Finding balance in life is in itself a metaphor already. But a very common image we use to describe it is juggling. And I just don’t think it’s helpful.
I don’t know if you ever tried to juggle, but even if you eventually master the skill, it is still a lot of effort and concentration to do it. And even the best juggler can’t go forever. Sooner or later the balls will fall, or he will need to rest.
On juggling, connection, tensegrity, and balance…
The main problem in this image, I think, is that all the balls compete for your attention: Each moment you choose over the other, it’s like they had nothing to do one with each other. Following the image in this metaphor, it’s easy to believe that the solution for better balance is to do the same thing –juggling– , but better: Learn to juggle with more balls, or higher, or with more ease. But again, even the best juggler can’t go forever. Sooner or later the balls will fall, or he will need to put them down.
So what if the balls weren’t competing? What if it’s not like each time we choose one, we need to forget about the others.
Do you think seeing the areas in life as random, disconnect, balls is a helpful image?
What if instead each element in your life was connected? Because, hey, they are! Therefore when you hold one, it supports the other ones. And when you change one area, it impacts all the other areas in your life. They are not competing with each other like in the juggling image, they are collaborating.
What challenges say about balance
A challenge really is to me, an element showing that it’s disconnected from the rest and it’s seen as a competitor.
For example, when we stay up late or shorten our sleep to work more: choose work over health. Because we feel like we need more time to finish on the task we have.
Or for the same kind of reason we could choose (or feel like you don’t have choice), not to not see our friends, to have the time to do our work; but then we could maybe feel resentful or guilty when we do take time off and to our friends because our unfinished to-do list is running in circles in our head.
And all of these, like choosing work over health, choosing work over relationship, or over anything… It can be a good short term strategy if you have some deadlines, but it’s not sustainable. And if it happens every time you have a deadline, maybe there is something wrong in our scheduling and time management. In any case, it is not sustainable. So again, maybe a short term as a short term strategy, it can be okay, but on the long term we need something else.
And it might look and feel like it is not by choice; and it might be. Really, sometimes a situation just happens and all of a sudden we need to deal with something completely unexpected. But it is far from being the case all the time. And notice in general how much of this working time is really effective.
If a challenge is disconnection, how can we bring connection?
What if instead of opposing health or relationships and work, for example, they were aligned?
How could we turn this on its head? How would it look like, actually, in your life? Take a second and imagine how would it look like to have relationship and work support each other, to have health and work support each other.
Because health and relationships are resources. For example, a great belief to have is to think that: “If I’m healthy and well rested I will work more efficiently. And if when I work more efficiently, I need less time to do the same task.” There are a lot of nice consequences to that belief: Maybe I need less working time because I can focus better. I can make decisions better because I don’t have a fog brain due to the lack of sleep, for example. And it feels way better to work if I’m well rested, also. So when it feels better, it’s also easier to do, and I don’t spend mental time to just overcome the resistance to do it.
It works for relationships, too: I don’t know about you, but one of the best way for me to meet my deadline on a day, is knowing that I have a meeting with a friend afterwards. No matter what, I will stop at that time and for a great reason. So it makes it really easier to focus. And when I might be loosing my focus, it makes it easier to notice and come back, because it makes apparent the choice I’m making at that moment: “If I lose time now, I won’t have time with my friends later.”
These are just two really simple ways to connect areas in your life and help you stay on track until you finish, on time, and be more effective in your work, so that you can rest better, and that helps you be more effective in your work, which… Etc. And then you have time to see your friends because you are more effective.
It’s all coming together in a system that will regulate itself. And that is my point: Balance is not about juggling better. It is about creating a system where every element supports each other, where they impact each other in a supportive and positive way.
Tensegrity and self-regulation as a model for balance
This is one of my favorite words in the world: Tensegrity; also very nice to shine in cocktail parties.
Below you have an example of this model in an interview I gave.
The tensegrity model came from architecture in the 60’s from the idea of a balance between two forces, compression and tension. In that model these two forces are not seen as opposites, but they complement each other. They work together, and they form a self-regulated and resilient structure.
And why is it so self-regulated and resilient? Because each time you touch something in the structure, it impacts everything else. So everything in the structure, every element, is connected to each other, directly or indirectly, and adapt itself to support the element you just modified.
By the way, your body is a tensegrity model in some way, always adapting, the different elements supporting each other to adapt to outer and inner circumstances.
How can you bring more connection?
Take a minute or two to reflect: What are your balls?
What are things in a life that you feel are a challenge, and feel like it’s competing against everything else.
How can you connect it back? So that instead of competing like this, they cooperate, they work together.
What would it look like?
What would be good reasons to do that? What would be some benefits?
(Intro music for the podcast: “Tiny people”, by Alexei De Bronhe )
The tensegrity model
Here is an excerpt of an interview where I show a tensegrity model (applied to our multiple intelligences, but the principle is the same).