When people talk about achieving ‘work life balance’ and other such notions, I get the impression that they’ve got some nirvana in mind where everything is perfectly sorted. There are no tensions or conflicts to solve. Nothing changes.
Sounds boring to me.
Beyond boring, it’s not actually how life works. To my mind, ‘balance’ doesn’t equate to ‘sameness’, and it never should.
I reckon life works better for us if we accept the idea of ‘dynamic equilibrium’, where stuff is in constant motion and perfectly balanced.
Let’s explore that idea. In a conversation with a group earlier this week, I drew this on the whiteboard:
Imagine a guy or girl on a seesaw. ‘Nirvana’ is when the seesaw is perfectly flat. Maybe that might happen when no one’s on it. But when there’s a person on it, there’s always going to be some movement. It’s always going to tip one way or the other. Even if it’s just a little bit
It’s kind of like when you ride a bike: you’re always countering the way the bike wants to naturally fall. That’s just what you do.
If you accept that this is how life works, then your work is not really about achieving a static ‘balanced’ state. That’s futile. Your work is about learning to move with the forces. It’s about noticing when it tips too far one way, and adapting to bring it back the other way. Then noticing again. And adapting again. And so on. Until it becomes unconscious and that’s just what you do, without breaking a sweat.
There is always going to be some form of ‘tipping’. Conflicting choices, competing tensions. Here are some you might be familiar with:
That’s what happens in life. When we accept this, we can move from fighting a system to dancing with it. Don’t you reckon the latter sounds way more fun than the former?
And the more adept we are at dancing with the forces at play, the better we are able to embrace the realities of life.
There is no such thing as static balance. There never will be.
Here are a couple of other posts I wrote on this idea:
- Work With The Patterns – what surfing can teach us about working with the forces at play
- Avoid The Flatline – how to use both the highs and lows of life as learning experiences
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