Work/life balance – the holy grail of a happy and fulfilling life. Or so they tell me.
I wouldn’t know; I threw out the notion of balance years ago.
In fact, it was around the time my daughter screeched, “Why do you always have other things to do?! Don’t you like me, Mummy?”
She was innocently brutal in the way only children can be, and I was heartsick. It was true. I too often left her to her own devices while I tried to stay on top of my work, and she felt it.
The reality was I had been trying to strike a balance, when I should have been learning to tilt.
For a moment, let yourself closely consider the idea of balance. Imagine what balance looks like. Perhaps you’re standing in the middle of a circular table. This table, however, isn’t a regular table. It has one central leg rather than four, and the table top is simply balanced upon that leg. Standing in the center of this table with your arms out, you must balance your weight perfectly, or you will fall.
This isn’t a relaxing state of being.
In fact, to achieve balance is to commit to constant tension.
To be balanced is to be placed in the exact centre of opposing forces, with equal weight given to each. A shift in any one direction will see you topple.
Work/life balance is a complete myth. Forget about achieving it – it’s over-rated and not worth your sanity.
If you look at balance as something you need to achieve every day – keeping the table evenly weighted between your partner, kids, family, friends, self, spirituality, health, home and work – you simply won’t be able to do it. Because each day brings different challenges, tasks and needs to your life.
So instead of striving for balance, you need to learn to tilt.
That is, to willingly throw things out of balance, and importantly, to be okay with that.
Actually, you need to be more than okay with it. You need to embrace it.
Whereas balance is an uptight, tightly-wound notion, tilting is a wholly sensible, flexible and forgiving approach to daily life.
A 2009 study by Marcus Birmingham asked the question, “What are happy women doing differently?” And the response was not – as you may imagine – somehow striking the perfect balance between work/life/health/family/passions/spirituality.
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These happy women had realized balance was impossible to achieve. And not only was it stressful to continue striving for it, but it was also boring and unfulfilling. Instead, they tilted towards activities they enjoyed and commitments they found meaningful.
At it’s core, tilting is about being aware of and flexible toward the changing pressures of life.
In my life, that means a gentler, more realistic approach. Some days:
The kids are happy playing independently – I tilt towards catching up around the house.
My husband is under added work pressures – I tilt towards lessening the load at home.
I am burnt-out – I tilt towards kindness and let go of the things that don’t help with that.
The house is a shambles – I tilt towards DVDs for the kids and time spent regrouping.
Work is overwhelmingly busy – I tilt towards simple meals and home rhythms.
Can you see what I mean?
Tilting allows you to focus on what’s important in this very moment. It means you’re able to invest your valuable time and energy where it’s most needed.
I can understand your hesitancy though. We’ve been taught for so long that a balanced life is the ultimate goal. So if this idea of tilting makes you feel uncomfortably off-kilter, it can help to take a longer view of things.
Instead of battling to create balance every day, it’s more important to create it over a month. Or a year. Taking a long-term view can help bring a new perspective.
Yes, your kids did eat takeaway twice this week, but over the month, how many times have they eaten vegetables? How many pieces of fruit have they eaten in the past year?
It makes it much easier to see a true weak spot when you take the long-term view. It also makes it much easier to say, “Yes, I am doing a good job in this area of life,’ which is affirmation we could all do with occasionally.
How do you learn to tilt?
There is no magical brain switch that helps us embrace tilting. It is hard, and you will have days where you battle against opposing forces vying for your time and energy.
It’s more about adopting the mindset of tilting and letting it be your guide. And the more you practice, the better you will be at evaluating the needs that surround you. Simply put, you need to understand that your time is limited and valuable. You can choose where to place your energies, depending on where they need to be.
Ask yourself this question… What are my priorities in life?
When I asked myself this question, the answers were:
Caring for my kids, physically and emotionally
Supporting my husband
Supporting my family
Maintaining strong friendships
Doing work that fulfills me
Looking after my health and well being
Finding contentment in life
Creating a home that is warm, calm and open to all those I love.
List your answers on a piece of paper and think about them one by one. Have you given each of these priorities time, effort and attention over the past six weeks? How about over the past 12 months?
Do you have a good gut-feeling? Are you giving these priorities the time and attention they deserve? Or can see areas in your life where you consistently tilt the wrong way?
If you keep this list of priorities in mind, tilting will help you find a much better overall balance. And that certainly beats the battle to stay in the center of the table.
Brooke is the creator of the Slow Home BootCamp and is on a mission to help you slow down, suck in the scent of those roses and create the simpler life you crave. In addition to being the founder of Slow Your Home, she is also a passionate writer, blissed-out gardener, inappropriate laugher and slightly weird Australian.