I’ve been thinking about this topic of having balance for weeks now. Mostly because it isn’t happening in my life and the thought of it is frustrating me. I am not sure if you can relate or not? Can I really experience balance in my life? Can you?
If I am honest, I think the concept of “balance” in our life is a myth. I am not sure where the term came from or when it arrived on the scene in our society. However, I think I am coming to the conclusion that I do not believe I can achieve balance.
I feel like a better word and mindset for me to be healthy as a leader and as a person is to consider the word “boundary." When I attempt to achieve balance, I don’t experience it. When I uphold a boundary, I experience health, but something else pays for it. It may be helpful to define these two terms.
When I think of “balance” I think of a state in my life where there is harmony and even peace, in all areas of life. I am running on all cylinders and everyone is happy with me. A simple Google search gave me these definitions of the word balance:
- an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.
- a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.
- keep or put (something) in a steady position so that it does not fall.
- offset or compare the value of (one thing) with another.
My real life experience is that if I value one thing, something else suffers. They don’t both equally benefit. For example, if one of my six children wants to go throw the football in the backyard and I have a date night scheduled with my wife, I don’t have balance. I have a choice to make. I may get to squeeze both in but it’s not satisfying. Whatever I value at the time trumps the other. Really, I am ok with that. I want one to get my full attention. I want to be all there so that they are getting my full presence.
However, when I try to "do it all," and when I watch other leaders attempt to do it all, I/we experience depletion, not peace…definitely not balance. I am concerned that the “balance” mindset of our society is slowly taking us out as leaders. You may disagree with me, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.
I’d like to propose an alternative. I’d like for us to consider having better boundaries in our life instead of attempting balance.
Google defines the word “boundary" as
- a line that marks the limits of an area; a dividing line.
- a limit of a subject or sphere of activity.
In case you were wondering like I was, Webster defines the word boundary as
- something (such as a river, a fence, or an imaginary line) that shows where an area ends and another area begins.
- a point or limit that indicates where two things become different.
The thought of something ending and another one beginning is truer to my experience. In some ways it takes the pressure off. I can’t really, truly, "do it all." Life is an exchange. Time is an exchange. One area of my life receives and the other doesn’t.
My point is this: You are a finite being. You and I have limitations. You only have so much to give. Once it is gone, it needs to be replenished.
We have to set a point, dare I say, a boundary on those things that are most important in our life. If I only have an hour to either workout or study, I have to pick what is most important. I won’t be in balance. One receives and the other suffers.
Often in leadership, we think, strike that, we believe, that we can do it all. We just need to get up earlier and work later to fit it all in. If that doesn’t work, then we begin taking our "days off” and stealing time to sneak a few more emails in, a text or two, and mark a few more items off our to do list. In return, we sacrifice family time, rest, health and sanity. Is this really balance?
Try this for a month. View your hours and minutes as you do your money. Every minute equals ten dollars. How much time (money) are you spending in the areas that you value the most? Go ahead, pull out your calendar for the past 30 days and calculate. The conclusion I came to is not how “balanced" my life is. The conclusion I came to is that I want to have better “ boundaries" in my life. Why? Because one point ends and another begins. My money (time) doesn’t line up with my values, and I want it to.
Get comfortable with disappointing others (let that statement sink in); especially, if you are a people pleaser. When you do get comfortable with disappointing others, you are empowered to hold to your boundaries. I promise you, when you are spending your time where it matters most to you then you are a blessed person.
Greg McKeon in his book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, asks the question, “Have you as a leader, lost your ability to filter what is important and what isn’t?” Our reality is we can do anything but we can’t do everything. Take the risk to set boundaries in your life and give up the false pursuit of balance.
It’s my heart and passion to help leaders live out their callings and thrive. I want to be one of those leaders, too. I believe that your best days are before you. We all need a little coaching, encouragement, wisdom, and help. We can’t accomplish our goals in isolation or always on our own. We need each other. It’s time to thrive. Let’s do it together. You are not alone. Click here to set up a Discovery Coaching call.