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Moving From Balance to Balancing

Jeff Shuck
October 7, 2021
A recurring theme in our work with conscious leaders and purpose-driven organizations is "finding balance." We're all taught nowadays to pursue balance. The advice comes at us constantly. You need more work/life balance! You need to balance time for yourself and time you give to others! You need to balance your family with your friends! "Balance" has become a wellbeing shorthand – the glib answer given to everyone who feels overwhelmed. 
 
The more we hear it, the more we're skeptical of it. Is there a perfect way to position our family life, work obligations, personal interests, life tasks, chores, relationships, and dreams so it all works in perfect harmony?
 
Frankly, it's an impossible task.
 
Consider yourself with a set of scales in front of you. Around you are scattered dozens of colored blocks and marbles and stones. If we asked you to balance the scales, the very last thing you'd do is pick one of each and put them all on the scale at once. If you did, you know the scales would tilt back and forth, frenetically, swaying from one side to another like a teeter-totter. 
 
Instead, what you'd probably do is survey the set of blocks and size them up. You'd look them over and try to gauge their proportions. Then, you'd be incredibly intentional about each block you put on the scale, knowing that as soon as you did, one side would shift dramatically, and you'd have to set something similar onto the other side. 
 
In other words, you'd go through a process of balancing – of constantly adjusting, intentionally, what you did. If we put more blocks on the table, you'd readjust everything you did in light of the new material in front of you. 
 
Nature doesn't work in balance. Nature pursues equilibrium through a constant, never-ending process of balancing. The difference is subtle but profound. The dramatic shifts we see all around us in the weather, for example, are compensations Nature is making to bring the world back into equilibrium. This is what it feels like to live through Nature balancing the environment. The sides of the scales are tilting dramatically precisely because Nature is re-tilting the scales.
 
In a similar way, it can be incredibly helpful to drop the fictitious idea of a perfect state of balance and instead think in terms of an active conversation of balancing. Some days you'll have to spend all day at your kids' soccer games. That doesn't mean you work out at 10:00 pm "in order to stay in balance." Other days you may find yourself with a glorious four hours to yourself. That doesn't mean you have to fill it with chores to "make sure you do something productive."
 
No, instead you follow what is in front of you. 
 
Balance is a myth. Balancing is natural. Equilibrium is a long game, and we find it through a constant dialogue with ourselves about what is important to us, what is working and what isn't, and where we're leaning in and where we're leaning out.
 
Your scales are going to sway back and forth. That doesn't mean you're off. That means you're human. 

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