We all want it. It’s the Holy Grail for parents, career mavens and single people everywhere.
Balance is that thing other people have, while we barely hang on to our last overly-stressed-shredded-hasn’t-been-washed-in-at-least-two-months thread.
What about these refrains?
“I just need more balance in my life.”
“I’m just trying to find the balance.”
“I just want that work-life balance…that’s what I’m really looking for.”
If. Just. Then. If. Just. Then.
Because I’m about to say something (semi-)revolutionary: Balance doesn’t matter.
It’s an illusion. Really it is.
Know what else? You want it to be.
Why? Because nothing great ever came from balance. Of course, peace of mind is great. Stressing less is great. Giving up some things for others is great and often necessary too.
But true greatness, soul-satisfying greatness, success, achievement and even personal gratitude comes from one thing and one thing only: figuring out what you want. And then acting on it.
And guess what? That usually means balance has to get the fuck out of the way.
Think about the greatest times in your life. Have they been when you spent equal times as a parent, an employee or friend, dividing your time into clean thirds like percentages on a pie chart?
Think about falling in love. Do you feel well-balanced? Unless you’re “falling” horizontally, then hell no. Think about having a kid. Balanced? Ahaaaaaha. Ha. Ha. Never. Think about making a career change, a move or giving up that stable job and 401k to start your own company…
Balanced? Not so much. Living on purpose? Absolutely.
While our lives may be budgeted and scheduled and balanced, our passions and feelings usually are not. We need different things at different times.
Because sometimes, life is truly all about career. Other times, it’s about family. Or health. Fun. Rest. Play. Travel. Hobbies. Art. Children. Yourself.
It’s about committing to, diving in, then pulling yourself up by your boot straps and just doing it. Whatever “it” may be. Not talking about it all the time. Not striving for it one day. Just making a declaration.
And going all in.
This concept – that balance is not only an illusion but not a very useful one – is like chucking the heavy weight of expectation to the wind.
Take me, for example.
I am not a balanced person, but I live a full life. Why is it full? Because I say it is.
I eat too much. I love too hard. I’ve never had a typical job. I change my mind constantly. I start a lot of things I don’t finish. I change course. I love to exercise, but I also love to be really, really lazy. I can binge watch TV and read books for hours. I can wear pajamas all day and go an exorbitant amount of time without human contact or makeup. I love sex. I drink too much coffee and worry too much and eat way too many cookies. I am sometimes all in, and then sometimes I’m all out. I’m ecstatic one day and moody the next. I make promises with myself and then I break them in the same day. I’m predictably unpredictable.
This lack of balance is the balance. It’s the way life is supposed to be: tilted, charged, still, heavy, light. Malleable. Thick.
Your life is a pattern of beautiful mosaic, tile and wooden mismatched steps. Each one leads to a different destination on a different day at a different time. But these steps are the transportation of your life.
Treat them well. Love them just as they are. Climb them. Skip a step. Slide down the entire staircase on your butt.
Whatever you do, just stop making your life fit in a bunch of checked boxes. Please. It won’t fit.
Because the journey is crooked. The journey has highs and lows. The journey will never look like a page on Pinterest (unless you’re one of those people; in which case, we don’t like you very much, so go away). The journey is tortured and beautiful. The journey is long and much too short.
The journey is well-rounded.
Realize there is no end goal. There is no “happily ever after.”
Because number one: That’s boring. And number two: We don’t live in a Walt Disney fairytale.
So stop striving for something that you’re never going to get.
Be free from balance.
Start small, and then expand. Ask yourself:
- What do I spend the most amount of time doing?
- What do I spend the most amount of time wishing for?
- What do I spend the most amount of time dissatisfied with?
- What do I spend the most amount of time worrying/obsessing about?
- What do I spend the most amount of time being happy/grateful for?
Are they they same things? Are they different? Is one category grossly tipping in a full or empty direction? Okay. Fine. You’re tilted. So fix it. Don’t “balance” it. Just eliminate, change or slice it off cleanly and move on to the next thing.
Try this every time you want to find balance: Break up with your dissatisfaction. Replace it with something joyful instead.
Continue down the line until your life is a series of patched, layered, more interesting stories.
Just trust yourself. Always come back to the process – your lovely, unbalanced, disheveled process. Burrow in it, wallow, get comfy.
Because it’s just you and time and this unimaginably expansive masterpiece we call life.
Start creating something that is yours. Be messy. Color outside the lines.
Tip the scale. Get unbalanced.
Collect stories like coins.
And then share them. Remember them.
Let life in.