During a presentation on work-life balance, a colleague explained to us that ‘Balance is in the eye of the liver, not the beholder.’ Once we got over the oddly anatomical sound of that statement, and understood she meant the person not the organ, we realized she had something important to tell us.
It’s not for us to look at others and judge whether they are balanced or not. How can we know that? Conversely, we’re the only ones who truly know if our life is working on an even keel. However, sometimes we get so caught up in one aspect of life or another that we don’t notice for ourselves when we are not doing so well on the balance beam. Or, sometimes we feel vaguely unhappy about things, but we really can’t say why.
I think there are some specific reasons for all of this. First, like I wrote last week, we can set ourselves up for failure when we misunderstand balance, thinking it is one specific way of being and not letting ourselves flow with the changes of life. Second, sometimes we aren’t clear about what is important to us, so our decisions take us all over the place. As a result we end up saying ‘yes’ to too many opportunities or to the wrong ones and all of the sudden we find ourselves spending our time on things that aren’t really important to us, though they may look great to others.
Maybe we bought a big house and now find ourselves spending all our time cleaning it and all our money on mortgage and upkeep. If we love everything about home ownership, that will be fine. But what if we don’t? Or you might think that volunteering for a board of a non-profit looks like a good way to give back to the community and find out it’s not at all what you thought and it be comes a burden, just one more thing on the to-do list.
Clarity about our wants and our needs is a first step toward finding true balance. Then you can say ‘no’ to the opportunities that may sound worthwhile but are not where you need to spend your time and energy. That allows you to give your full energy and attention when you say ‘yes’.
And of course, there are always things we need to do that aren’t our favorite – the house has to be cleaned some time, at work things have to be filed or whatever routine tasks come with the job. But, when we are clear about what is important to the job and to ourselves, we make better decisions about the use of our time. We make decisions that help us get the routine done routinely, say ‘no’ appropriately, and, as a result, have time and energy for the things we really love. Now that’s a balanced life in the heart of the liver, not just the eye.