The idea of balance is a big one. We’ve all heard of work-life balance, there’s so much advice out there about it, and many of us long for it. For that ideal balance that allows us to do everything we want.
There seems to have been a recent trend of people writing that achieving balance is a fallacy, it’s not possible. I read these posts with a lot of interest, as I think, firstly, that they’re written a lot as click bait, and secondly because I think it’s a reductive way to look at balance.
Their argument is there’s no magic work-life balance that, once you get to it’ll always be balanced. And I agree; striving for one perfect combination isn’t what makes life balanced. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have balance in your life.
So, I thought it time I actually documented what balance is for me and why I believe it’s achievable.
Balance is a bandwidth
As these other articles suggest balance is a moving target. It would be great if we could get to a fixed point and then be “in balance”. But even if we managed to reach that ideal fixed point, you can guarantee that something will come along and disrupt your current flow. That’s how life works. Which is why I think of balance as a continually changing current. Something that moves with the ebbs and flows of life.
I believe achieving balance comes from keeping that current within your personal range of capacity. I think of this as your personal bandwidth. The top end is the total amount you can do at one time without detriment to your health or life. The bottom is the smallest amount you can do without detriment to your health or life. Because trust me, both things are bad for you. As long as your life moves within that bandwidth you’ll feel balanced. Hopefully the diagram below will help with this idea.
Now, occasionally your life will go outside of this bandwidth. That’s ok, as long as when it happens you recognise it and take steps to move back into your bandwidth. You can probably function quite a long time a little bit outside of your bandwidth, but your quality of life will be affected. You’ll feel like you’re always chasing your tail, never quite well rested enough and like you’re forgetting something (or is that just me?!?) The idea is to find that range that gives you a full and happy life.
Your Personal Bandwidth
It’s important to remember that your bandwidth is personal to you. Some people will have a big range and others much smaller. This is why comparing yourself to someone else is ridiculous! For example, my husband has a large bandwidth. I’m often amazed that he can balance the demands of his business, workout at the level he does and socialise without being exhausted. If I try to keep up with him I make myself ill (I know, I’ve tried!) My bandwidth is much smaller and too many things going on makes me feel completely overwhelmed. It’s important you know what your limits are and be ok with this.
Don’t worry, if as you read the above paragraph you started to worry that your bandwidth is too small for all you want or need in your life. It’s possible to increase it. This is done through putting yourself first and looking after yourself. Sorry, no quick fix here. Being healthy, having the right mindset and prioritising self-care are all key components to growing bandwidth.
I also want to point out that bandwidth can decrease, and often does over time. The more time you push yourself out of your healthy range, without taking time to recover, the smaller that range will get. For this reason, it’s really important to not look at how much you used to be able to do but to focus on where you are right now and how to move forward from that point.
That’s my version of how balance works. And ideal balance is finding the bandwidth within which you can lead a full and happy life. And I can’t stress enough how personal that is to you. The ideal balance isn’t what I tell you it is, or what your partner does or what you used to do a year ago. So stop looking at other people and start thinking about the range of activity that works for you.
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