We’ve heard a lot about balance from Steve on the blog lately. With the release of Steve’s best-selling book, Navigate Chaos, we at CEEK have been thinking a lot about balance. In Navigate Chaos, Steve encourages readers to push beyond an intuition-based sense of balance or even a definition that separates life and work. Instead, he defines “healthy life balance as ‘a state where professed priorities are consistent with demonstrated behaviors.’”
For my part it’s also been a packed year personally and professionally, so I’ve been eager to get my colleagues’ take on how they maintain their balance and get it back when they slip. In typical CEEK form, they answered my questions with questions.
“Wait, how do we define balance ourselves? Do we all agree with this?”
Suddenly our discussion, now about the very definition of balance, veered off-message from the book. We agreed that a different definition, or even definitions, isn’t a bad thing. Balance is a deeply personal understanding we make as individuals that we don’t always articulate to others, much less to ourselves.
Then we realized. This was mutiny.
Each team member has their own take on balance and was willing to share it here.
For Whitley Carson, Chief Creative Marketeer, balance is feeling stable and capable of any task she needs to get through. She feels balanced when she’s not overwhelmed or pulled in too many directions where she doesn’t have her feet under her. “I need to take time to say, okay, this might be a challenging period of time, but all I need to do is take a moment, re-center, and know it’ll be alright.” Whitley gives herself permission to be present and to carve out time to do other things that she knows will benefit her.
Chris King, Chief Learning Provocateur, admits, “I’ve been out of balance for so long, I don’t remember what balance feels like. Balance seems to me to be the ability to work in multiple directions without one direction dominating my attention.” For Chris, balance is finding a way to work on different things.
“The word ‘balance’ doesn’t resonate with me,” says, Chief Gardener of People, Jennifer Hughes. “Balance says to me that there are equal parts, one balanced with the other.” For Jennifer, balance is more than two things equaling. She asks herself, “Am I getting enough of the things in my life that make me feel productive, present, like my mind, body, and spirit are in alignment?” She thinks the question of balance is more about thriving and flourishing.
For Abby Allen, Chief Curator of Potential, balance is about reserving time and energy for everything she knows needs to be done. “I can do it all, just not all at once.” Abby tries to carve out blocks of time to focus on a given task. Having a dedicated time to commit, and a targeted time to pause and assess, allows her to manage to the capacity of her tank. Balance for Abby is about being present and engaged.
Where Abby thinks about time and energy, Kristen Gauthier, Chief Story Curator, thinks about space. “How much can I fit in my bag before I need to take something out or refuse to take on something new?” Kristen is working on managing her commitments. “I see new requests as a new sort of story where I have to say ‘Yes’ to find out how it ends. I don’t need to do that. I can just ask later.’” Kristen’s balancing act is a work in progress.
By the end of the discussion, the team’s interpretation of balance came back to prioritized time and energy. Our priorities drive our decisions about how to spend our time and energy. If we consistently spend more time and energy on things that are low priority, we feel out of balance even if we don’t realize why. Balance is when our “professed priorities are consistent with demonstrated behaviors.” So, not so much mutiny after all.
What have you done to make your priorities explicit so you know when you are out of balance?
Up next: Steve is back on the blog with a spooky post in time for Halloween. And will Kristen ever get the answer to the questions she originally asked? Follow this space to find out!