Wife. Mom. Daughter. Instructor. Coach. Sister. Employee. Friend. Caretaker. And oh, yes, Me!
Where does one find time to wear all the “hats” that life hands out? Iit seems every year brings a new responsibility and/or relationship to the equation. I think back to when life was just about “me” — pretty simple — and now in hindsight and comparatively rather mundane. When was my next bike ride, my next run? Who was I going to have a recovery lunch with and plan our next event? My, how time has changed me.
Now my thoughts are more along the lines of How early will I need to get up to squeeze in a 30-minute ride on my bike trainer before a 20-minute HIIT workout? I have to get up earlier than usual so I can edit my son’s college paper before he leaves for his internship, (because he asked me to do it two days ago and I’ve yet to get to it) while I quickly visit with my husband about his next business trip which now interferes with a weekend mountain bike campout we had talked about. But we would probably have to cancel that in lieu of our other son whose college semester just got bumped an additional week, so he will be home longer than expected. No worries. Who would have watched the dogs and taken “meals on wheels” to my aging parents while I was gone anyway?
As someone who has been in the wellness industry my entire career, the word “balance” may have always been intertwined with work and life, but not for this gal. I live about as unbalanced as one could imagine — not by accident, but by design and intent. Whereas, in my eyes, “balance” resonates with a life cautiously lived, delicately shifting from one cause to another, for me, my life is lived more as a harmony of ebb and flow.
Being a “Blue Mind” water girl, born and raised on the lake, a fitness instructor, an athlete and coach that also uses the lake for training, coaching and recreation, I find sanity by perceiving my life similar to the moving action of water. Even the thought and visualization of it calms me. As opposed to striving for life “balance,” constantly struggling, aiming and recalculating to achieve it with stringency and rigidity, I anchor into rhythm, changing tides, fluidity and reflection to stay buoyant through an intentionally full and fulfilling life.
Since adding kids to my life equation a couple of decades ago, I quickly realized it was futile for me to attempting to “balance” anything. If one thing was up, the other crashed. When attempted to focus on the other, something else would take a nosedive. The vision of different silos of my life, strategically positioned with a deep focus on offsetting one against the other by distributing my time, energy and attention accordingly was not appealing. It imposed upon me a state of rigorousness and inflexibility, more of a match of success and failure.
As a coach and athlete, I envision balance best on a BOSU or surfboard. If you push in too much on one side, the other side suffers the consequence — a constant battle for equality. The athlete in me knows that when working on balance, one simple distraction or shift of attention has the potential to quickly move anything or anyone to a state of imbalance.
Instead, finding my life rhythm helps me reflect on what’s most important this day, this week or even this year and push into that. Granted, sometimes an immediate need arises that trumps all other needs that day, but herein lies the power of resilience to reframe the moment and blend my day. Part of rhythm is having an expectation that things will flow, blend and harmonize —that each individual part of my life contributes and connects with the bigger picture. With this upfront expectation, then I can embrace the ebb and flow and ride the moving waters, if you will.
In an article in Forbes, William Vanderbloemen, founder of Vanderbloemen Search Group, has a similar interpretation: “The elusive work-life balance everyone tries to find? I don’t believe it exists. Rather, I think we have work-life rhythms. Sometimes, we hit a storm surge with work. Other times, the waters ebb. But you can’t schedule that ebb and flow; rather, you need to recognize different seasons in your and your company’s year.”
Life has different seasons, various tides that move in and out through time. Finding inner buoyancy is key to navigating these seasonal tides. There are chapters when family and friends are the most important and other times when work, service or community are. But being resilient and knowing that tides will change and, when they do, your focus and energy will be redirected. On many accounts, the ability to premeditate and anticipate changing tides not only enhances resilience but also helps that “guilt dilemma” we enter by feeling we are spending too much time in one area of our life. “I’m working on a big project at work, staying late and having to ask my kids to eat leftovers.” Instead, reframe that to, “Today I’m staying late because I want to kick butt on this project, and tomorrow I’ll wrap up early so I’m home when my kids get home, and we can have a great dinner together!” Shining positivity into the moment and planning for the next tide to roll into other areas of your life is a big asset to a positive mindset.
Jon Gordon, author of “The Seed: Finding Purpose and Happiness in Life and Work,” puts it like this, “People tell me all the time that they feel guilty that they are not at home with their family when they are at work. And to make matters worse, they also feel guilty that they are not working when they are at home. A double dose of guilt is a recipe for misery.” Instead, he suggests that when you are working hard, realize this is your season to do so — and also make plans for time to recharge, renew and spend quality time with the people you love.
Gordon suggests flowing with the tides so that, “when you are working, commit fully to your work. When you are home with your family or significant other, commit fully to engaging with them, and enjoy your personal time. By understanding your rhythm, planning and committing to the seasons of your life, you may not achieve perfect work-life ‘balance,’ but you will create a flow and rhythm that makes you happier, more productive and … less guilty.”
As a business leader, mom, daughter and partner, no matter how much I plan and anticipate, the steadfast fact is that every day brings a different need, and many times it lands an unexpected element. It’s important for me to man my helm and, although continuing to hold my course, stay fluid when change is necessary. If I anticipate that the waters will not always be smooth and the path not always direct, I can remain much more confident that I’m still on course. By always being present and prepared to adapt, whether it is calm waters, rising tides or incoming storms, I find myself more relaxed and prepared to be in the moment.
I’d be “missing the boat” if I didn’t mention my lifesaver: reflection. Looking back; assessing my journey; reviewing my decisions; recalculating how and where I’ve landed. When blending life, family and career, it’s a constant voyage. We should never arrive, but constantly reflect upon the path we’ve taken and grasp how we want to navigate differently through the next changing tide. As a mom of 18- and 21-year-olds, reflection has been my guiding light. I frequently share with friends to not allow regret to cast a shadow upon your past but instead be a beacon for how you want to live your future. A few simple moments of being still, attentive and present can shine eternally into how you will choose to navigate your future.