Can you have it all? Do it all? Talk to any modern day parent who is trying to balance work (and I believe that being a stay-at-home parent is work) and raising a family, cooking, cleaning and laundry, and having a social life of their own and most will tell you it's impossible. Throw in there the pressures of a wellness routine and a spiritual life and balance sounds about as possible as juggling chainsaws while riding a unicycle.
The problem is that we see balance as doing it all to perfection with a smile on our face the whole time. We fool ourselves into thinking that we can make everyone happy and never let anyone else down, except when we do try to be everything to everyone we are letting ourselves down.
What if I told you that balance is really more like riding a bike than leveling the scales of justice?
When you ride your bike, in order to stay balanced, you need to keep pedaling. You don't have to pedal at breakneck speed, as long as you keep some momentum going you will keep from falling to the side. Each tooth of the gear set gets gripped by the chain and then released as the wheels turn. It's the same in life. Maintaining some kind of momentum, where you touch upon and let go of all aspects of your life in varying degrees, is the key to balance.
Balance is not compartmentalizing each aspect and holding it until it's perfect then moving on to the next, because if you do that, you end up feeling guilty and neglectful and horrible. You are essentially trying to juggle it all and your juggling act looks like you're holding one ball and letting the other 8 fall to the ground. Think about it, if you focus solely on perfecting a project at work, your family suffers or your social life suffers or your fitness plan falls to the wayside.
Some keys to balance are:
1. Let go of the black and white, right or wrong point of view
You are not ever going to be perfect. You are human. The more you embrace that the smoother the rest of your life is going to be. You can absolutely pursue a high standard of excellence, as long as you maintain a comfortable holistic momentum while you pursue it. You get to choose how fast you ride your bike.
2. Honor your values
Do you really need to be doing all that you have signed up for? Are you doing some things because you don't trust others to do it as well as you, or because you felt too guilty to say no? Are you resentful for doing certain things that go against your grain? As I mentioned in my last blog, Who Are You Really?, getting to know what you stand for helps you make decisions that honor your values.
3. Who says?
Who are you taking your marching orders from? Is it from that inner critic or your saboteur as Shirzad Chamine calls it in his book Positive Intelligence? An easy way to tell if it's a saboteur motivating your choices about what you "should" be doing is if it's rooted in anxiety, anger, disappointment, shame, guilt, regret, or blame, whereas your wisest self or sage is motivated by curiosity, empathy, joy, creativity, peace, calm resolve, and gratitude.
4. Look at your to do list
Are you even on there? Is it all focused on work or the house or the kids? Make a list of everything that is important to you: nutrition, meditation, dancing, taking a walk in the woods, visiting a distant relative, painting, writing or anything else you have identified as a value and add it to your to do list. Have your list be a holistic expression of your whole life.
I am sure you think I am crazy by suggesting that balance comes from adding to what you already have to do but trust me, if spending time walking in the woods is as meaningful to you as it is for me, your heart will be so full when it's over that you won't mind folding laundry. Once you get good at riding your bike you won't mind adding some gears to it.
Comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what you think. Can you see how much easier life can be when you're leisurely riding a bike instead of juggling chainsaws?