I am a great believer in designing the life that YOU want to live. It is your life, and ultimately you are only accountable to yourself. Often people interpret this directly as career advice. This may be related to how they see me and more specifically, the roles they have seen me in. Many of these are academic or career related and so fall into the ‘Work‘ category. However, I believe in designing your WHOLE life with consideration of all of your roles and values.
Like many of you, I have many roles in my life at any one point.
I probably also have different values.
And that is entirely okay, because what is right for me, may not be right for you.
“How do you stay true to yourself , when in fact there are many ‘selves’ torn between each role at any point in time? “
The Conflict of Balancing Roles & Values
When the topic of ‘balance’ comes up, it is often in the context of “work / life balance”, highlighting the internal conflict many of us share. For many of my friends, a year away from Medicine was a “breath of fresh air” without the conflicts of work versus life. The Balance movement was born out of need.
A need by people who were (and still are) pulled in multiple directions by their different roles. A need for people to dedicate their time to the many areas of their lives that they value.
The Balance movement aims to reconcile this conflict within ourselves to improve our lives. However, our perspective and attitude about balance is key to achieve this.
The Role of Balance in your Life
When committing to creating a life that we value, we often think of ‘balance’ as the destination. We aim to ‘achieve balance. ‘
The Perspective that Balance is the Destination:
Goal: Commit to a life that I value
Method: Invest in Work & Life in equal parts similar to the balancing act of a scale. This encourages us to view our values as distinct, heterogenous entities resulting in direct comparison to each other. Often connotations suggest one suffers as a result of the other.
Achievement: “Bliss of Balance”
Difficult to achieve balance as there is no single measure, and the destination is more heavily associated with positive feelings/wellbeing/mental health.
Ultimately measured on the basis that Heterogenous entities should have measures of time, skill and motivation scaled equally.
Not being able to commit consistently in terms of time, skill and motivation to each value can feel like a burden. We fear not attaining balance. As balance begins to feel unattainable, we are demotivated from implementing the changes we want in our life.
I don’t consider this kind of ‘balance’ a fair goal to set myself. In this perspective, Balance requires me to give in equal measures to my ‘work’ and my ‘life.’ But I’m passionate, I try to take opportunities as they arise and challenge myself. This would be rigid and constraining. For me, this mind-set would stifle change. Striving for balance in this way would demand far too much perfection from myself and pressure.
“I can do anything I want to achieve. But sometimes, I cannot do everything at once. And most importantly, I am okay with this.”
Reframing ‘Balance’ to live Authentically
We can however reframe our attitude and perspective about the role of Balance in our lives to make small but meaningful improvements:
Balance is the journey of becoming your authentic self. It is the process of taking up different roles in your life and prioritising your evolving values at each stage.
The Perspective that Balance is the Journey
Goal: Commit to a life that I value & become my more authentic self
Method: Identify my personal roles and values at present and compare to the roles/values I wish to attain. Set smaller goals within each of these roles and values to achieve.
Reframe “balance” as the process of trying to incorporate these roles/values in my life.
Consider how I can make each value/role align in my life at this point in time. Accept the dynamic nature of life, and so the need to prioritise and adapt at different times/settings. It’s okay to set down one of the hoops that I am juggling from time to time. Ultimately, I try to circle back to pick up that hoop and return back to my values where possible. Reflecting on the progress I’ve made allows me to reframe my priorities and refocus at each point in time.
Completing the small goals set for each role/value provides a rewarding feeling and a sense of progress towards the long-term vision.
Flexibility to alter the pace is kinder to myself and far more realistic.
How does this work for me?
There are periods of time where I give more to one aspect of my life than the other, and I do not in any way feel guilty for it.
I consciously make the decision to invite something to become a greater part of my life for a short period of time, knowing to invest in my other values just as much soon after.
There might be a month crowded with academic work, deadlines, presentations or meetings but this fulfils some my personal values. I wouldn’t change it in the slightest because I value working in areas I’m passionate about. To me, it’s privilege. I also know that there will be weeks I can and will prioritise my other values by committing to my fitness classes and skipping along to coffees, lunches and glamorous dinners.
Life is Dynamic, Embrace it!
The reality is life is dynamic. Changes occur often, allowing progress and by choosing a mindset that is adaptable, change is positive.