Welcome to a new year with its opportunities for fresh beginnings. Many people have taken the time over the holiday season to reflect on how to bring more balance to their lives. If you’re among those who sometimes struggle with juggling multiple demands in your life, consider this episode of Reengagement 180 as your “Happy 2017!” gift.
A new coaching client came to me wanting to achieve a better balance among the various priorities in his life. And he certainly had multiple priorities: He ran a successful and growing business. He administered a charitable organization working with school-aged kids. He also enjoyed a rich family life with his wife and several children, and participated in meaningful, spiritual pursuits. As a doer, he was always drawn to serving and helping people, seeking out what needed to be done and just getting it done. It probably wouldn’t surprise you to hear that getting everything done all the time was becoming more of a challenge with each additional new task. “It’s not that my life is out of balance,” he would say. “It’s more like keeping all the priorities in their right order is taking up a lot of mental capacity.”
Indeed, as it is for most of us, the ongoing challenge is to find the right proportion of time to allocate among our professional endeavours – goals, projects, fire drills, and professional development, not to mention mentoring, managing, planning, and other obligations of the workplace. And what about the elements that are important for the rest of our life—family, friends, health, personal growth, recreation, and (assuming we can manage it) even a little rest and relaxation one in a while.
So, what is the secret to finding balance in one’s life?
The reality is: You can’t. Given all that modern life demands of us, it is simply not feasible to switch endlessly from one task to another throughout all of our waking hours and still be effective at all, or even most of them. You’ll inevitably end up like that once-popular, plate-spinning novelty act, trying to prevent it all from coming crashing to the ground.
When we focus our attention on attempting to balance things – tasks, activities, lists, or requests – we over-emphasize analysis. It’s all about achieving. Accomplishing. Doing. Checking off objectives and goals. It’s all in our heads. Understandably, a person might well feel somewhat out-of-balance if s/he allows mind to dominate over heart.
By “heart,” I’m not strictly speaking about emotions, although they are certainly part of a healthy balance as we each show up as our “whole self,” a complete person. I’m also referring to holding a mindful intention with respect to others. In other words, what effects do we intend to enable and enact among the interactions and relationships that we create throughout our world, irrespective of what we happen to be doing at any given time, place, or situation?
For instance, when we balance head with heart we may choose to enable someone to accomplish rather than take on even a small task ourselves to “just get it done.” You see, that choice might serve our Mindful Intention towards enabling and empowering others. We may decide to embark on a temporarily more difficult approach to a task if the specific approach serves the intention to live our core values. In this, our heart guides us to exchange the stress of conflicted expediency with the satisfaction of living and acting true to who we are.
The next time you feel conflicted when deciding among competing priorities in your life, invite your heart to the conference table of your mind. Remember: Life balance is not so much about prioritizing slots among competing demands on your time. Rather, it’s about weighing the balance between head and heart as you form Mindful Intention that will lead you to a well-integrated life as your best – and whole – self.