The Balance Aha


Many, many years ago, when Datsuns roamed the earth and before there were mobile phones, I was a competitive gymnast. Truth be told, I was not all that good.

The uneven parallel bars were my worst event and the floor (tumbling) was my favorite.  I lived for the moment the music would play and I could interpret it through movement (foreshadowing the future, one might say). Curiously though, while I enjoyed floor the most, it was not my highest scoring event.

That distinction went to the balance beam. I received my highest scores on a four foot high, four inch wide block of leather covered wood.

Balance beam

Ironic to think of it now, given how elusive balance seems to be in everyday life.  I’m no longer being judged and receiving scores, and yet, as I observe myself and others, it seems we’re all still in pursuit of a gold medal. As if we could somehow nail balance and stick the landing.

What is it about balance that has us so…. off kilter? Perhaps it is a flaw with the fundamental assumption that balance is an attainable state, much like a geographical one.

Whether it’s a haphazard, grab-and-go diet, rich or rocky relationships, runaway calendars or daily races with the clock, the chaos we feel in our lives can wreak havoc with our health … and somehow miraculously gives the impression time after time, that it’s just temporary.

We convince ourselves that sweet relief and regained equilibrium are just around the corner. Order will be restored once some extenuating circumstance or another comes to an end.

But all the evidence leads me to a very different conclusion. My Aha? That balance isn’t a place at all. It’s a practice.

Yes, a practice -- like yoga, or being kind to animals, or showing up in relationships.

Or gymnastics.

In every day, in every moment, balance is achieved by a different set of circumstances. The strategy that steadies a gymnast in one split second of a routine, is extremely different from that of the moment before or after. There’s no one set formula, no one combination of elements in one specific proportion or relationship to one another that works for all occasions.

Why presume that life is any different off the beam than it is on?

We open, we focus, we aim, we act. Sometimes we land where we thought we would and sometimes we fall and regroup to take the next step, wiser for the insight from the fall.

Balance Burnout

Balance is dynamic, ever changing and achieving the gold lies in the process of balancing, rather than the balance itself. There is nothing finite about balance. Our part is to continually respond to a constant state of flux. Be open, focus, aim, act. Falling and regrouping as needed is part of the deal.

The infinite nature of balance is just as true in our professional lives as it is in our personal ones. The act of running a business includes responding to situations that call on us to lead more from our creative, innovative, visionary selves at times and from our organized, strategic, execution oriented selves at others. Sometimes I really do feel like I am switching hats multiple times in the course of a single day. Leadership is a continual act of taking inventory of the situation at hand and then responding with supplementation from appropriate, available resources.

Success comes from both the leader’s own adaptability and the team’s skill set diversity to collectively balance itself. If you are the team (as we all are, at least in our own lives, if not at work), then it comes down to calling on different sides of yourself and reaching out to those who can provide the additional aspects that are needed.

So the next time you find yourself feeling like some area of your life is out of whack, celebrate your moment of discovery that you desire a new balance. Time to assess the situation, take inventory and regroup for steadier next steps.