Think for a moment about a trapeze artist, lithe and strong, balancing cautiously on just a thin cable inching their way along to the relative safety of the other side.
Or a seal with a ball poised on the tip of its nose, working hard to hold it steady and be rewarded with a fishy treat.
What do you notice? That ‘balance’ is somewhat tricky and totally removed from the hustle and pace of your daily life? That once you find that elusive balance it’s gone within about 17 seconds, only for the quest to regain it to begin again?
Women folk, we have been sold another fantasy. This time that ‘balance’ in the context of work + life exists, let alone it’s something to aspire to. The notion of balance is a sneaky cousin to the other fictional concept that we can ‘have it all’. I personally don’t want it ‘all’, I just want the best bits with an occasional sleep in on Sundays!
So, what’s the fuss about ‘balance’ and what is it that we really mean when we talk about it?
Balance might be attainable if you have additional limbs like Hindu Goddess Laksmi (who is also revered for having a very clean house!), can hack the space/time continuum, or simply pay to outsource the administrivia that upset the ‘life’ half of the scales. For the rest of us mortal women it’s an impractical fabrication that only serves to undermine us.
Unpacking the language we use is valuable, so that we can look more deeply at the words used to set up expectations of how life should look – a combination of working hard (but not too hard and without favouring work over ‘life’) while being able to ‘down tools’ to serve others (usually our families). While balance is superficially about wellbeing and health, the pursuit of it can create just the opposite.
// WHY BALANCE SHOULDN’T BE THE GOAL
Balance is static. When you’re ‘balancing’ it’s hard, if not impossible, to move forward (and you certainly can’t move with any pace). It requires you to put all of your energy into remaining in balance, which means you have nothing left to create, respond or react to opportunities that come your way
Balance is unnatural. Nothing in nature stays the same, everything is responding and changing, even on a microlevel. We live in a complex cascade of cycles — ups and downs (of air pressure systems), ins and outs (of the tides), rises and falls (of the sun and moon) and need to respond and adapt to rhythms.
Balance is binary. You either have it or you don’t. When you don’t have it, you’re chasing it, when you have it, you’re stagnant, trapped trying to maintain it. Changing the aim, changes the game. Making the aim about intention, purpose and boundaries means you get to choose what you spend your time and energy on.
Balance is a buzzword. We have better words that we can use than this, words that have richer meaning, that resonate more deeply and have more personal impact than hounding something that will only further trap and defeat your authentic goals and intentions.
//WHAT WE SHOULD AIM FOR INSTEAD
For me it’s about being able to juggle without the struggle and joyfully accepting that life comes invariably with a range of irregularities (sayonara routine), can be unpredictable (in the best and worst kinds of ways) and ripe with opportunities (which can be difficult to decline).
Setting sounder boundaries. Boundaries are about self-respect, honouring yourself and your values. Having the courage to say ‘no, thank you’ to things that don’t serve you (your goals or your sanity) is incredibly important. Boundaries help you set weekly, monthly or seasonal rhythms and build gateways which allow the things (and people) you choose into your life. Ask yourself: what deserves my time?
Being responsive and resourceful. For many women running their own businesses, we are never sure when opportunity might knock next – and when it does (and that project or proposition is aligned to our goals) we need to be able to respond to meet the need, win the job and bring home the bacon (or facon, if you’re vegetarian/vegan). This means it’s important to be prepared, well-resourced and willing to call in support to make it happen. It might mean that compromises happen around daily routines (like sleep, cooking or cleaning) in order to run hard and fast at a goal or deadline, but that rest, reward and renewal is an integral part of the project’s completion. Ask yourself: Am I ready and resourced to grasp the right opportunity when it is presented?
Blending with intention. Perhaps we can think beyond balance and instead in terms of getting the blend attuned to our goals. Like your favourite tea, with the goldilocks ‘just right’ combination of flavours and essences, creating the blend of what keeps you well, whole and thriving feels like a much more empowered, centred and sustainable model for living a meaningful life than that of the solo trapeze artist or zoo-captive seal. Ask yourself: what factors can I combine to create a life blend that supports my wellbeing?
By Jocelyn Brewer for The Women’s Pic.
First published on The Women’s Pic: https://www.thewomenspic.com/new-blog/why-its-time-to-call-bs-on-the-notion-of-balance