The Fallacy of Balance

Life Balance is a hot topic. Busy people need ways to juggle all of the important things in their lives. But is balance the right answer?

Remember when you were a kid and you had something nasty on your plate, like peas? You were probably told that you couldn’t leave the table until you cleared your plate. You didn’t require an advanced degree to figure out that you could make it appear that you had made progress towards eating those peas if you spread them around your plate. You didn’t actually eat any of them, you just created the illusion of progress. You put effort into spreading the peas around the white space of your plate; the number of  actual peas remained constant.

My parents, like generations of parents before them, didn’t fall for that trick. They would return to my plate and push the peas into a pile. Then they’d say that word that I hated when referring to peas: “Eat.”

Now you’re an adult, and you have a bunch of things on your plate. Do you ever feel like you need to push things around to make them fit into your schedule, or you avoid things that you just can’t handle right now? That’s the fallacy of balance. When you look at your life priorities—family, work, health, personal grown, spiritual development or whatever—you might not be able to fit it all in unless you take something off your plate.

So how can you find more satisfaction in managing your multiple priorities?

First, give your focus to the priority in front of you at the moment. Whether that priority involves your work, your family, or your personal pursuits, engage with your whole heart. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right. Doesn’t that sound like something you’ve heard since birth? So don’t short yourself, your family, or your employer. Dig in. Forget everything else. Fight distraction. Put your heart and mind into what’s in front of you, and finish it.

Second, set boundaries to safeguard your priorities. When you’re at work, let work be your priority. When you are with your family or spending time feeding your own soul, let that be your priority. Let your boss and co-workers, as well as your friends and family, know what situations are interruption worthy. If you give of yourself 100% to each priority that is in front of you, you needn’t feel guilty when you set boundaries to take care of the other parts of your life.

Don’t try to balance your life with a calendar or a wristwatch. Whatever is in front of you at this moment, make it your #1 priority. In that way, you take it off your plate by applying effort instead of moving it around to another place on your schedule.

So what are your priorities today? Get on them. You’ll have a greater sense of satisfaction when you go to bed tonight if you work your priorities instead of trying to balance them.

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