing engagement with divine obsession? Maybe taking back your life involves engagement, and loving every aspect of it.
To hell with balance! Do what you love, really, and include loving yourself. The rest will fall into place. It's all about saying yes to what, and whom, you love, without guilt or fear. I make it a point never to say, "Sorry, I don't have time" to anything or anyone I care for. Yes to friends, yes to creative impulses, yes to standing up for what's right, yes to body's and soul's need to be nourished and cared for. Say yes to life, in all its aspects, and you will find balance -- a living balance, not a neat, moderated one, but one that is divinely alive!
And that's what matters!
For more by W. Hunter Roberts, click here.
For more on becoming fearless, click here.