In his most excellent book ‘The One Thing‘, Gary Keller argues that there is really no such thing as a balanced life, that there will always be times when we find ourselves at the extreme outer edges of the see-saw (working crazy hours while setting up a new business for example) and that all we can really do is find ways to counter-balance. And I guess, if you think of balance in purely mathematical terms, where equilibrium is only achieved by an even distribution of weight at either end of that see-saw, then he is 100% right. However, I think of balance in a slightly different way. I know a lot of women who live and work at the ‘outer edge’, putting in long hours day in day out while they build their businesses, raise families, and somehow still find the time to train for marathons and triathlons and all sorts of madness. Would I describe them as well-balanced? I absolutely would. To me, balance is about having this crazy thing called life well-sussed and understanding exactly what you need in order to be your very best self. It’s about being ‘in flow’, being 100% aligned to your purpose, feeling centred and grounded and in control of your destiny, and – most importantly – knowing when it’s time to put the juicer away and pour yourself a damn Pinot!
Did I always feel like this? I most certainly did not. I was as far from balance as Katie Hopkins is from tact. I lived what I would call an ‘extreme’ life, punishing myself with work then partying to excess because I felt like I’d earned a good blow out. Going through periods where I spent money with complete abandon because hey – saving is for goal keepers, right? – then six months later having to take my piggy bank to the coin machine at Asda because I had literally no money left to buy food. Lurching from one drama or crisis to another and never really enjoying my life or finding peace and contentment in anything I did. Happiness was always ‘when I do this’ or ‘when I have that’, and never right here, right now. I was so far on the edge of that damn see-saw I was about to fall off and land with a very painful thud. Something needed to be done – and pronto!
Here’s what I learned as I searched for that ‘something.’
Stage 1 of the journey to balance begins with slowing down. It begins when we choose to take control of the maelstrom of negative thoughts and emotions that have been running the show for too long, and finally decide that it’s time to see them politely to the door. And that’s not always an easy decision to arrive at. For a long time there was a real tug of war going on with me. On the one hand I was tired of living in emotional chaos, yet on the other hand I was almost addicted to it. Jude the drama queen was such a part of my identity that I wasn’t sure who I would be without her. How does calm, well-balanced Jude function in the world without some anxiety or other to chew over. Will she lose her drive, her ambition, her need to always be doing something? On some level I believed that ‘sorting myself out’ would fundamentally change how I operated and that the frantic energy that propelled me along would dissipate and I’d be left floundering. What I didn’t realise was that this frantic energy wasn’t so much propelling me along as causing me to ricochet and pinball all over the place without any clear idea of where I was going and what the hell I was going to do when I got there. Slowing down would not mean that I ground to a halt, it would allow me to find some clear purpose and direction and finally step out with sustainable energy knowing exactly what my plan was.
Stage 2 involves a lot of soul-searching and researching, as the fog begins to lift and we finally start to get some clarity on the things that have had us all out of whack. It could be a relationship that’s just not doing you any favours, it could be a job that’s sapping your will to live, it could be the fact that you spend so much time running around after everyone in your family that there’s literally no time for you. For me, the frustration of knowing that there was ‘something’ I was supposed to be doing with my life, but not quite knowing what that was, was driving me slowly mad. I had a good job, well paid, I worked from home and my boss was great, but I knew that I had so much more to offer, and the more time and energy this job took from me, the more I started to really resent it, and resent myself for having ‘ended up’ in a job I was really starting to hate. How do I get out of this? What am I supposed to be doing? Is this as good as it gets? I felt worse with every passing week. Balance and alignment? What are these strange things you speak of?
Then two things happened – I started to meditate, and I started to get some help. I knew that the answers were somewhere inside that spaghetti brain of mine, but for the life of me I couldn’t access them on my own. So I reached out to a good friend who I knew had worked with a coach and I asked her to introduce us. Sometimes all we need is a listening ear, someone to help us tune into and identify what we already know, someone to ask the right questions and shine a light on the obvious. Working with a coach proved to be a brilliant move, and a mere three sessions later I was in such a better head space. I added lots of reading to the mix, I watched videos, joined webinars, signed up for online courses and generally threw myself into the job of ‘finding my purpose.’ And after a while, the fuzzy idea that was floating aimlessly around in the dark, musty corridors of my mind began to get its shit together and make its way to the ‘creative room’. And there The Well Balanced Woman was born.
It’s been a frustrating, infuriating, interesting, exciting and remarkable journey but isn’t this what life is all about? Ups, downs, wrong turns, dead ends, utter confusion and sometimes a complete inability to even find where you are on the map! But once you get your bearings and know exactly where you’re going, you can set out without fear or trepidation.
I am now living what I would call a well-balanced life. I meditate and exercise daily, I have clear goals and I take steps towards achieving them every single day. Sometimes it’s a big step, sometimes it’s a smaller step – like editing or writing this blog for example – but as long as it’s a step forward it gets a little round of applause. I’ve learned that living a balanced life requires you to listen to your body, mind and soul and take action at appropriate times. Tune in to the messages, use them as your compass and know that you already have everything you need in order to remain on track, in alignment and perfectly placed on the see-saw.