"Darling, I don't know why I go to extremes." (Billy Joel)
There was a time my life was so out of balance I outsourced everything I could think of, just to stay afloat. I had an intense full-time job, a deployed spouse, a 1-year-old child and two cats at home, and some frustrating health issues cropping up. I outsourced childcare, grocery shopping, laundry, dishes, housekeeping, lawn maintenance, clothes shopping – you name it, I offloaded it. Unlike his meticulously planned first birthday, for my son’s second birthday he got a cupcake and a 4-pack of matchbox cars purchased from the grocery store on my way home from work, all the while praying that stopping at the store wouldn’t make me late to pick him up at daycare.
I was, in a word, exhausted. To be clear, this didn’t translate to being constantly unhappy – I had a lot of joyful times in that season of life. I enjoyed 1:1 time with my son, and I loved my job and found great fulfillment in it. Unfortunately, I also felt like I was running on empty most of the time, and I was never giving 100% to anything or anyone. I really didn’t have time for myself, much less anyone else. Nothing ever felt like “enough.”
A few years prior to this I was between jobs due to another move with my military husband. We were on the front end of a fertility journey, my husband’s job was crazy, and the job market was hard to break into, especially since people were fully aware that we would only live there for 2 years due to my husband’s career. I had nothing but time on my hands, and I was, in a word, bored. As in, so bored I watched multiple seasons of Murder, She Wrote in swift succession. I wasn’t running on empty -- I wasn't running anywhere. That didn’t feel like “enough” either.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably heard a lot about balance, the idea that a fruitful, peaceful life involves some harmony and symmetry among aspects like relationships, work, health, finances, and so forth. This seems to make sense, so why does it also seem so elusive? Why is “balance” so hard to achieve?
I think a lot rides on your perspective. Is balance an end-state to be achieved, or a consistent awareness and recalibration of how things are going? I used to look at others’ lives and genuinely believe that they had a higher capacity to create and maintain balance. I realize now that they may have simply developed the practice of regularly evaluating how things were going and proactively realigning their choices with what they valued at that time.
There are seasons for everything. Our life circumstances are constantly shifting, and the balance equation is regularly changing. There may be seasons of running hard and seasons of standing still; seasons of great purpose and seasons lacking direction. What if the pendulum doesn’t have to swing so far from one extreme to another? Or what if you don’t have to stay in the extremes?
A key question for any coach is “how do you want to help people?” As I pursued my dream career of coaching, a wise person advised me to “be the coach you wish you’d had.” This struck such a chord with me.
If I’d had a coach some years ago to walk with me through an inventory of my own life balance, to really tackle how I define fulfillment, and to help me learn to hold myself accountable, I can imagine some truly different scenarios. During my quiet season, would I have turned off Netflix, taken inventory of my options, and gotten moving a little faster? During my busy season, would I have paused to really look at my life and recognize which imbalances were having the most impact on me, as opposed to just trying to survive? Would I have given myself permission to be a little “less” in some areas to shore up other parts that mattered most to me? I believe the answer is YES.
Since that time, I have developed the practice of regularly evaluating balance in my life. I have created stronger boundaries and have given myself permission to prioritize having margin in my life. One of my very favorite things to do as a coach is to provide this service for other people. I love walking alongside another person as they deep-dive into assessing where they are, where they wish they were, and pursuing the life they want to live today.
If you haven’t taken time lately to check in on your own life balance, I strongly encourage you to do so. What a gift it can be to yourself! If you would like some help with this, please reach out. I would enjoy nothing more than helping you move toward a life you love.