What if we stopped pretending that any of us was trying for balance? The more I think about it, the less it makes sense. And it’s so stress-inducing, because it is just impossible: a constant maintenance of a scale that’s not meant to bear the weight of our whole lives. There’s no flow in balance, unless you’re talking about ch’i, and even then, I don’t think ch’i is nearly as much about balance as it is about harmony.
I started a new job about a month ago. I love what I do. Basically, my job is to make other people’s businesses better through consultation, development opportunities, and top of the line design and production services. It’s a blast! Check out Olive Group if you’re interested, or just shoot me a note with any questions you have.
The Bad Advice of New Ventures
Hands down, the worst part of starting anything new is the bad advice that comes with the news. If you announce an engagement, someone tells you how to endure engagement or gives you some nightmare story about how awful theirs was. As a newlywed, you’re bombarded with phrases like “honeymoon stage”, “first year” ignorance, or pressing thoughts about having children. And once you have children, someone will always be there to tell you what they think, how many more you should have, or what the algorithm of their age gap means for your entire future.
As I begin my new job, I’ve been overwhelmed by the encouragement, affirmation, and positivity from so many friends, new colleagues, and family members. But there’s a buzzword that is just driving me crazy.
I know what they mean. But it’s an absurd premise. At the very least, it’s terrible phrasing, but more than a danger to our already wayward take on English, it speaks to a cognitive dissonance we have with work, home, our own abilities, and reality.
Balance: an even distribution; a steady, maintained position; staying the course without adjustment.
Could you imagine taking the time with my wife and boss, to try to articulate a 50/50 system for how to do the jobs of marriage and business equally? It’s just not a thing. Why do we talk like this? Why do we force ourselves into untenable, living contradictions. Let’s not pretend for a minute that we don’t all have a full set of priorities that force a shift in the myth of ‘balance’: the kids are sick; the fiscal year is about to end; your anniversary; that one project is due; Mom has called twice or WAY worse, Dad just called… we all have that list. And we all know that it’s much longer than what I’ve listed.
If you aren’t familiar with ch’i (or qi), it’s a foundational principle of Chinese medicine and martial arts. Bruce Lee talked about it all the time. You’ve mentioned it… although, you likely meant balance. And ch’i is not balance. It’s an energy, an internal force, that permeates existence, regardless of things around it. Ch’i is the thing you want to balance, not balance itself, because you aren’t meant to balance life.
You were made for harmony. Taking the notes of work, life, love, growth, and disappointment, and using your energy (ch’i, if you prefer) to harmonize them all together. And there is no formula for that, but here are some things that I think make the process more fulfilling and consistent.
- Honesty – Are you ok working late? Be honest about it. Would you drop everything if your buddy calls? Know that about yourself. And then find appropriate ways to be honest with your family, colleagues, and extended connections.
- Communication – My wife knows I like my job. She’s also known when I didn’t like my job. She knows when I’m working longer hours, or when, like today, I’m dedicating a few hours to work and growth, then I’m with my family for the afternoon. My boss knows too.
- Adaptability – I have a former boss that is going to read this, and right about now, he knows I’m going to talk about him. Because I had a great job with him… a great job that I didn’t enjoy. And he knew it. He knew it because first, he’s smart and perceptive, and second, well, I told him. And that was not great for my career…. but it has been incredible for my work/life harmony. I lost my job, but I was a better husband and father, almost immediately. I had energy again. I dreamed better. And within a month, we were making huge life plans that got us where we are right now. But make no mistake, I lost my job. I didn’t run to some utopian state where severance met security. Harmony isn’t a fairy tale. We had to adapt to the results of honest communication. I was honest about work. My boss was honest about expectations. And the consequence of honest communication might not be what you want, but you have to grow through and beyond it.
- Resolve – If you really want harmony in your life, you have to be resolved to it. It has to be a priority. Because it is up to you. Harmony isn’t dependent on how much you love your job, how understanding your spouse is, how well-behaved your kids are, or how things break for you. Harmony in life depends on you, and your resolve to pursue it.
Beyond balance…. or circumstances, breaks, good fortune, or bad timing…. there lies a capacity within all of us to live in harmony with all the things around us. But it’s up to us. It’s up to me. And when we just can’t get there, what do we have to change?
I don’t want anything to do with balancing my daily changing life. I want harmony. I want all the things in my life to be all the things in my life. Take the good, and grow. Take the bad, and grow.
Good luck to you!