“How do you find work and life balance?”
I get asked this question very often, especially when facilitating workshops. No matter the topic, the notion of balance comes up all the time. People believe my life is balanced and want to know how I do it.
Life balance is a mirage — the closer you think you get, the further away it goes.
"Stop aiming for it, and you’ll find balance," I tell them.
Maybe you feel disappointed — that’s how most people initially react when I provide this answer. They were expecting five productivity tips, not a play on words. However, when I make them go through some exercises, they realize this simple statement has more profound implications.
Balance is not something we can get; it’s a state of mind. It’s the realization that life is not stable but in constant motion.
Life Is Like Riding a Bicycle
“Freedom without discipline is foolish, discipline without freedom is insanity.” — Ilona Mialik
But what does it mean to lead a well-balanced life? Why does balance feel like an elusive concept?
The paradox of balance is that, the more we pursue it, the more things seem to fall apart. Our worries make us worry more.
The word "balance" is both a noun and a verb. No wonder we struggle to find it!
Balance is an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady. When we see ‘balance’ as a noun, we believe it will bring stability to our lives.
Balance is bringing things into harmony. It’s not something that you can get, but something that you continually do. Life is a game in which you are continually juggling many balls in the air.
Albert Einstein said, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
Life is a balancing act — everything is in constant motion.
Things will never go your way. Unexpected events will always show up uninvited. Your boss will add a new meeting to your busy schedule. A friend will call you last minute to cancel dinner plans. Learn to adapt to the moment rather than rigidly sticking to plans.
Take work and life balance, for example. Most people try to keep them separate — they build walls that make them feel worse. Instead, approach life as a whole; you cannot organize your activities into separate compartments. Integrate everything you do — let each aspect of life feed off each other.
Leading a well-balanced life requires you to let go of control.
Studies by the University of Southern California showed that people high in grit were more likely to persist in using failing strategies to complete a task. Also, individuals who are highly self-disciplined and who rely on logical analysis and willpower to achieve their goals suffer the most when facing failure.
An imbalanced life feels like a constant battle.
You are trying to protect your ‘me-time’ against everyone else’s priorities. You want to prevent your work from stealing your family time away. You wish you wouldn’t get distracted by the speed and uncertainty of modern life.
When the world around you is out of balance, you feel imbalanced too. It creates a battle between what you want and what you have to do.
Balance is less about how we allocate our time and more about enjoying what we are doing in the here and now. What’s the point of taking a day off if you are worried about what’s going on at work? Your mind must be where your body is. When you enjoy what you are doing, you won't feel guilty or blame others for what you are not doing.
Allow things to fall into place, rather than forcing them to fit into a pre-defined structure. Balance is an inherent human condition — it lies within yourself.
5 Ways to Find Balance
Balance is not a destination, but a constant journey.
You might feel out of balance from time to time, and that’s okay. Don’t approach it with a perfectionist mentality; accept the good enough.
Expectations make us lose balance. High-wire artists make progress one step at a time. That’s why they don’t fall — they don’t worry about perfect; they only focus on moving forward.
Here are some tips to get you started.
- Integrate all aspects of your life: Stop seeing work, personal time, and social times as separate compartments. Rather than competing against each other, they should collaborate. Removing this imaginary wall will release a lot of tension. Integrate all aspects by applying learnings across them all.
- Lose balance to find balance: Letting go of control is key to letting things fall into place on their own. Sometimes you have to lose balance to find it. Be open to taking risks. Try something different. If you have to stay at work after hours, take some time off another day. Seek balance in the long-term, not every instance in life.
- Prioritize your activities: Knowing what matters is the first step. Finding balance requires saying no to something else so you can do what you want. Most of the time, we blame others, but we are the ones that are not making a choice. Let go of unnecessary tasks, ask for help, be open to adjusting your goals and priorities.
- Develop a balanced mindset: Balance is not something external; it lies within you. When something is bothering you, ask yourself: Why? An out-of-balance context can definitely affect you, but training your mind can neutralize part of the noise. Balance is a state of mind, not a productivity hack.
- Practice journaling: Set some time to reflect. Track how you spend your time — identify the tensions and make the necessary adjustments. Journaling is also a great way to capture everything good that happens in life. Acknowledging all the positive things that occurred throughout your day, will make you feel grateful rather than stressing out.
The best way to find balance is to let go of our need to be in control.
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