Lately, I’ve been reading and thinking about what it takes to do exceptional things. This has special significance in light of the Great8, which at this point sits and may remain as the “some what ok 6 and ¾”……..lame I know. I’ve recovered from the disc removal and fusion and I’m currently leveling out my latest Parkinson’s medication which included Botox shots in my leg and foot. That’s right…the bottom of my left foot will remain young and wrinkle free for the foreseeable future. 😛 In all seriousness, the shots are my latest attempt to overcome the Dystonia (tightening and curling) in my foot that makes endurance running and biking almost impossible. Any hoo…. All this has me re-thinking what are the best activities for me to remain healthy, fit and prepared to deal with this disease that promises to get more and more challenging. Much of what I have read suggests the obvious things around diet, exercise, sleep and reducing stress through Yoga & meditation. I’m down with all that. However, one article stressed this concept of work/life balance. And that is the idea I’d like to kick around here today. You see, frankly I’ve always felt that striving for balance is fools gold. Let me explain.
A quick google search and you will see that it’s not hard to find plenty of advice on how to “live your best life,” accomplish more, and achieve beyond your expectations. Most of this advice is summed up in cliche sayings like “If you want something you never had, you have to do things you’ve never done.” They are clichés because there is a lot of truth in them. However, I think there is one piece of advice regarding living your best life that is not true. I’ll argue it was never true and can actually be harmful and produces much unneeded stress. That is this idea that we are supposed to have some sort of “work/life balance.”
Just curious, what does “work/life balance” mean to you? I’ve always understood it to mean that an individual manages all aspects of their professional life and personal life in some sort of harmonious fashion. They are somehow satisfying all aspects of their responsibilities and relationships in all the roles they play. For me, that would be, in a broad sense, a Christian, a husband, a father, an employee, a son, a brother, a friend and a citizen in my community. Depending on how specific you want to get, the list could go on. Right away, it’s not hard to spot the 1st challenge in striving for work/life balance. There are just too many things to balance! How in the world can anyone show up fully engaged and attentive to all of these personal and professional roles? The popular answer is to get a better time mgt. system. More fool’s gold. Now, it’s always a good thing to prioritize and to manage your time efficiently. However, time management doesn’t give you more time. Time management can only help you make the most of what time you have. So here is my first point. If you want to make the most of what time you have, do less. That’s right. I’ll bet you won’t read that in productivity magazines. What I really mean is focus on fewer things and give them the time and attention they deserve. Naturally, that means that some roles & responsibilities will have to move to the back burner. Hence, not a perfect balance.
From my estimation, at least two very negative things happen when we get sucked into thinking we can keep all of our roles and relationships in balance at the same time. The first is we inevitably sell all things short in order to cover all our bases. In an attempt to pay some attention to all these aspects of our lives, we often can only do the bare minimum in each. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have exceptional moments than to show up and be consistently average at best. The second problem comes when we buy into the myths we see on social media that others are somehow getting all this done. Nothing is better than an Instagram or Facebook filter to make it appear that we are rockstars at work, at home and of course all we do is vacation and eat amazing food. Ever wonder how all your Facebook friends do it? The answer is they don’t. Not really. You never see the credit card bill that comes the month after that fabulous vacation or the moments of shear chaos and arguing the proceed that perfect family photo. (Maybe that’s just my family). So, my point here is that buying into this belief that you are supposed be somehow perfectly managing everything at all times and that everyone else is doing it leads to stress and feelings of inadequacy when you ultimately fall short.
There was nothing balanced about my attempt to complete the Great8. It took a lot of sacrifice and came at the expense of other really important roles and relationships. I would argue that it is ok under the right circumstances. Over the course of my life, there are times when I worked more than I should and others when I’ve been more focused on personal or family matters. Balance isn’t about a moment or season in time but rather it’s like a pendulum that swings between the priorities in your life.
In full transparency, I have to recognize that I had a major miss regarding the Great8. At the time, I thought in my mind that I asked my family for support and understanding while I gave my time and energy to the the many hours of training. I realize now that what I really did was tell them what I was doing and expected their support. Not cool! What’s amazing is they are so gracious and forgiving that they gave their support and understanding any way. I didn’t deserve that kind of love and I owe them a huge apology and thank you.
I’m seeing a similar issue with these 1st two years of being diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Adjusting mentally and physically to my new normal has definitely caused me to turn inward. Frankly, even the most narcissistic parts of me have had just about enough of me. I’m tired of over analyzing every morning just how much or how little sleep I’ve had. I’m tired of focusing how I’m feeling or what my energy levels are like in the minutes and hours before and after I take my medications. That information may have been useful for a time, but it’s to no one’s benefit to be so focused on yourself. It’s time for the pendulum to swing. The best medicine for me is to stop being so f’ing self-centered and to get out of my own head and serve the people around me. I think I know just where to start……at home.