Can you really have any semblance of balance while you’re working hard on one specific goal? I mean, maintaining balance is hard enough when that is the goal, am I right? In the time of year when you’re just trying so hard to grow in one specific area of life or trying to become the best you can be at really anything, you start to set yourself up for life to revolve around that. Whether your goal is to lose a pile of weight, hit a financial goal by saving or investing your money, or finally get organized, you start building your calendar and your life around making that one thing happen. That’s a fine place to start right? I mean after all, if you don’t prioritize the dream you have for yourself and make time for it, you will never achieve that goal you’re after. The problem is when it becomes all consuming. The problem is when you go all in on the goal to the point that you have complete tunnel vision and other areas of your life, important areas, start to get pushed too far to the side.
Now, I can get pretty driven on a goal and that serves me well in some instances and completely backfires in others. I’m really good at seeing how well things can go if I am all in seeing how it can positively impact the overall strategy by getting this one part right. One of the clearest areas of life that this can happen for me, you guessed it, work. Again, it can often be helpful to have this mentality, until you take it too far. I know this and very actively take steps to improve myself in this area but I still get tripped up from time to time. Case in point, just a couple of years ago I had a big project, huge. One that would get me noticed if done well. A project that would really benefit my boss and his boss and her boss if I did it well. A project that would impact the bottom line of the company and be remembered, both if it went well or was an epic flop. So what did I do? I set literally everything aside. Everything. I drank way too much caffeine to keep me alert and working on it. I stopped running so that I wouldn’t ‘waste’ that 30 minutes during the day. I rarely even took time to shower. There were nights that I would take final meetings in my truck on the way to pick up my kids because the meetings were going so late that the daycare was going to close.
Then one day I told my boss I had to leave for about 90 minutes that day to see the chiropractor. He was supportive but bewildered. What did you do to your back? Nothing, I had done nothing ‘to my back’. He told me, Your health comes first, go to the appointment and we’ll work more on this when you’re back this afternoon. The chiro found nothing wrong with my back and really said that there wasn’t much he could do for me. He asked if there was anything that gave me relief and, there was. The funny thing was that there was one healthy habit I held to and while I was doing that my back didn’t hurt. I had managed to continue through the duration of the project to walk every morning. I forced myself to get out of bed early enough to walk on the treadmill 1 mile before I started work on anything else. When I was walking, and for about a hour after, my back felt fine. When I started to do anything to do with work, or even think of it, I was in so much pain I couldn’t even put on shoes. I’m sure reading this there is no mystery as to what was wrong with my back, though I had done nothing to it.
The stress of leaning so far into the project was causing me physical pain. Me not focusing on my marriage, my home, or my health was causing pain. My choice to not play with my kids was actually making it so I physically couldn’t get down on the floor to play with them. I had lost my balance while chasing the work goal which in turn, affected the work goal. I think of balance as walking on a beam, it isn’t a static pose but a movement where you’re constantly correcting and quaking and realigning. You can lean to one side and still stay balanced on the beam, but you can only lean so far. I had fallen off the beam and was now stuck on the work side with no ability to even lean into any other areas. You were meant to stay on your beam. You were meant to lean into all the areas while you’re up there and build your strength while you stretch and grow in all of those areas.
So that’s neat huh? Sounds pretty and all, great imagery of you standing on the beam balancing and stretching your arms out only far enough that you don’t actually fall, but how? How do you maintain that balance? I don’t have a magical answer and I think you have to fall off that beam a few times to learn enough about yourself and what keeps you securely anchored there. I do think you need one or two in different areas of life. Think of them as tie downs to different areas on the mat below your beam, if you have a variety of them going off in different directions the odds of you leaning too far without a counterbalance are pretty low. A couple of things for me:
- physical activity: This could be a run, yoga, barre, dancing, snowshoeing, anything really that gets my head off of other things and puts it back in my body where it belongs.
- reading the Bible: I think there were probably 7 days total last year where I didn’t read at least a verse or two out of the Bible. It helps me remember that I am not in control (nor am I meant to be) and to be grateful for the amazing blessings I’ve been given.
- time with my husband and kids: I am writing these together, but they are separate things. I need time with each separately to feel connected to them and feel as though I’m making progress in those relationships.
- clean dishes: I am not a slob nor am I a neat freak but, having a clear space where the dirty dishes would have been and a clean sink, brings a special kind of calm that I really appreciate.
So yeah, you might need to fall off your beam once or twice to find your own version of clean dishes that you know will help you stay balanced in the future but it’s worth it. Trying to tell yourself what your counterbalance tie downs are will likely result in you choosing things that don’t work for you but sound nice. (For example, I’ve tried journaling, making my bed, showering and getting dolled up every day, and smoothies all of which last very short periods of time before being dubbed wastes of time.) I’ve tried enough things and reflected enough to know what actually keeps me centered and balanced. Now, when I have projects that threaten to pull me off my beam I can quickly look to these top things and ask, am I balanced? If the answer is yes, then let the rest of me go all in because when I keep my counterbalances pulled firm, I am confident that I can lean into the area that needs my attention.