There’s a trend that I see in the bay area, especially among leaders, at first in my own life and in those around me.
“I need more balance in my life.”
I get it. I’ve been there. There was a time I was commuting 3 hours a day, working at least 50 hours and more a week with international team meetings at 5 am and 10 pm. I had the best intentions to get up early to work out, to cook at home, and get out to see my friends more. It just didn’t happen. I didn’t have the time. Years later these habits led to chronic back problems and stage 2 adrenal dysfunction. I was running on pure adrenaline until I couldn’t.
The thing is, I loved it! There is a certain kind of high that comes from being in a flow state. I felt like I was kicking ass and taking names. I didn't stop. I couldn’t stop. At the time I would have told you I didn't have enough time to get everything done.
There is something wrong with this. It's not sustainable and it comes at a cost. The first glimpse of that cost is when you start to feel overwhelmed, exhausted and asking how do I find balance. Under those feelings are guilt and frustration. Sound familiar?
Great Kim-Elisha. Thanks! Really? Come on. I know all of this. But, how do I find balance?
Well, friends, I could tell you these things. I bet they sound familiar:
- Schedule more downtime in your day and take personal breaks.
- Forget balance and go all out…. Work Hard! Play Hard! It’ll all balance out in the end.
- Learn to set better boundaries and decide what you'll say no too.
- Just slow down.
I bet you have a favorite or two that you’ve been told and would add to the list. These things can work. They are great tactics. But if you want lasting change, it's the wrong place to be looking. Please don’t get me wrong. These are all good things. We have to dig deeper.
How do I find balance?
Here’s my answer. That’s the wrong question to ask.
The questions you should ask are “How do I feel right now?” and "What do I need right now?"
You are feeling something that’s causing you to say to yourself I need balance. There is something else you want that you've been de-prioritizing.
Balance usually refers to a way of life that creates or enables something for you. It's a feeling of peace and connection.
I offer, what’s more, important is to
choose a lifestyle of self-care and to create an environment where you can be a generative human being.
Self-care isn’t about taking time to get a massage or going on a walk. Though those are good things to do and can be a result of self-care. The definition of self-care that I love the most is by Jill Miller, the Author of The Roll Model® Method. She sais, “Self-care is empowering myself to intuitively and authoritatively address my needs as they arise. Reducing my pain, irritation, or emotional suffering in a self-compassionate and long-lasting way.” Jill also shares that self-care is about creating our own conditions for renewal and recovery by finding ways to reduce stress, move through stress and let go to best restore our own emotional and physical well-being.
Self-care is a practice to know how you are and what you need and then taking the time to provide that for yourself. From person to person, self-care can look different. I have a friend that goes dancing every Monday night without fail. He needs that time to be with his friends, listen to music and dance. If he misses it, he’s not the same during the week. Another friend is the complete opposite. If she doesn’t get time in nature, she doesn’t feel nourished and happy. The quest is to ask yourself how you are feeling, what you need to fill your tank, and how long that will nourish you. My guy friend needs to dance every week. While, my girl friend only needs to hike every two weeks.
Erik Erikson, a psychoanalyst best known for his theory on the stages of psychosocial development, defined generativity as an adult’s concern for and commitment to promoting the well-being of future generations. What appeals to me about being generative is a priority and commitment of well-being for the future- both personally and for the world. Personally, I know for me to be creative I have to be generative. For lessons in generativity, I look to nature and Ayurveda.
We humans have short time horizons. We want to do something and see immediate results. We have time for 5 to 10 seconds of a one minute video. If you are still reading this I applaud you. We look for evidence and data right after something happens. Cause and effect. But our world doesn’t always work that way. Look at the seasons, one builds on the next. During the winter, the earth rests and lets go of that which it doesn't need. In the Spring, the nourished soil enables seed to take root. Then in the summer, that which rooted in the Spring begins to bloom. Summer turns to fall and the land is harvested. Fall turns to winter, and the cycle begins again. The lands primary purpose is a long-term cyclical power of reproduction.
We can learn a lot from nature's long-term goals.
If you want to lose weight and keep slim for a lifetime, you don’t go to the gym every day for a month and then never go back. You wouldn’t expect to stay at your ideal weight, would you? Feeling balanced is a lifestyle- it’s a way in which you choose to live. It’s a choice based on your long-term desires and values. You've got to find your own motivation and reason. For some, it may be wanting to be there for their kids and teaching them better habits. For others, the motivation may be their legacy and the personal accomplishments they want to achieve over the next 20, 30 or more years. Or, if you're like me, you learned the hard way what happens when you don't practice self-care.
As Harry Potter said “Sorry Professor, but I must not tell lies.”
The lifestyle of prioritizing self-care is the braver path. It’s the path of growth. It’s not always the easiest path. It is the more rewarding path.
About now, you are probably hearing some voices.
- I don’t have the time.
- It’s selfish.
- I can’t.
- This sounds like more work.
Well hello, Resistance!
Resistance is your friend. It’s trying to keep you safe. The thing is safe, isn’t a place of growth. When resistance appears in any area of your life, it lets you know that you are on the right path. Beyond resistance is a breakthrough moment.
Can you see it?
Imagine you are on a path and you see a pot of gold ahead of you. The pot of gold is your BIG win. La la la you are walking right up to that pot of gold and BAM! Hello, Resistance! My friends, this is the path to mastery. Between you and mastery is one thing, resistance. So let's get used to resistance right now. Make it your friend. However, you want to do that. Sometimes I just take out a club and bash it on the head. Other times, I have to ask resistance to come with me and set the rules for the journey.
Now that you've befriended resistance and understand those voices in your head, how do you find balance?
- Practice asking yourself … “How do I feel right now?” and "What do I need right now?”
- Create a habit or tactic to daily ask yourself these questions. Find what works for you. For example, schedule 20 minutes for yourself to ask these questions and do what’s needed. I have an app called Hi Future Self (I have no affiliation with them) and at a set time each day, it sends me a text with these questions.
Some last thoughts.
I believe in taking care of myself first. The more energy and presence I have, the more resilience I have and can be a better human being. I’m able to weather the storms of life and let things roll off me. I’m able to show up more powerfully and fully resourced to give more to my clients, partner and friends.
And consider this– is it possible that you are hiding from truths that need to be told? From living your own dreams?
About the Author
Kim-Elisha Proctor is an Executive Coach, teacher, and writer. For over 15 years, she has worked with companies at all stages of growth and understands the complexity of organizations and leadership that is needed for success. Whether one-on-one coaching, with groups or delivering leadership development programs, her passion is the same: to support leaders to enhance their performance, impact, purpose & well-being to create communities they long to belong to.