Balance is a Verb


The irony of me writing a blog post about balance while I simultaneously

The irony of me writing a blog post about balance while I simultaneously try and make dinner, feed my kids an afterschool snack, create a to-do list and answer work emails is not lost on me. In fact, right around New Year’s when we were all sharing our resolutions, it struck me that many of my friends and colleagues listed “finding balance” as one of their goals in 2017. Hmm, I thought, I should probably figure that out too. Put it on the list.

The universe has been tossing this one at me over and over lately. I thought about it and put it out of my mind, and then it came up in a book I was reading. Then again it arose in a podcast I was listening to. This idea of balance- between work and home life or even the idea of nutritional balance kept reminding me how tenuous my sense of balance in my life is.  One moment I feel I've found my way, the next I'm toppling over with too many things upon me at once.  But the real problem is we think of balance as something we can actually achieve.

Balance isn’t something we can “accomplish” or something that we can ever cross off our endless “to-do” list. It’s actually not someTHING at all. Balance is, after all, a verb.

In his book “The One Thing” Gary Keller asks you to imagine a dancer on pointe. She (or he) looks like she is perfectly balanced. But in fact, if you were to look carefully you would see her foot moving constantly, with tiny adjustments, weight and counterweight. Balance is not something you can hold on to – it needs constant attention and constant readjustment.

In some ways that sounds totally overwhelming. I'll never find that "perfect balance" - will I always feel unsteady? That sounds awful! And yet… as I read this in the book, I felt my shoulders relax and felt myself take a nice deep breath. It's somewhat of a relief to know that I can’t "achieve" balance. It feels like a struggle to maintain balance because it should- it is evaluated at each moment and in each day we adjust where our attention is most needed. If you follow a formula for a perfect “work-life balance” and assume it should be 50/50 or even 80/20, eventually you will find that the ratio doesn’t work. Today it might be more important that you spend time at home, but next week you have a big project at work that needs attention. Even with our health and nutrition, we need to focus on what is most important and needs the most attention in the moment, not necessarily what we planned or intended. Some days we need to slow down and stretch and take a walk and clear our heads instead of that HIIT workout we planned, if we are overtired, sore or need a rest.

Perhaps the stress we feel to “find balance” is because we think we can capture some ideal “balance” and hold onto it forever. If we allow ourselves to feel the weight and counterweight that is needed each day, each moment… If we approached balance as a verb… perhaps we would actually navigate the act of balancing a bit better. Perhaps we would forgive ourselves and see that sometimes more effort or time or energy is necessary on one side than on the other.

So you all were absolutely right, balance needs to be a priority this year. Our balance will be different each and every day of the next 365 days, and it looks a lot different than we expect it to. So today, I hope you find some joy in the imbalance and imperfection of balancing your life.  I hope you find peace in the weight and counterweight. And I hope I do too.

Catherine Wall