When we talk about finding healthy balance in our lives, we usually mean giving quality time and attention to both our work and private lives. Fair enough—in another space (my business consultancy) I’ve tackled that subject quite regularly, since I believe—and there is plenty of solid evidence—that there are all kinds of business benefits to having one’s mind and body in tiptop shape.
Yet achieving balance can be a whole lot more nuanced than that.
There’s no such thing as work-life balance. There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences.Jack Welch
In the final days of 2021, I participated in an exercise designed to help me prepare for the new year. My friend Joan posted The Eight Days of New Year’s BALANCE Exercise in her FB group Conflict Navigator Community (nb. you’re welcome to check out the group if you’re interested in gaining skills to deal with life’s blips).
In brief, for a week I posted daily in this journal my take on each of the seven life spheres she identified, with each prompt starting with the letters in BALANCE. (They are listed and linked below.)
The eighth day of the exercise is designed to review my reflections and to see how viewed together as a whole they can identify the area(s) that needs attention or change, and thus create a compass for me to move forward in 2022. That is what this post is about, albeit 27 days later.
My point is, life is about balance. The good and the bad. The highs and the lows. The pina and the colada.Ellen DeGeneres (Seriously… I’m Kidding)
More specifically, the final day exercise invited me to score my level of satisfaction from 1-10 with each of the spheres, in this moment, considering the year just past and in my stage of life. And then score from 1-10 the level of effort or attention I’m giving each sphere.
Before I share with you the results, I will say that my earlier musings on these prompts ended up being much broader than the exercise rightly called for. They encompassed my entire life rather than the year 2021. However, to complete the exercise, my scoring takes the narrower time-frame and definitions of the prompts, as Joan intended.
If I’ve bored you already and you’re not interested to read the particulars, I can immediately share that, even in the narrower sense, I’m pleased with the overall result. I am mostly feeling okay with where I am now, in my lane, and with how I’m moving into the new year, despite the unwelcome disruption caused by my ER+ breast cancer diagnosis.
Somehow, we’ll find it. The balance between whom we wish to be and whom we need to be. But for now, we simply have to be satisfied with who we are.Brandon Sanderson (The Hero of Ages)
My own assessment is that this graph below shows I’m better than passably balanced, nothing in life ever being perfect. The weakest sphere (with a score of 6-6), and the one I need to address most, is Other, a “wild card” sphere I named What now? More on this below.
- The innermost ring shows eight equal (balanced) sections.
- The middle ring are my satisfaction scores.
- The outer ring are my effort/attention scores.
Now to explain in brief:
In effort or attention, a 9 or 8 means a lot. And indeed, I continue to give time and care to key people in my life—Belonging (9) and Community (8).
A 7 in satisfaction or in effort/attention means slightly less than desirable, but still acceptable, especially in light of the major change in focus I was forced to make about six months ago. That, of course, would be the prompt pivot from building my business to taking care of my health.
And understandably then, that unwelcome event negatively affected how content I am about Attitude (which includes physical health), Net Worth (which includes income), and Employment (which includes working on business)—each scored 7. Nonetheless, those scores aren’t as low as they might be, simply because in each of those spheres I do have things that please me. I still have much to be grateful for, as I’ve written about.
Notable, perhaps, is that for Attitude my satisfaction is a 7 and my attention is a high 9, which of course reflects my extra devotion to self-care and the anti-cancer preventive treatment process. The only reason it’s not a 10 is that I’m not moving my body as much as I think I should.
Finally, a 6 in satisfaction means I’m not a happy camper, and in effort/attentions means inadequate, more is needed, but no panic. In the BALANCE spheres, the only 6 is the (lack of) attention I’m paying to Net Worth, and that would be my intentional setting aside my efforts to earn. I intend to let that ride as is until I am feeling stronger and more inspired… and that may take some more months.
We all strive for balance, often moving to extremes to find ourselves somewhere in the middle where we can sustainably exist in optimal inspiration. Working toward balance takes a lot of ingredients. We need courage, reflection, attention, action, and a push-and-pull relationship between effort and relaxation.Tara Stiles
That leaves the final sphere, What Now?
What Now? covers next steps that could have been included in the spheres already covered, but from a future perspective I’ve not yet shared. And here I am neither pleased (6) nor yet giving it the attention needed (6).
Yet the coming steps are beginning to loom larger. First there are the (perhaps more minor) next steps in my unpleasant preventive anti-cancer program.
Today I had number one of 16 radiation therapy sessions, again to reduce the risk of recurrence. The good news was that the CT scan taken last week didn’t show any abnormal findings, so they can stick to plan to do the shortened course (instead of the traditional 33 sessions) and not extend the treatment area of my body. Already I have a palpably “heated” breast that I’m lathering with lots of soothing organic aloe vera gel.
Then, I still have seven months of herceptin treatments to go, every three weeks. Next week is infusion session 8, I think, so there are 9 more to go. Or something like that.
In any event, it means this whole program will take me through to the fall. And if the last six months are anything to go by, that will be here in a flash!
The best and safest thing is to keep a balance in your life, acknowledge the great powers around us and in us. If you can do that, and live that way, you are really a wise man.Euripides
My low scores of 6 in satisfaction and attention are substantially because I (in fact, we, because my honey is involved, too) need to start thinking about our next big life move—that is, moving from the Philippines back (after over three decades) to Canada. The general decision is made, but not the specifics, like time and place. And this will not only require planning, but also a shitload of preparing.
And frankly, at this moment, I’m feeling soooo lazy and unmotivated. Change is not looking appealing at all right now, so working to make it happen feels like a major uphill battle.
As I look at it now, I can give myself another month of grace. I can justify to myself the need to focus on self-care and working with existing clients until the radiation therapy is behind me.
And that’s it for the time being. I’ll look at this again in a month or so.
Step by step.
Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.Albert Einstein