Balance is a paradox.
It can be energy draining at best, destructive at worst for anyone to strive toward this ideal. A "balanced" life doesn’t exist--though we might convince ourselves at times that it does. In truth, it can be a conversation holding us back more than we realize.
Balance requires a functional disruption of itself in order to sustain itself conceptually-balance needs imbalance to be balance--thus a paradox is born. Anyone who entertains this idea as a standard for living dances with a goal unachieved since the birth of matter.
When a client brings up balance as a topic they’re struggling with, what’s almost always underneath their dialog is the experience of incoherence.
Incoherence is when something unclear or inconsistent is happening; in this sense it has to do with who we are and what we stand for. When we say yes, when it isn't truly a yes. When we allow ourselves to stick with the same job for years beyond the point at which we enjoyed it. When we say something horrible because we're hurt. When we resist starting the project we've ALWAYS dreamed of starting.
Incoherence emerges into the space like a finished portrait one paints using their worries and self-doubts as canvas, color-palette, and brush. If we go about our days dedicating time, money, physical actions, and other energetic resources at our disposal, toward people and activities inconsistent with the life we envision, we’ll eventually end up at the corner of unfulfilled and dissatisfied.
Not to mention an ugly portrait for life we wouldn't want to go to the grave with.
Incoherence conversations around balance might be typified by words like “obligations,” or “responsibilities,” or “priorities;” or a phrase such as “I’m juggling too many balls!”
Once those words and ideas are set in your mind, incoherence tends to manifest in specific actions as well: not writing because you feel the need to appease your romantic partner/child/family/boss, or because you need to relax and watch Netflix, or because you aren’t in the right place at the right time or in the right headspace to produce the right work.
When these actions are demonstrated regularly, incoherence has the capacity to cultivate a way of being in the world that we simply fall into with greater and greater ease over time. Consistently, we may be frustrated, depressed, unmotivated, low-energy, resigned or cynical as a result of our developing behavior practices.
Who wants THAT to be the norm? You? Me? Anybody between here and Mars?
No. Not even if they say they're okay with it or it's just a part of them. That's more of the worry and doubt talking.
This whole conversation about balance and the incoherence following revolves around resource allocation. It's all about where we put our energy.
Minutes, dollars, and actions are simply energetic demonstrations of your values. At their most effective, they are used as markers for what is meaningful.
Sustaining coherence in your life is a matter of seeing what’s true for you, and out of that clarity, funneling energetic resources (money, time, actions) toward that which aligns with your values.
Yes, there are only so many minutes in the day.
Yes, we are all operating off of some form of current budget.
No, you can’t exercise indefinitely without food, water, or rest.
We all have limits. That’s a fact. What we don’t need is to play musical chairs with our resources in an attempt to reach the unreachable state of paradox known as “balance.” This often acts as the impetus for experiences like shame/guilt, failure, and a veritable downpour of “shoulds,” when balance isn’t actualized.
Here’s how to avoid this pitfall…
Get clear on where you want to direct your energy.
Where does your passion lie? What/who do you care most about? What stokes a fire in your heart? What areas of life might need your resources so you can experience security, joy, and meaning?
Facebook… or writing your next book?
Eating donuts… or joining a recreational soccer/volleyball team?
Believing in balance… or taking the next step to advance the your dream business?
In your heart, you know the answers. And as I’ve said before, your biology has indefinitely entangled your greatest loves with your most familiar worries and self-limiting conversations. The very fact that shame, guilt, frustration, or any other icky conversation tip-toes into our awareness (or burst in like Kramer from Seinfeld) is because you have heard the call to contribute to the world in some way.
Answer this one question: are you more interested in being successful at what you love or the evidence you’ve gathered for why that isn’t possible?