Have you ever noticed that when you are feeling overwhelmed, tired and cranky a common response to your predicament is “you need to find balance.” Go into any self-help aisle, do an internet search or ask a career expert how to turn around your chaotic lifestyle and let me know, if at some point, you don’t hear the phrase work-life balance. I’ll admit. I’m guilty of uttering those words too, but no more. I call bullsh*t.
Balance is the idea that life is like a set of scales. You put one thing on the right and another thing on the left and… Voila! You achieve balance. Equal proportions: Right? Wrong. It’s an illusion. Life does not hand out rewards at the same rate as disasters or vice versa. I can think back on several different points in my life where one shitty thing after another happened and I prayed that the old adage “it happens in threes” was true, because I did not think I could take one more low blow.
And let me tell you, in those shitty moments, the scales were looking pretty lopsided and not in my favor. And that’s the key, yes? In my favor. When the scales are lopsided but as a result of wonderful, good things happening, do I complain? Oh no! I only want balance when I am suffering. When things are going well, I don’t care about concepts like equal or fair.
Balance also implies that all we have to do is make an adjustment here or there and soon everything will become more manageable. Tell that to people who are watching a sick loved one die or living in a war zone or don’t know where their next meal will come from and see if they can readily identify a few simple adjustments to tip the scales into balance.
The reality is sometimes life is harsh and scary and unfair and no amount of shifting is going to bring things back into balance – at least not immediately. Sometimes we have to work 60 hours a week or stay up all night with a sick child or foreclose on our house because the alternative is untenable or impossible. In those moments of overwhelm, the only thing that keeps me going is to go with the flow.
Going with the flow does not mean that I abdicate responsibility for situations or choices. I do not advocate passivity, giving up, or apathy. Going with the flow means acknowledging the currents of life. Sometimes life is like floating in a gentle, warm sea – peaceful and content. Other times life is like being hit by a tsunami and the best you can do is not drown. Going with the flow means you may find yourself in stagnant water,and then at other times, in a brisk moving river, but regardless, you are in the moment negotiating what is happening.
When you view life as a flow, then the focus becomes on responding to what is going on with the resources you have – both internal and external. Your response can be a simple acknowledgment of what you are noticing or your response can be more obvious like a call for help. While there are many ways to respond, the focus shifts to being in the moment opposed to creating a work-life balance or any other balance for that matter.
I invite you to experiment with the concept “going with the flow” by:
- Paying attention to where you are in any giving moment
- Honoring what is happening
- Choosing how you want to use your energy
As you play with this practice, feel free to share your experiences in the comments below or in a private email to me. I would love to hear what you notice and how this practice impacts you.
In the flow,