“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving” – Albert Einstein
Finding balance in business and in life is a constant challenge and one which seems to get harder. I can’t help thinking that when Albert Einstein made the comparison with riding a bicycle, the world had a much slower pace and gentle breezes ruffled the hair as you pedalled. Today, hurricane-force demands of daily life buffet us as we cycle, threatening to blow us off course or into a ditch.
There is often a temptation to move faster and faster to ensure you don’t wobble, but I prefer to think about what we can do to protect ourselves against the prevailing winds so we can get better at finding balance.
In this excellent article on Five Ways to Find Balance in Your Life, Diane Barth writes, “Finding balance is a lifetime project. It is ongoing. It is not a finite goal at the end of which you will have a peaceful, calm and meaningful life. Balance is a way of living. It is a process.”
I learned early on in life the importance of finding balance in order to perform at my best. At school I recall being summoned to the deputy head’s office towards the end of the lower sixth and challenged with the fact that I was:
- Doing five A levels
- In the chamber orchestra
- In the choral society
- Rowing for the school and trying to qualify for the national squad
As well as trying to have a social life!
The concern was a genuine and caring one: that we cannot do everything and succeed at them all. I knew this to be true but the solution wasn’t easy to swallow for an ambitious and enthusiastic 17-year-old. In hindsight, I am grateful to the school for teaching me an important lesson.
Listening to yourself and others
Although I didn’t really want to hear what the school was telling me, the fact that I had to listen to them made a difference. Life has since taught me the enormous value of listening to myself as well as to others, as all the answers I need can be found there.
Finding balance requires us to understand what is important. When we talk about work/life balance the focus is usually on the practical aspects of our lives such as childcare, working hours and leisure time. But I would encourage you to look further and deeper, to listen to your inner voice and discover your core values and understand how they can help you to achieve a balanced existence.
Equality and equanimity
The dictionary definition of finding balance focuses on equality: the need for forces to be equal to create balance. Recognising and understanding the primary forces exerted on you is the first step to finding balance. For me, there are three:
- Family and friends
- Personal health
However, I have come to realise that it is almost impossible for me to keep these three factors in perfect equilibrium, so my approach is to focus on just two of them at a time (finding balance is like juggling: three balls is infinitely harder than two).
Month by month I assess how much attention I need to invest in each area and vary my emphasis accordingly. Over the course of the year, an effective balance between them is achieved.
Importantly, when we reach such a state of balance, equanimity results: the ability to remain calm, even when under pressure.
At iTS Leadership we believe that, to be at peak performance, leaders must balance three elements, what we call ME, US and IT.
- ME is a focus on our personal leadership
- US is all about teamship
- IT is strategic direction
Trying to prioritise all three at once is very challenging, so we advocate varying the rhythm of your focus over the year, with the right one rising to the top of your priority list as necessary to meet the demands of your workflow and wider organisational goals.
The incredible thing is what happens when you find balance in your leadership. You perform better, your team is happier and more fulfilled, and the financial rewards are evident. As one of our clients commented, “The impact on the business is high and continues to grow. Our focus was on empowerment and individual leadership, which has led to increased confidence and self-belief within the team.”
It’s what we call Profit and Smiles.
If you need help finding balance for you and/or your team, then get in touch and let’s have a chat.