What if doing more of what engages you gives you all the balance you really need?
When I was training as an executive coach at Lancaster University as part of one of the modules we completed a wheel of life audit based on our levels of satisfaction with our work and personal lives.
I remember joining up the dots on my life circle and glancing over at my peers as they joined dots to present evenly shaped circles suggesting high levels of satisfaction in most areas of their lives. I felt slightly inadequate as I presented my uneven shaped diamond shape rather than an evenly shaped circle. My ‘tyranny of expectation’ was running wild that day. The facilitator suggested that a more evenly shaped circle symbolised success and a well-rounded individual. I clearly did not fit the bill.
This idea of balance is complicated. It has many layers. Aside from my work as a coach I am also a writer. I very rarely get paid for my published writing. Most of the writing I do online is not paid. I write because I want to understand myself better. I really desire to experience better quality relationships and connections with the people I frequently interact with and the wider world.
A balanced life right now would not support my writing habit. The bills still need to be paid. As a result my writing is often executed from the margins of my life. Practically what this looks like is me frequently writing in-between the gaps throughout my day. At this very moment it is 6.16am and in I am in bed writing this article. On most other occasions I write sitting on buses and trains, on station platforms, in cafes and public spaces in between appointments and at the dining room table in the evenings. To support my writing habit I walk around with pen and notebook 24/7 meaning that my writing life is literally open twenty-four hours.
I have a collection of hundreds of quotes stored in boxes that I have collected for several years. Every time I see a quote that catches my attention I write it down straight away, no hesitation. I’ve learnt the hard way that saying you will go back later and capture a quote down in writing often means losing amongst the barrage of our busy and distracting lives. Curating my collection of quotes takes time and energy, commitment and discipline.
Is this unbalanced? I don’t think so. I like the meaning writing gives my life beyond the world of my paid work as a coach and trainer and facilitator. The fact that writing occupies a huge and additional space to the work I already do does not make me feel unbalanced but whole. Sometimes I find that the very act of writing gives me the balance that not just my life but my soul needs.
Recently I had a conversation with a senior leader. We got talking about how he uses his leisure time outside of work. We talked about the possibilities of investing more time and money on his personal development. He had clearly defined his working life as separate from his home life but it was clear there was something missing. This came from him not me.
We spent time exploring what it would mean to extend his personal development into life beyond work. It became obvious through our conversation that without spending that time which may well have been previously considered as unbalancing home life, his own inner life and personal development would remain untouched in a meaningful way.
Whilst downtime and rest is essential to well-being you can also add value by engaging in meaningful pursuits.
The answer may sit somewhere between introducing intentional activities into your day with projects and activities on a range that excite you and stretch you. It might be reading more for personal interest, keeping a journal and being more reflective and observant, taking yourself of on interesting visits to events, museums or galleries, listening or watching TED talks more frequently or enrolling on a course for fun. Think about what would interest and engage you beyond the world of work? These can be small steps that can make a real felt difference.
People who know or work with me often say they don't know how I do all the things I do. I’m a bit of a Magpie when it comes to my interests. My response is to remind them of examples of individuals like Sting who was a teacher whilst pursuing becoming amusician or the novelist Toni Morrison who wrote during the hours outside of her job as an editor in-between the cracks.
If you ruffled up the feathers of balance in your life what would you be doing more of or less of?
You can download a copy of the Wheel of Life Tree Audit, which uses colouring to assess your levels of satisfaction at work and in your personal life http://www.jackeeholder.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/JH-New-Wheel-of-Life-Template-FINAL.pdf
Download a copy of the free Wheel Of Life Tree Audit & Playbook here http://www.jackeeholder.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/JH-WoLT-Playbook-FIN-9May2014.pdf