Balance

Balance & Other BS Stories We Need To Learn To Forget

I’ve never been the best at balance. Whether it’s the ballet barre, binging on babka, or bearing my soul before the Barolo arrives on a first date, I’m an all or nothing type of girl. So it’s no surprise that I’m baffled by the frustratingly over-used term “work-life balance.” In a recent conversation with a group of women, a friend said, “There simply isn’t enough time for balance. Everything is important and everything is urgent.” To this I replied, “if everything is important and urgent, then nothing is important or urgent.”

Self-help junkies (myself included) spend a good deal of time looking at whether their priorities align with what they truly want. One such person, Brian Dyson of Coca-Cola, was asked a question about balancing his needs and the needs of the world around him. To this he responded, “Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling five balls in the air: work, family, health, friends, and spirit…Work is a rubber ball; if you drop it, it will bounce back…Family, health, friends, and spirit are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.”

To this I respond:

Dear Mr. Dyson,
I am not a juggler. And balls do not only come in rubber or glass. Some are plastic, some are silver, and some are simply paper that’s been crumpled into a ball-like shape before swiftly being tossed into the trash.
So, sir, I have balls. Big ones.
Many ones. Some, like my family, are made of silver and while they may get scratched and tarnish, are pretty freakin’ resilient. Others, like my hobbies, are made of whatever tennis balls are made of. They are brightly colored, make me happy, and sometimes get stuck in tall trees. I don’t need to engage in a life of juggling. I’ll take each ball off the shelf and return it safely to its proper place when I’m done, trusting that it’ll be there when I’m ready for it again.
Yours truly,
Amita

Now, I could go on my soapbox and discuss the importance of prioritizing, but that’s not what this post is about. It’s about knowing that your priorities aren’t set in stone. There are moments when work helps me to find meaning and contribute to the world, and there are times when focusing on my work is just plain wrong. Sometimes a glass ball turns into a rubber ball. And that’s okay.

So here’s the Takeaway:

Work-life balance isn’t about committing to your priorities for the rest of your life or even for the next 3 month. It isn’t about maintaining a perfect ratio of kids: work: personal time. It isn't about over-thinking and over-stressing and over-asking yourself whether or not you feel balanced. It’s about recognizing that everything ebbs and flows. And that a perfectly measured approach might make for a perfect babka, but not a perfect life.

So the next time a friend asks me about work-life balance, here’s my response: Do whatever feels right, know that it won’t feel right for long, then adjust accordingly.

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Achieving Balance: How to Get Busy & Stay Sane

As every entrepreneur, mother, or human being knows- sometimes shit hits the fan.

Sometimes you get so busy that by the time you stop to check in with yourself, you realize the time for preemptive self-care has already passed and you’re in the danger zone. That point where you need an electronic power-down, a beach, and/or a beverage served in a coconut.

At that point, the concept of balance seems like an unattainable dream.

For years, I vacillated between the two extremes: periods of intense busyness followed by a sudden crash. It felt like a hangover and was about as enjoyable as one. When I started my business and decided to pursue another degree, I knew I had no choice but to master the concept of balance.

So today, I’m sharing my formula for finding balance. The tools I use to stay productive and maintain my sanity:

1. I only schedule 1/3 of my time.

At first glance, this may seem impossible. I refer to “schedule” as commitments I’ve made to others. This includes client time, meetings, or time with friends. Anything where I’m accountable and need to physically show up. Much of my work is done below the surface. I find that I can’t truly serve or produce my best work if I’m filling my time with false-notions of what a workday “should” look like. The truth is that planning, writing, and listening to my own voice are more fruitful than clocking in hours in front of my laptop.

 

2. I define success on my own terms.

Like many New Yorkers, I thought:

  • busyness = success
  • hustling = success
  • working hard = success

Because of that, I’d often find myself saying “yes” to opportunities that weren’t a good fit. I’d take on too much, then blame myself when I inevitably crashed. After a few cycles of this, I began wondering why I kept choosing to self-sabotage. I stripped away all expectations I had placed on myself based on false notions of success. It was then that I found a new freedom to create what I truly wanted. Only then was I able to accept myself and create real success.

 

3. I dared to be different.

In any career where you create your own path, it’s pretty easy to get intimidated. As a highly sensitive person, this was a real struggle for me. I looked to others in my field and internalized the idea that their ways must be the right ways. Needless to say, that idea held me back from creating what I wanted, being happy, and tapping into my ability to serve. The writer Thomas Moore once said "The need to be normal is the predominant anxiety disorder in modern life." So, I’ve given up on trying to be normal at all. Aspiring to something greater is scary. Fear floods in. But that openness allowed me to grow. The key to embracing your full potential is letting go of your limiting beliefs. 

 

4. I ask for help.

No one has all of the answers all of the time. So why keep trying? The desire to seem like I had everything figured out is exactly what kept me from figuring anything out. I created a support system of people who inspire, motivate, and challenge me. No, it’s not always my family. Yes, some of them are paid professionals. Asking for help is an act of bravery, humility, and strength. 

 

5. I give & receive.

There is more than enough to go around, yet most of us focus solely on giving OR receiving. The key to balance is flowing between the two. When I’d only give, I felt drained, resentful, and in lack. When I’d only take, I felt unfulfilled and didn’t enjoy what I already had. True balance comes from fearlessly giving as you’re guided and then receiving with gratitude.

 

6. I work for it.

In the past, as soon as I’d start to feel energized, happy, and successful, I’d get a little lazy and tell myself, "I'm feeling great! I guess I can stop eating well/exercising/meditating." And then things fell apart and the cycle would begin again. I now actively maintain the self-care practices that keep me whole and happy. For me, 8 hours of sleep isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. When people ask me how I got to be so happy, I say the same thing every time, "I work for it. Every. Single. Day." It's a conscious choice.

The Takeaway:

Productivity doesn’t have to come at the cost of your sanity. Defining success on your own terms allows you to ignore the standard one-size-fits all approach and live from a place of truth and knowing. It allows you to embrace your genius instead of hiding from it. Choosing how to spend your time isn’t easy, there are always challenges along the way. But each moment I spend wavering from one extreme to another is another moment I neglect to use my personal power. And ultimately, isn’t that what productivity and success are all about?