What I do every day to thrive.
This month we are exploring the big elusive B: Balance.
How do you know if you’re balanced?
Balance is talked about as something you find. Often between work and life. As if there was this magical spot between your ‘work’ you and your ‘home’ you.
Just like time, balance cannot be found, only made.
Balance is elusive. Partly so because it’s personal. There isn’t one right thing or action that brings it. What works for one person doesn’t work for another. Often we try to find balance by mirroring what’s working for others or letting people tell us what we should be doing.
What I have tried
I spent years trying to find balance. Not only was I looking for something that couldn’t be found, I was looking in all the wrong places. Here are some things I’ve done to find balance that didn’t work:
- Going out for drinks after work with colleagues (I’m an introvert and don’t like drinking)
- Training for and running a 10K race (I don’t like running, or racing, or being with thousands of people - see above: introvert)
- Joining a weekly running club (see 1 and 2)
- Taking an online daily meditation challenge (they are great AND didn’t work for me)
- Getting up at 5 am to “fit” in my self-care (try as I might, I am not a morning person)
While it may seem easier to want a coach like me to give you a playbook for balance, like all things in life, they have to come from you.
Except for one thing, I’ve never believed in the “one size fits all” model for whole life fulfillment. In order to create balance you first need to know what it means to you, how it does and doesn’t show up in your life.
So pause, go inward, and ask yourself some more questions:
What does balance mean to you?
What takes you out of balance?
How do you know?
When are you at your best?
I invite you to stop trying to find balance and start making it.
My husband Kam and I recently spent three weeks sailing the BC coast. The weeks leading up were a test of will power and resilience. Many times the boat almost stayed docked. In the end, we stayed the course and set off into the sunshine.
Part of the trip was a stop at Hollyhock, Cortes Island for the Social Venture Institute conference. After a week at sea with just me and Kam, my legs hit land and 150 bright business people for five days of leadership development. I had the pleasure of leading a Resilient Leadership workshop that focused on helping leaders stay strong and calm no matter what came their way.
Living on a 28-foot boat with my husband, at the mercy of Mother Nature, I learned a lot about leadership. Here are my top three lessons, relevant to business and life.
The forecast doesn’t call the shots. You do.
Every hour was a question of what the weather would do. It’s like trying to see the future, mixed in with the expectation of what we wanted it to do. Sunny skies and light winds are great, but no amount of wishing is going to push that storm away. Much of decision-making is based on forecasting, but when you’re still anchored and the hours are ticking, you’re just wasting time talking about the weather. Make a choice with what you got, put on your raincoat, and be in the moment.
Stay calm, stay clear.
There are so many things that can happen in a given moment. On a sailboat that means the wind can switch, just like that. And at the same time your line hooks a fish and a powerboat zips by. If I got flustered and reacted, something always went wrong. Your ability to stay calm allows you to stay clear. It’s easy to let multiple demands create urgency in you. That drama only clouds your choices. Pause and breathe. You’ll see with practice that urgencies usually aren’t emergencies and you have more choice that you think.
Go back to what matters.
When we sailed off for the last leg of our trip, the weather was relentless. Strong headwinds, big waves, and white caps on the ocean. My hands were gripping tight to the safety lines, eyes to the horizon hoping not to lose my lunch. We both wanted to come home on time, but Mother Nature had other plans. I looked at Kam and we made the easy – and hard – choice to turn around. Some things aren’t worth it because other things are. What mattered is that we were together and safe. When you hit storms, remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. Go back to what matters.
Looking forward to the next adventures. Thanks for reading.
Admission: I am recovering perfectionist.
For most of my life I have been striving for the illusive perfect me. Always on it, a step ahead, goal crusher. Friends with everyone. Employee of the month. Perfect body, hair, teeth, skin. Always say and do the right thing in any given moment. Perfect.
One thing about being a perfectionist is that I was never alone. There are so many us trying to be perfect.
One of the ways perfection showed up in my life was with high expectations for myself and others. My bar was always high. When I hit a goal, there was no celebration or high fiving. The bar simply went higher. In a room with no ceiling, there was no end to how high I could go. Sounds familiar too?
Because my bar was always high, I set the same standard for others. If I had to be perfect, you did too. Makes sense right? That way we all had to achieve the same epically unattainable standard. What this did though was push people away. As I was breaking under the pressure of perfection, I was also breaking others.
When we let go of perfect, we can be enough.
I believe one of the best feelings in the world is freedom. One of the greatest – and hardest – teachings to learn is compassion. I mean that real, truthful, loving form of compassion that sets you free. In that freedom is allowing. You aren’t perfect, your boss isn’t perfect. your mom isn’t perfect. I am not perfect. When we can see others with heart open compassion, we give permission to not be perfect – we give permission to be ourselves.
When we let go of perfect, we become free.
What if someone fails us? One of the things perfection does is block us from compassion. Our hurt can come from seeing the world through the lens of perfect. As a result, a person fails us and we dehumanize them. They become worthy not of our compassion, but of our resentment.
If there’s someone in our lives who fails us, sometimes we think that if we change departments at work, find a new job or group of friends, we’ll feel better. That person is not longer in your inner circle so you must be able to move on, right? Here’s the thing – just because we create a boundary doesn’t mean that the heart knows that boundary. If you are carrying a heaviness with someone, it will not leave because of a role change. You will find peace and ease through a shift within you.
When we let go of perfect, we let in peace.
Today I coach many recovering perfectionist like me find freedom. One of the ways I do this is through the mindful leadership method of reflection. Find a moment and sit in stillness. Take a few slow breaths, and ask yourself: What would letting go of perfect allow for? Where is there space for compassion? The shift within you starts here, with a mindful awareness inward. Without judgment, high bar or expectations. Simply being.
Sometimes what you want doesn’t come without a fight.
My husband and I are set to leave on a sailing trip in two days. The water pump on the boat is broken. This is one of many obstacles so far.
This trip is a culmination of a year’s work of reconnecting to each other. A two and a half week adventure to Cortes Island in BC’s Gulf Islands, just the two of us, some whales (hopefully) and the ocean.
The idea that once you get clear on what you want, then the rest is easy, it’s not. AS there is challenge in uncertainty, there’s equal challenge that comes with clarity and intention.
With clarity comes a call for will power
The universe has given us well over twenty reasons to cancel this trip. We’ve both said no to dream work gigs, had four cat sitters back out, a back log of client work, the front sail to repair. The list is long. And, we are committed. Giving up on the trip feels like giving up on each other. Heck no is that happening! We are clear on what we want, from this trip and our relationship. Here we are, it’s two days till cast off, we’ve hit an obstacle that we might not be able to overcome in time.
This is life right? Staying the course requires will power. Commitment takes trust. While the goal or intention is clear, the journey there is not. Layer in the fatigue, self-doubt, fear, and full on anger at the universe, there’s so many reasons to give up. What will you do when your goals get hard?
Will power, trust, commitment
What is will power? Will is the ability to make conscious choice. Will power is the drive to exercise that choice. Will power sustains you when you have to keep going. When the curve balls come (as they no doubt do), will power is what decides if you stay true to what you’ve committed to.
One of my teacher’s, Gloria Latham, once said to me “trust is created when we keep our commitments.” Commitment is the seed of trust. It forces you to show up for your life. Even when it’s hard. That’s one of the best lessons of mindfulness – the ability to stay true to your course no matter what the weather brings. Will power is cultivated when we are conscious about what we want. Trust comes from your ability to stay calm and on your compass in the storms. Commitment is the wind in your sails.
What will you do when you’re called to access will power?
I write this after the sun’s gone down and while Kamil is in the shed welding away at the water pump. The trip is hinging on a smooth repair. Our commitment to the trip and to each other is unwavering.