Life Off Balance, On Purpose

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A few years back a client of mine gave me a copy of the book, “I Don’t Know How She Does It” by Allison Pearson, the story of one woman’s attempt to strike the impossible balance between career and family.

The problem was, I was too busy living the tale to read it and I resented my client’s not realizing that she was putting just one more thing on my perpetual ‘to do list’. I put the book on my nightstand pretending I might actually get to it, and stored it away after a decent amount of time.

Fast forward to this week when I went into overdrive trying to recover from a week’s vacation with my two small children. (I had actually deluded myself into thinking that I’d feel relaxed at the end of it, so I needed to recuperate from the disappointment as well). A week away from my business had produced two weeks backlog of work, not to mention hundreds of unopened emails. What little relaxation I’d had was completely erased when I realized what it would take for me to handle it all.

I sat in my office trying to get myself centered and back in balance. The rush of adrenaline from the sheer overwhelm kept knocking me on my butt, and I grew exhausted just reading the long laundry list of things I needed to accomplish. Worst of all, I felt victimized by this list that I, myself, was responsible for writing.

When, I wondered, had my “get to’s” turned into “have to’s”? When had the desires and joys of my life turned into obligations and resentments? And how would I convert them back?

I’m not sure whether I had an epiphany or a breakdown but, regardless, I had a moment of clarity there on the floor of my office when I remembered that I was the one who had said “yes” to all of these things. This implied that I also had the choice to say “No”. Something had to give and I didn’t want it to be my mental health, the well-being of my family or the prosperity of my business. What to do?

What I figured out is that I would need to learn to be off-balance on purpose. Since I couldn’t possibly do everything I thought I needed to without relinquishing everything I claim to be important, I would need to relax my standard without compromising my values. It might all get done. Just not today.

I’ve decided to practice saying “No… for now”. Not for forever. Just for now. If my life is to going to be (by sheer necessity) off balance then I’ll intentionally design it that way, on purpose. This will give me a modicum of control (I absolutely need that), and a semblance of sanity. It’s not that I don’t want to get it all done. It’s just that it’s impossible. (Oh, that!)

I’d love to know how you decide which things to put down? How do you pick which things to say “No… for now” to? And how do you decide to say, “Yes”? How do you deal with the logistics as well as the fallout? And the feelings that accompany it all?

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