There is a prevailing quest to live a balanced life, but ironically doing so tends to throw things out of whack. Why? Because balance is not possible, nor is it the most productive philosophy. People beat themselves up trying to obtain balance, but in the end, all they end up with is burnout.
The solution is counterbalancing.
Living in the Middle Means Never Giving Anything Your All
Balancing work, life and everything in between requires us to not give too much of ourselves to anything. That is, to live life in the middle. Unfortunately, living life in the middle guarantees that you won’t be able to focus on what matters most. By trying to keep everything on level ground, nothing will get your full attention.
The middle is mundane. This is one of the biggest flaws of the concept of a balanced life. We think we need to be in the middle at all times. What this philosophy doesn’t account for are the moments when we need to step away from the middle in order to accomplish big goals. Things will naturally go out of balance when you are going after the things that matter most in your life. If you aren’t prepared for it chaos could ensue.
Instead of trying to manage it all equally, we need to find what makes our work and personal lives the most effective. The Harvard Business Review recently outlined research that shows being “balanced” isn’t necessarily effective and managing multiple things at once can be a struggle. The counterbalancing act comes into play when you begin deciding when it’s alright to stay in the middle and when you need to go the extremes to get things done.
The Counterbalancing Mindset
While actual balance isn’t possible, the act of counterbalancing is achievable. This is the idea of going between life and work requirements so that nothing is ignored or left undone for too long, but making sure the things that matter most are given the lion’s share of your attention. This frees you up to spend the majority of your focus on your top priority at the moment.
Some counterbalancing factors to keep in mind:
- Counterbalancing is divided into two buckets – work and life. Both need to be counterbalanced independently.
- There are times when you will have to put small amounts of focus on secondary concerns so that they don’t completely get ignored.
- Counterbalancing requires keen awareness of what is needed most.
- Nothing should ever be sacrificed completely.
- Never forgo family for work.
- Work will require you to be at the extremes for longer periods, whereas personal life requires frequently moving back and forth for tight counterbalancing.
- The key is determining how long you need to be out of balance.
All this again goes back to lie #1: Everything Matters Equally. Counterbalancing is about prioritizing, because in life and work things are not equal. When the most important priorities are attended to everything else can be out of balance. That’s the beauty of counterbalancing.