By Diane Dempster, Executive Coach ― Balance has come up for me a lot, lately. I remember watching my nine-year-old daughter learn to balance on her bike without training wheels. As a coach, I often work with clients who want more balance in their lives. As an entrepreneur, I have recently rediscovered my relationship with life-work balance. And in yoga class, my instructor is always introducing me to poses that challenge my sense of gravity to its limits.
What is Balance?
Balance isn’t about staying in the middle all the time, it is about staying grounded where ever you may find yourself, or despite whatever life might throw at you. It’s not only about balancing the “buckets” of your personal and professional life, but also balancing values and goals within each of those areas. Take a minute and walk on an imaginary balance beam with your eyes closed (go ahead, I’ll wait…). Notice those moments when you are shifting too far in one direction or the other, and then making a slight adjustment to get back to where you feel most comfortable. That’s balance, and it requires three steps:
- Understanding where you feel comfortable
- Noticing when you aren’t where you want to be
- Adjusting where appropriate
So how do we do this in life, both personally and professionally?
Keeping Your Balance
Understanding – Clarity of intention, values and goals is critical to understanding where you are relative to where you want to be; where you feel comfortable. Think about how much time and money most companies spend annually on strategic planning, compared to how much time you spend looking internally—at all aspects of your life. What if you spent some time doing some planning like that for yourself? Like a company, you can re-evaluate your own mission, adjust your plan, and make sure your primary customers (the most important people in your life, including yourself) are content. Professionally, you plan for your business or organization, but does your personal planning carry over into your professional life? When is the last time you looked at your core personal values and long-term goals to develop a plan to reach your leadership goals?
Noticing – At it’s core, noticing is about paying attention to where we are in the present moment and being more mindful. This is something that most of us find challenging. We are constantly worrying what’s next, or re-working something in the past. It’s all about being here… right…. now. How often do we catch ourselves not listening to our team members or our family until they are half-way through their thought? If you aren’t at least a little connected to the present, you won’t figure out that you are out of balance until you are about to fall over! Find a regular practice that helps you to focus on being more completely present in whatever you are doing. You may want to try these mindful leadership strategies.
Adjusting – This is really all about making minor adjustments. Most of us couldn’t tolerate a large scale shift; we are already juggling careers, marriages, activities, and all the other “stuff” we have going on. More importantly, most of us don’t need to make big adjustments to get back to a place of comfort. Ask yourself, what is it you want more of? What is it you want less of? You can actually choose to live your life with more balance by picking one or two things that you can reasonably do in the next week that will get you closer to your ideal. Then, think about what might get in the way of accomplishing your goal, and do some contingency planning. Finally, write down a commitment, or better yet, tell someone your plan so that you have an accountability partner. As a bonus, when you notice how successful you were, celebrate! If you weren’t, don’t beat yourself up—just make another adjustment and test it out again. It’s about the process and continual improvement as much as the outcome.
We have an upcoming workshop to help plan for your success as a leader—The Balanced Leader.* A professional executive coach will guide participants in creating a personal vision and mission for their career path. You will be able to develop an executable plan for success that manages your personal and professional life, as well as balances specific career objectives such as personal development and organizational growth. Once you have your plan? Stay balanced with the three steps above!
*If you are reading this article after the workshop, no worries! We can bring it to your team with one of our custom programs!