A few weeks ago, I was chatting with a friend, and she said that one of the things she would love to achieve is better balance! When I survey women in my programs and conferences about issues they are grappling with, balance is always at the top of the list. Now I have a personal view about balance, but before I share that, let's consider the dictionary definition of balance. Balance is a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.
As a general rule, most of us tend to think of balance or the balance of life in the context of the noun definition. Balance is a place where our spiritual, mental, and physical are all aligned. It's the place where we feel peaceful, satisfied, and at the top of our games.
However, my personal view is that perfect alignment is, well, just plain old, not possible. I mean, who gets to exist in a constant state of perfect harmony all the time, in fact ANY time? In my experience life does not work that way. I mean, think about it, a scale in proper balance does not even move! As busy women, mom's and leaders, humans who has the luxury of standing still?
So let's go a little deeper because while reading the definitions of balance, I discovered something that I had not considered before. When I scrolled down, I saw about five verb definitions of the word balance. The verb definition of balance is to offset or compare the value of (one thing) with another (for example, the cost of writing a book needs to be balanced against the benefits of sharing the book with the world. If I am going to invest, is it really worth it?).
As you may recall from elementary school, a verb describes an action or a state. So balance put into action is comparing what is most important with something else. To make this practical, maybe you want to exercise, but you are sleep deprived because you just had a new baby. Balance could mean sleep vs. exercise. Perhaps your friend needs help moving at the weekend, but you have personal errands to run. Balance could mean putting your chores off a week or two and helping your friend.
Maybe, you need to finish a report, but someone on your team is struggling with a mental health crisis. Balance could mean getting support to write the report or requesting an extension so that you can invest more time with your employee to deal with the health crisis. Maybe you have 10 things on your list and you can’t get it done. Balance might be meeting with your boss to prioritizing what’s most important and tackling that first.
I was once given some great advice on my leadership journey: Everything is important, but not everything is urgent. Confusion, stress, and imbalance come when we try to do everything vs. focusing on the urgent.
In life and leadership, there is no linear path, no single or easy way. There will always be more things on your list than time in the day. Every day, we have to make choices. Some will be easy, and others will be hard. Some will bring peace, and some will bring a tsunami of work and deadlines. However, the most important thing to remember is that true balance means you are never standing still. Balance in action means that we are prioritizing the things that matter most.
Today, I hope that you can commit to the action of balance and be gentle with yourself every step of the way.
Leah Dean is a coach, speaker, author, and former HR executive who has worked with leaders across the globe to build high-performing teams, aka tribes, for over twenty years. Today, Leah works with women from all walks of life but is most passionate about helping women leaders show up with confidence and deliver exceptional business results. Leah lives in Bermuda with her husband and two children. To learn more about Leah's work and her best-selling book Assemble the Tribe, visit www.leahjmdean.com.