How to Embrace Flexibility and Bust the Myth of Life Balance for Good

Issue 73. May 3, 2024 ✨ Higher Power Coaching & Consulting

Photo Credit: Getty Images

If you’ve ever felt like you keep trying to get to balance but are not able to get there because you keep getting thrown off, this essay is for you.

When we think about balance in our lives, we tend to think it means getting to a certain state or set of behaviors and staying there. In reality, life balance is more like physical balance on a balance beam or when balancing on one foot. There’s a tiny amount of swaying back and forth. We might be stationary for a moment, but it doesn’t last. We teeter.

THAT is what balance is. It’s not a static point we stay at permanently.

When physically balancing on one leg, as we sway very slightly back and forth, we strengthen the muscles up and down our leg. It’s that movement that causes your muscles to get flexed and strengthened. The flexibility and strength are how we get better balance – by continually doing these little teeny tiny back-and-forth motions. 

For life balance, it’s the same. We do a little bit of adjusting here and there. The fact that we’re noticing and making adjustments is what tells you whether you’re on track for a balanced life or not. By continually noticing and making adjustments, you “strengthen the muscles” of your life by being alert to what’s working and what’s not. If you’re not even paying attention, then you can’t possibly have a balanced life. 

If you’re trying to have a healthy work-life balance, that doesn’t mean it will look exactly the same every week. Let’s say your weekly goals are:

·       Work 35 hours

·       Go to the gym five times

·       Eat 21 healthy meals 

·       Do four social activities 

·       Read for pleasure for two hours

It’s great to have those as goals, but goals are what we strive for. We don’t necessarily hit the mark on all our goals. I feel comfortable saying we don’t hit most of our goals. But we keep setting goals so we know where we’re headed.

In reality, things come up from time to time. There will be weeks when you have a project at work, so you have to work more hours and you take some time away from your family. Or maybe you volunteer and there’s a big event coming up, so you take time off of work or you skip going to the gym a couple times that week. That doesn’t mean your life is unbalanced. It makes more sense to look at a month (or maybe even a quarter) rather than a week when deciding if you’re living a life of balance because things come up. 

Even when we live our lives ON PURPOSE, things come up. I’d say things come up especially when you live your life on purpose. That’s because you’ll be experiencing all the richness of life. The more you get involved in things you value, the more things will come your way that you want to participate in. 

Some weeks will follow a pretty similar schedule, and some weeks won’t. Looking at a longer interval of time like a month might be better during times when you have special projects or events that are outside the norm.

A balanced life when you’re in special circumstances might be:

  • an average of 38 hours/week at work
  • averaging 4x/week of exercise over the month
  • 80% of your meals are healthy that month
  • an average of five hours of social activity weekly that month
  • an average of two hours of pleasure reading weekly that month

Having a balanced life requires some sanity, and that means stepping out of black-and-white thinking about what constitutes a balanced life. There’s going to be a little give and take here and there.

If your life is completely OUT of balance in one or more areas, start fiddling with those areas one at a time. Fiddle a little bit here and a bit there and work toward something that feels sustainable and pleasurable. 

When I started learning to balance on one leg I fell over a lot. I bet most people do. What you do to catch yourself is you put your other foot down for just a moment to get back to balance. Then you pick that leg back up again and do that as often as you need to. You’re still strengthening the muscles of the standing leg even when you keep having to put the other foot down momentarily. 

There are some days when my balance on one leg is better than other days, yet I do this pose almost daily. I’m way better than I used to be, but there are still days when I have to keep putting my foot down so I don’t fall over. That’s just the way it is.

I’ve found the same to be true of life balance. I actually have life balance now which was never the case before recovery. Don’t get me wrong, it’s always a work in progress. The thing I find myself most needing to work on is leisure time. The last few weeks of going through the “pit of doom” I experienced helped me get much better at that though. Sometimes something difficult happens that gives us a wake-up call and gets us into more balance.

Some of the things I’ve been doing for a while now to ensure more leisure time are no longer coaching clients on weekends, scheduling weekly “sacrosanct Barb time” on Monday nights, and scheduling monthly craft dates with friends. 

Recovery helped me to achieve balance in my life, especially learning how to have healthy boundaries so I could show up for myself instead of just showing up for others all the time. The most important thing that helps me to maintain balance is my nightly inventory.* Even if you’re not willing to take a daily inventory, doing some kind of regular check-in with yourself will help you maintain life balance.

Stop thinking that life balance is a static point that you’ll achieve and stay there. Real balance requires constant motion and a little bit of adjusting here and there. When you get to the point where you’re relatively satisfied with your life balance, make sure you do some kind of regular check-in with yourself to determine whether you need to make some adjustments.

*If you’d like a copy of the worksheet I created for my clients, “Doing a Nightly Inventory,” please email me, and I’ll send you a copy (

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