Balance. Who knew?

Painting of a tightrope walker by August Macke, 1913

August Macke [public domain] via Wikimedia Commons

Balance.  Who knew that this simple little word could produce so many different mental images and passionate responses?  The quotes that follow are definitions of balance that were sent to me over the past two weeks.  The one common denominator is that people have very visually relevant ideas about what balance looks like to them.  And that’s where the similarities end.

“I love to work, but I don’t live to work.  Certain family and friends of mine my disagree with this statement due to the amount that I work, but it has to do with my love for what I do.  To me, work/life balance is directly related to one’s ability to understand the difference.” ~ Nicole Graf

“Ever watch a tight rope walker?  That’s us today in the world of business or just life in general.  It means sometimes adjusting to the tilt at the moment.  You have to be ready, willing, and able to adjust quickly and correctly.  Does that mean emotional control?  Sometimes but most times it means that you have to be prepared and willing to take a chance.  The emotions have to be driven by values established way before you have to adjust.  Life is Change.” DW

Nadia Ciani was the next respondent: “Balance is about finding time for everyone and everything that make you who you are. It’s utopia. Until you get it right, stand on one leg in tree pose, laugh, and keep breathing!”

“To achieve personal balance, one must consider self-care first. It means “filling the well” in order to have something to give. (That would be a minister’s definition, any way.)” Roxanne E. French

My friend Deborah Bakti gave this a lot of thought.  Her initial quote: “I think pursuing ‘balance’ is like trying to nail jello to the wall – it’s somewhat relentless because it’s hard to define what it is exactly we want to balance, and that probably changes depending on the day or life situation.  And who says that having the various parts of our life need to balance?”  Deb also mentions the ability to flex according to life’s changes as being a critical success factor.  She adds “I think when one steps back and looks at how they invested their time in a day, an event, the week, the month, the year….whatever the timeframe is – if we feel like we’ve invested our time well,  if the experience leaves us feeling full, complete, content with how, where and with whom we chose to  share a part of our life with, then it’s another positive contribution to a life well lived.”

“The journey through life is much like a tight-rope walk. We keep our balance, not by walking a straight line; but, by correcting our walk as we teeter from one side to the other. All the time moving forward. As we veer too much to the left, we correct to the right.  The aim is to keep our balance and to keep from falling off the rope of life. We need to decide what is important in life and focus on those things. When we get off track we need to correct ourselves so that we get out of life’s journey what we really want to. The key is to focus on our balance as we move toward our goal at the end of the rope of life.”  Carol in Connecticut

Debb Fioravante says: “The trick to balance is to figure out what your priorities are, and fit everything else around that.”

“I am almost 24 yrs old, I have been an adult for almost 6 years & in those 6 years I don’t think I have ever balance my life for more than a month at a time, it doesn’t seem to be my style. Instead, I prefer a pace of extreme’s it seems- over load on work, work, work…..then opposite-crash! Over stimulate on socializing & friends for a few weekends, then hide in my room for a month. I’ve done the same in my weight, school, love life, etc. I don’t know why this works for me but it does, my friends & family don’t necessarily agree with my version of balancing but I guess I’m just balancing on say a more mathematical scale. Remove the actual meaning of the activities and convert them all to letter (x, y, z, etc…) variables & add them up over say a couple years, they should balance out! (in theory: I hope) Then again, I am only 24, how many people at 24 have everything all figured out?!” -Jonayla 

“The concept of balance that resonates best with me is this…
Balance is not about the amount of time you spend on the various priorities of your life… it is simply unrealistic to expect of yourself that you’ll be dividing your time equally amongst the things that are important to you. Nor is it about “ranking” the things that are important – I hate the thought of putting the people in my life in some sort of “pecking order” in terms of who gets more of me.

Rather, achieving balance has to do with the amount of peace, contentment and fulfillment you get from each of the spheres in which you operate. If you’re happy and at peace with your family life, your circle of friends, your professional pursuits, your health, your leisure activities, etc…. well then you’ve mastered the “holy grail” of “balance” – regardless of time spent (or not) in any area.” ~Shannon Jackson

FriedEggs.com

I started the same discussion on a new social networking site called FriedEggs.com and got some really interesting responses.  Click this link to read the thread.

Conclusion

It seems that some of us see ourselves on an unending search for middle ground — that place that allows us to engage in all that we judge essential — while others of us prefer what I call the living pendulum; that is, playing at opposite ends of the balance continuum in the belief that it all evens out in the end.

What’s your definition of balance?

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Upping your solution quotient

Solution quotient is my name for the ability to remain curious and positive in the face of challenges in order to tackle them in a healthy manner.

Curiosity amplifies positive energy and reduces negativity and finger pointing.  If you can stay disengaged from the outcome long enough to ask several open ended questions, you may uncover critical elements that will help you craft a better solution.  In fact, ask more questions than you think you need to ask.

In the face of a big problem, these can become power questions:

  • What is the ideal outcome?
  • What role did I play in creating this situation?
  • What system or process elements exist that could cause this situation to recur?
  • Who else can help?
  • What is great about this problem / what is the learning opportunity?

Playing a bigger game

Wouldn’t it be great if we could decide each morning which matters we will give time to during the day and then go about the next 16 hours with clarity and a complete absence of derailing thoughts or issues?  Our brains – and our lives – don’t work that way.  We are subject to a myriad of distractions, interruptions, problems, pleasures…  Playing a bigger game calls for focus management and reframing.

Playing a bigger game means being selective.  Letting in less instead of more.  It means staying mindful of what is important and letting go of the rest. 

Signs that you could benefit from expanding your game board include:

  • Can’t let go – especially where it concerns things that have gone wrong
  • Keep impressive detail on mistakes or the path required for correction
  • The words “should” or “shouldn’t” keep coming up (“By rights I shouldn’t have to deal with this”.  “They should know better.”)

Here is an example where reframing can help.  Imagine you’re in a car on your way home.  You become annoyed by drivers making bad decisions or ignoring traffic laws.  By focusing on things that irritate us we make those events stand out and grow in importance.  How much more enjoyable and useful would the trip be if we consciously remembered that our goal is to arrive home safe and sound.   

How could this play out in our careers?  Think of your top three goals.  Now try to recall the most recent email communications you initiated.  How many of them will serve a purpose in achieving objectives that are important to you?  All of them? Some of them?  None of them?  There’s no time like the present to recommit to what’s important and shift focus.

Web 3.0 – What is it and what’s in it for me?

If you’re like me you’re not entirely comfortable with the notion that the Internet is already undergoing its next major overhaul.  I’ve gotten my head around Web 2.0 — this is where we lost control of the online persona of brands thanks to the power of social media — but what is this next version and what are the business implications?

Here’s a brief overview of the evolution of the Internet.

  • Web 1.0 – Read only.  Limited user interaction.  Strictly an informational portal. Keyword (dumb) search
  • Web 2.0 – Interactive.  Social.  Also called read-write web. Unleashes collective intelligence. Emphasis is on the power of the community. Created a new transparency for the individual as well as the corporation.
  • Web 3.0 – Intelligent queries are possible providing context sensitive search results (the context is me).  Web browsers use personal information about me to deliver selected data.  The Web doesn’t look the same to me as it does to you.  Also called the portable personal Web.

Another way to look at this is to say that Web 2.0 uses the Internet to make connections between people while Web 3.0 will use personal context to deliver relevant, individualized information.  Moreover, the method of delivery is shifting away from PCs and laptops as increasingly Web content is delivered via mobile phones.

Implications to the business community

Talent acquisition will feel Web 3.0 in significant ways.  To prepare, think about the talent you expect to attract into your organization over the next 6 to 12 months. What are the online habits of the demographic from which you intend to recruit?  Does your attraction strategy take into consideration the shift in Internet delivery methods from full-screen PCs to mobile phones?  Is your online employer brand intentional or accidental?

Marketing will need to understand demographics very well as Web content becomes customized for the individual user.  What methods will you employ to stay knowledgeable about what the online community in general is saying about you?  For examples of next generation web marketing see Harvard Business Review’s “Getting Brand Communities Right“.  The most important message for me in this article is that brand management is no longer the sole responsibility of Marketing.  We need to find ways to engage the entire employee community.

IT is already feeling the impact in bandwidth requirements as employees are increasingly “plugged in” throughout the workday.   Social networking can be an effective business tool to enhance the brand and build business when used properly.  The struggle is in getting the right policies hammered out and communicating these effectively to the employee population.  Check out “10 things you should cover in your social networking policy“.

What’s in it for me?

The opportunity for each of us is to embrace these changes and stay in front of them.  If you are a job seeker, demonstrating to a prospective employer that you understand how you can become a positive member of the online community on their behalf may help you get to the top of the list in the selection process.  The currently employed can investigate their company’s brand and take steps to leverage the best or be part of the solution if you don’t like what you find is being said online.

A Case for Thick Skin


“Great entrepreneurs are made of gristle and callous”. ~ Kevin O’Leary

Anyone who has ever developed a callous knows they result from hard work and persevering despite friction. They serve a valuable purpose in that they protect the wearer from damage and enable continued vigorous activity.

If this means that tough situations are to be sought and appreciated, what can we do to stretch ourselves today?  What might we take on that we had deemed too difficult?

The balancing act here is to develop the hard determination it takes to stay the course despite challenging circumstances while maintaining sensitivity and insight into the personal nature of our business relationships.

The value of adversity

Given the choice between two management candidates with similar backgrounds and levels of experience, I’ll select the one who has had to overcome obstacles and adversity.  There’s nothing like unexpected difficulty to build a person’s character, hone their attitude toward achievement and develop resilience.

I’m not alone in the search for this skill set.  With that in mind, how would you answer these questions in a career interview?

  • Tell me about a time you were able to achieve results despite significant unexpected setbacks?  What did you learn about yourself through this experience?
  • Our workplace is characterised by multiple demands, shifting priorities, short deadlines. This environment can be stressful. What do you do to keep on top of things, to refresh yourself, when working in such an environment? [1]

The act of facing challenges head on, naming them, and then applying new strategies enriches ones abilities to assess and plan for change.  And we all know that change is the new constant.

[1] See more of Dr. Ann Villier’s work at this site

Organic Team Building

Teams are like wine — you can’t speed the aging or maturing process.  You can only provide the best ingredients and the right environment.  Most importantly, you can’t ask your team to climb mountains before they find secure footing.

“Employers increasingly look for teamwork ability when making hiring and promotion decisions. Why? The output of a team is greater than the sum of its parts. To use an analogy from sports: No basketball team would succeed if the individual members each took as many shots as they could during the game. Rather, they each play a specified role on the team, and they orchestrate their talents so that the individuals in the best position to score can do so.”

Excerpted from “Strengthening Your Teamwork Ability”

Like most worthwhile things in business, it starts with good leadership.  Help others become better team players by modeling positive team behaviors.  We can do this as much by what we don’t say as what we do say — for example, avoiding unsupportive language.