For years we’ve been sold the idea of work–life balance. And if you look at balance as something you need to achieve every day – keeping the scales evenly weighted between your partner, kids, family, friends, yourself, spirituality, health, keeping the home, work – you will struggle to find real balance and expend so much energy simply on trying to create and maintain it.
Frankly, I think this idea of striking a work–life balance is a complete myth. It’s damaging and pressures us to achieve something impossible, where a more fluid approach provides the flexibility required to meet the different needs in our life, as and when it’s needed.
Instead of exhausting yourself by trying to achieve balance, learn to tilt. To willingly throw things out of balance. And, importantly, learn to be OK with that.
Actually, we need to learn to embrace it!
Simple living is about finding lightness, joy and presence. It's important to shift your mindset from one of balance to something more flexible.
• Some days you are extra busy at work – tilt towards simple meals, light home duties and simple rhythms.
• Some days your kids are happy to play independently – tilt towards catching up on tasks around the house.
• Some days you need to recharge – tilt towards being kind to yourself and letting go of the things that don’t help with that.
• Some days your kids are sick, or needy, or plain grumpy, meaning you can’t get anything done except the very basics – tilt towards supporting the kids and being extra mindful of what’s going on for them.
• Some days your partner is under added pressure at work – tilt towards lessening the load on them at home.
• Some days you need to regain order at home – tilt away from social engagements and towards time spent focused on those needs.
Tilting allows us to focus on what’s important in the moment, and intentionally choose to put our energies into those areas. The physical act of tilting means we’re leaning in to one thing, and leaning out of another. We can’t be everything to everyone in every moment, and tilting makes it clear that by saying yes to one thing, we’re saying no to another in that moment. And what’s more, it’s OK to do so.
Conversely, tilting actually helps us to achieve balance over a longer period of time. Instead of battling to find it every day, it’s more important to create balance over a month – or a year. If we take a longer view of balance, it’s much easier to see if we’re living the way we want to be, or what areas we need to focus on more. Plus, we all have bad days and stressful times and it’s far more forgiving to take a broader view of balance – chances are, if you’re tilting in to the important things, you’ll find you’ve achieved that balance over time.
It’s not a matter of learning a step-by-step approach. It’s more about keeping the idea of tilting in the back of your mind.
It’s about understanding – and accepting – the fact that you can not and will not ever achieve perfect balance.
What’s more, you probably wouldn’t want to.
Achieving and then maintaining a state of balanced perfection would be incredibly stressful and unfulfilling. Instead, understand that your time is limited and valuable. And you can choose where to place your energies, depending upon where they need to be.
Your life is yours.
I can’t tell you where your priorities need to lie. But every once in a while, ask yourself if you feel balanced:
• this week?
• this month?
• in the past six months?
The answer you feel in your gut will guide you much better than any ideal of perfect daily balance will.