I was walking around Vancouver's gorgeous Stanley Park seawall the other day and came across the very popular balancing rocks area. Local artist Kent Avery has been placing rocks atop one another every weekend for the past 10 years and creating simple sculptural masterpieces that are an ongoing source of fascination for passersby. If you have ever tried to do this yourself, you will have discovered how amazing it is that such seemingly impossibly shaped rocks can balance on each other. It got me thinking about the concept of balance, and what balance really means for our lives.
When we think of "balance", most of us visualize an image of a scale with two weights. Someone, somewhere (and I am gonna hunt them down) coined the kooky phrase "work-life balance" suggesting that one side of that scale is work, one side is life. Oh, it makes me crazy to even to write that. Really - you mean there is WORK and then there is LIFE? Separate from work? Considering that for most of us 1/2 of our waking hours are spent working, that is a very sad concept.
Joan Gurvis, co-author of FINDING YOUR BALANCE (Center for Creative Leadership http://www.ccl.org) wrote "Balance is not a matter of managing your time or giving equal effort to two opposing sides; it is about aligning your behaviour with what you believe is really important to you. When our lives don't reflect our values, we feel that inconsistency as a measure of imbalance."
In a nutshell, instead of balance being a measure of work/life, it is really about getting clear about what matters to you and then making the conscious choice to align your actions and activities with those priorities. Imbalance happens when you are not aligned. Simple eh?
Over-focusing in one area of your life is not an issue if it is aligned with your values and what you want for your life. The stress, incongruence and unhappiness come if that imbalance tilts you into a place that is not connected to your core essence. For example - my priority right now is in getting my coaching business flourishing - yes, I work 7 days a week, several hours per day. An outsider might look at this in our old balance paradigm and say I am out of balance. However, since I am absolutely doing what I believe is most important to me right now in my life, I do not in any way have the disquieting feeling that comes from being out of balance.
Finding your perfect rock-balancing place will be an ever-changing journey that you will shift with and constantly reevaluate. Throw away the old limiting concept of the balancing scales with work on one side and life on the other. Instead, look at your entire life in the context of what is important to you, what fits with your values and what connects with your core essence.
Grab a piece of paper and pen and continue.
Your 3 step Triple-AAA approach to achieving Balance
Assessment - Ask yourself : "What do I want in my life? What is most important to me?" (use your heart, not what you think you "should" feel is important)
Awareness - Then ask yourself : "Where am I placing my energies and attention right now?" Create a detailed time log for a week or two. Track the time you spend on every activity in your day.
Alignment - Analyze your log and see how aligned your activity and actions are with what you want to do in your life. Release the self-judgment, simply notice. Then ask yourself: "What do I want that daily activity log to look like?" Remember - you have the exact amount of time in the day that everyone else does. Put your actions in line with your priorities. Challenge yourself and ask "how do I get there?" Put tools in place and get the support you need to spend your time on what you value.
Like the balancing rock sculptures, each piece of your life is built on and connected to each other. At the core, there needs to be a solid foundation of your values and life purpose. To keep those rocks standing, you must keep changing and revising, adding and taking away, all the while keeping the strong foundation that reflects your values and purpose.