For years, ideas about work-life balance that can help you as a leader and also benefit your company culture have dotted the business media landscape. I know the importance of life beyond work. You don't want to reach your professional goals in life and realize that it cost you your health or family life. But the notion of balance is often misunderstood when we strive to create something new in our lives.
I know the stress it takes to "keep it all going." There are times when I would end the day in exhaustion after a day of work. I also know the guilt of not being there for the people who mean the most to you. If you are struggling to keep it all balanced, let me share with you a different perspective to help you understand why the notion of achieving balance is unrealistic.
Life often feels like you are juggling what is important at the moment. On top of running my business, I travel for speaking and consulting engagements. I cherish quality time with my family. And I make time for my personal hobby of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to improve my physical conditioning. I don't aim for balance.
One of the most in-demand professional speakers to corporate audiences is Dan Thurmon. He is a CSP (Certified Speaking Professional) and Council of Peers Award for Excellence Speaker Hall of Fame (CPAE) who delivers messages that go beyond motivation in a highly engaging and entertaining manner. One of Thurmon's signature moves is to do a handstand on the lectern to demonstrate his core message that is about being off-balance on purpose. His book, Off Balance On Purpose, explores how you should not want to achieve balance.
Get Off Balance
Let me ask you about balance in your life. How is it working for you? If the aim for balance is constantly putting pressure on you, then you see that it is not working for you the way they people write about in their books and articles on creating balance.
After decades of seeing that balance is something you are always constantly adjusting -- not an end state -- Thurmon knows the importance of life outside of work with a family to support too.
Here are two ways that you can improve your ability to balance.
1. Embrace the Uncomfortable
Being out of balance is often uncomfortable. It causes stress and can even cause guilt. But what if you were able to embrace what is making you uncomfortable and accept that being uncomfortable was an opportunity for growth?
Anything hard is uncomfortable when you are looking to grow and create something new in your life. The need for comfort will kill your dreams.
Your growth is up to you. No one is going to save you, and no one is going to hold your feet to the fire day after day to make sure you're embracing discomfort. You have to do that for yourself. It is your responsibility, and uncomfortable growth is a necessary part of the process. It may cause resistance -- within yourself and those around you who are threatened by change. It will likely cause fear.
Thurmon looks at being uncomfortable like this: "Out of uncertainty is the opportunity." When you understand that not everything is certain, you can embrace the moments of growth and see the opportunity instead of the fear. "In the moments of uncertainty, take a beat to think about what are you aiming to achieve."
2. Slow Down to Speed Up
One counter-intuitive way to speed up is slow it down. "The only real way to be in control is to focus on one thing," Thurmon says. In other words, one practical way to slow down is to be fully engaged in the moment you are in right now. This means being present and not thinking about what else you should be doing.
When you get better at being present to the people in your lives, you will be able to give more in those moments. I remember when my son was growing up and I thought it was cute that he wanted to pretend to talk on the phone when we would play together. But I was not fully present to him when I had the opportunity. Instead, I was on the phone or doing something else that caused me to be somewhere else. I love technology. However, the habits we have on phones while being with others is not improving our relationships. It is, in fact, hurting them.
Balance is not the aim. You do, however, want to get comfortable being off balance at times so that you can create moments where you are fully present for your work and other aspects of life like family, health and spiritual growth.