Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Life Is A Balance Act

“The best and safest thing is to keep a balance in your life, acknowledge the great powers around us and in us. If you can do that, and live that way, you are really a wise man.”  -  Euripides

It has been a busy summer at the office and there are no signs of a slowdown anytime soon.  New projects and schedule pressures, the annual management exercise commonly known as “budget planning,” and preparation for significant life changes have all been on the front burner of late.  Sometimes it seems as if everything in life is on the front burner.  What happened to the back burners?  Where did they go?

A few days ago I was having a conversation with a friend and he was relating his own tale of “life lived without balance.”  Offering him sound advice (I thought) I reminded him that balance is an elusive standard and to the extent we equate our level of happiness to the time balance of our lives we are likely to be disappointed.  Worse yet is when we feel guilty over the lack of time balance.

My theory is this:  Balance is achieved when the moments and events that we value most in life are rich and have deep roots that touch us emotionally and spiritually.  It is not about equal time.  It is about the quality of our relationships and experiences.

As a project manager I structure nearly everything I do.  I develop schedules, juggle resources and people, strategize, collaborate, and mitigate risk.  I plan the work and work the plan.  But never in a single project plan have I seen a task labeled “be in balance.”  In fact, my experience is the opposite.  The demands of professional life compete with and often trump those of my personal life.  If I am to be happy, healthy, and balanced I must find a way to tip the scales in my favor.

In other words, it is up to me.  I must take responsibility for my own balance, happiness and sense of fulfillment.  And so must you.  Recognizing that there are times our lives will be weighted primarily in one area allows us to focus that time more efficiently.  Getting through that period as quickly as possible and then taking time to rebalance our relationships and recharge our own batteries is important.

Time imbalance can occur for any number of reasons.  Project deadlines, business travel, health crisis, and personal pursuits such as after-hours education are all examples of life and work realities.  Each brings its own bit of stress.  The issue is not avoiding them, because you rarely can.  But you can learn how to make the most of time that is available to you in ways that maximize its value.  For me that means quiet solitude, a morning stroll on the beach with a cup of hot coffee for company, or time spent with my wife when there is nothing particular we have to get done.  For you it might be playing Frisbee catch with the dog, hanging out with friends, or reading that book you’ve been staring at for months. 

Whatever it is that works for you, put it to work.  As Albert Einstein said, 

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.”

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