What the hell is balance anyway?

First, a quick bit of context. My wife and I have been listening to positive inspirational videos. We have been trying to maximize our time and be more productive while enjoying family time. I have been reading a book, (hard to believe) and we have been discussing these issues a lot. When we are unhappy with something, we tend to look for solutions. We turn to the experts who have it figured out for us.

It seems there are two suggestions.

1. Get up earlier and hustle. Do more with your time, make more money, live your dreams.


2. Get more sleep. You are too stressed. You need more whitespace and “me-time.” Stop and smell the flowers.

Are these mutually exclusive? Am I the only one who feels that trying to keep the the balance between these two strategies is what makes us need these suggestions in the first place?

I posted this thought on facebook. My friends seem to like the idea of balance the best. Just balance them. But I think maybe they are missing my struggle. When you balance working hard with relaxing, are you really doing either?

I have worked really hard and accomplished cool things. Every time, there is a cost. Stress goes up, sleep goes down, family time is sucked, and the illusive “me-time” becomes non-existent. I flutter, and burn out, only to carve out more down time. To breathe. To relax. To not take things so seriously.

Invariably then, I find myself back at “average”. Average at my job performance, average with my workouts. Average. Average. Average. Balance=average. So I kick myself in the butt. Decide to hustle, get up early, and the vicious cycle continues.

As I have mulled this concept over for the last year or so, I am left with one prevailing thought. But give me just a second to get there;

This year my wife and I decided to not make resolutions, but instead have a word for the year. I did this before and my word was discipline. I started my own business and made it to the front page of the New York Times. Pretty disciplined year.

This year I want to “Grow”. My wife chose the the word “intentional”.

It hit me today, wrestling with this issue, that the answer is not to hustle OR relax or even hustle AND relax. The answer (at least the answer that I am sticking to today – for me and maybe not for you – which I hold the right to change my opinion on any second now) is that being intentional with your hustling AND your relaxing might just be enough to stave off the feelings of average when it comes to balance.

When I help my clients with their nutrition, I try to be a realistic. I want people to be able to enjoy the foods they like without regret or remorse or self-doubt. But I also want them to take care of their bodies and not only eat what they want. Sometime the issue with food and exercise is not so much what it does to our bodies, but what feelings come out of it-positive and negative.

If you are trying to lose weight and really want a piece of cake, and it is driving you crazy, you have been healthy all week,  but now you are obsessing and fearing and hating yourself. No matter what you do with that cake you are in an unhealthy scenario.

I’d like to believe that whatever decision you make with that cake is potentially the least important factor of your over-all health and well-being. Sure, we all know less cake is more healthy than more cake. But what if one piece of cake, while making a decision not to give a damn, might be the most healthy of all the decisions.

What I am getting at is that no one is perfect. It is better to be intentional about eating cake. Just be okay with the decision and move on.

So I say, hustle with intention (not because someone tells you to) and then take that whitespace with intention – not because you are lazy.

In a nutshell, I guess this is what balance is. But my hope is, with a little extra intention, maybe balance doesn’t have to equal average. 



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