Dropping All the Balls While Juggling:
Is Work-Life Balance a Myth?
Being a leadership coach for more than 25 years, an author of many books, and a teacher of coaching skills, the topic of work-life balance for clients (and ourselves) is often discussed. I even suggest the use of a Life Balance Wheel, showing the user the main categories of their life, personal and business, and to score their level of satisfaction with each. However, unlike some other writers who speak to making the wheel round somehow and getting the same high number in each category, I teach that it is a relative level of satisfaction and may change with circumstances. So, it is a measure of energy, focus, and satisfaction, not a static attempt to get high scores and then achieve balance.
This was made perfectly clear to me when my wife and I attended a traveling circus tent performance of Cirque de Soleil in Denver, Colorado. This particular show uses horses and lots of jumping on to horses, trading riders while standing on the horse, twirling objects and the typical avant-garde characters of a Cirque performance. I was so mesmerized, thinking to myself, “how do they do that? What tremendous balance.”
At intermission, when they hope you will buy shirts, programs, and products, I spoke to one of the performers, who was still on stilts but selling to me. As he looked down I stated “I am so impressed with the balance of you and your fellow performers…just amazing…I am a life coach and I try to get my clients to achieve balance in their life.” To which he replied, in his French Canadian accent, “obviously monsieur, you were not paying attention…we only achieve balance momentarily…we are in a constant state of motion!”
Wow! The insight that came to me at that moment was like a slow motion moment in time. I think I paused in my head and was so excited with what I had just learned. I left there thinking that is really what I have believed all these years, but was not able to articulate it so well. Our clients or customers (and we) can strive for balance in our activities, the things we are choosing, and unchosen change, but we do it by having a place of balance, or a center, to come back to …. a moment in time amidst the competing energies that draw us off center.
I believe it is key to have a daily centering activity such as meditation, walks in nature, yoga, Tai chi, or even reading. And it is also important to have an instant center to go to in our body when we are thrown off balance in our lives. Additionally, that is why people take vacations away from the routine and the usual. So balance comes from a constant state of motion as the Cirque character taught me. And our goal for our clients and us is to be purposeful in finding our center, our place of momentary balance that we can take with us and also return to.
What are the key things you do in your life to achieve balance and to center yourself in the midst of competing energies? How can you use this in your life and work?
Steps to create a place of balance
- Think of the most beautiful place you have ever been, go there in your imagination and pay attention to all details of sound, visual, and emotional feelings in that place. Then go there in your mind whenever you need to be energized or calmed. This is your place of power and security and centering.
- Create a centering routine that you can do effortlessly. A daily walk in nature, bicycling, tai Chi, yoga, inspirational reading and journaling, meditating…what else can you choose to have available to you to do routinely.
- Take purposeful pauses…times when you listen to music, get quiet, breathe, move away from a stressful place and shift your posture…all of this nurtures the heart and mind, and soul
Author of the new book: Getting Naked: On Emotional Transparency at the Right Time, in the Right Place, with the Right Person