I had the privilege of being a ‘coachee’ last month, supporting one of my colleagues in the accreditation process she is undertaking to be a recognized coach.
Around the mid-point of the coaching conversation, she asked me to tell her more about ‘balance’ – the word I had used when describing my desire to ensure that I gave enough time to the various aspects of the work I do.
When I began to tell her more and shared my thinking with her, I realised how important this word was and is for me.
Much has been written about maintaining a balance – in the way we live our lives, between our time at work and ‘play’, in what we eat and how we exercise – yet it seems that few of us actually achieve or maintain balance with any satisfaction.
A big shift in my understanding of balance came when I moved past an image of the pieces being ‘equal’ whenever the word was used.
What I now understand is that we need to look at balance from a ‘whole of life’ perspective, rather than fruitlessly trying to achieve balance in every 24-hour period. When I started to view balance from this perspective, it suddenly looked very different – and much more achievable.
I recognised that there have been periods in my life in which the focus has definitely been on my career: on achieving qualifications and on making a difference in the world of work. There have been other periods in which travel has been the feature: being away from the familiar and experiencing other countries and cultures. At other times the priority has been on commitments to family and friends, or my energy has been directed towards moving home – especially when this meant another state.
As I have brought this longer-term view of balance into my thinking, I have noticed that I no longer get anxious about failing to fit everything into arbitrary timeframes that I (or others) have created. I now have a more accurate picture of what is possible and achievable. I am much more realistic about how I can balance demands on my time in both the short and the much longer term.
Of course, none of this is justification for not getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising regularly and taking time for yourself and others. However it is a reminder that we do not have to fit all of that into just one day, every day.