If you’re reading this post during the week, what kind of day did you have? How many tasks did you attempt or complete? How many people did you interact with? What kind of time pressure were you under to get things done? How much control did you have over your professional and domestic agendas?
And now, check in with your breathing and the sensations in your belly, chest, and throat. What are you noticing? Are you at ease in your body? Or tense, constricted, and pressured around your back, neck, shoulders, eyes, belly?
Recently, I watched a new TV series from England called “Silk”-- the informal name given to English barristers (court lawyers) who attain the prestigious title, Queen’s Counsel (QC), due to their professional success and political acumen-- who are thereby entitled to wear silk gowns in court. In this series, two barristers, a man and a woman, from the same chamber (law firm) are locked in a cutthroat battle to be nominated as QC.
The woman’s life, in particular, is a mad dash from one courtroom to another, alternating between flashes of brilliance and forgetfulness, followed by evenings of drinking and politicking with other lawyers and judges, then reading new legal briefs until the early hours. Only in moments does she come out of her work round to acknowledge support from a colleague or her longing for a child and a whole life that has relational warmth and depth.
Granted that this is an exaggerated scenario, “Silk” speaks to a way of life that is on serious overload re emotional and physical health and life balance. This is a story I hear often as a coach and somatic therapist from people who overwork and give themselves away on the job-- and as parents, spouses, partners, and parental caretakers. Trying to live up to other people’s expectations, they lose their connection to their own spirit, passion, and sense of self.
In my ebook, Success with Soul-- Loving Your Livelihood, Living in Balance, I describea movie called Enchanted April that I absolutely have to see every year for its beautiful depiction of the shift from resigned hopelessness to the richness and wonder of being alive. It starts with the meeting of two women in post-World War I London on a dreary, stormy day. Together, they make a radical decision to stop “being good” to everyone else at the cost of feeling “miserable” and depleted themselves.
I’m talking here about lives out of balance and what happens when too much of yourself is being absorbed in ways that are no longer fruitful in your life. I’m talking about how we can stay refreshed and renewed-- in dynamic balance-- with work, family life, friendships, creativity, spirituality, and well-being-- forces that shape and energize our lives.
Why are so many of the people I coach seeking balance in their lives, particularly when they’re considering shifting to a new career? A number of them have worked as almost as strenuously as the woman barrister in “Silk” in their 20’s and 30’s, only to realize in mid-life that they’re missing out, not having a primary relationship or actively participating in their children’s lives or even taking care of their basic health and fitness needs. In seeking a new way to work, they begin to realize that this is exactly the time for them to evaluate what possibilities are available for creating a more satisfying, holistic quality of life.
Otherwise you will reach the point where, as a doctor in her early 50's-- concerned that her sixty-hour-per-week position was adversely affecting her relationship with her teenage daughter-- told me: “My well is running dry. I have no more to give out. I am no longer capable of superhuman exertions!” This is exactly the risk of working and living without being in a more natural balance.
Now take a little time here to notice and feel the dynamic balance and energy of your own life by considering and responding to these questions:
• What does the rhythm of your life look and feel
like when you’re at ease and not under stress?
Close your eyes and feel your body sensations
and breathing just as you are now. Now visualize
yourself in a place that is totally relaxing to you.
Again, pay attention to your body sensations and
breathing. Notice any images that arise as you
visualize and feel yourself coming into more
natural balance in your body, mind, and spirit.
• Does your work embody this balanced rhythm in
any way? If so, how? If not, why?
• What is one step you can choose to take that will
let you incorporate this more balanced rhythm
into your current work situation or your plan for
a new career?
• How can making this one change help create more dynamic balance in your whole life?
Remember that even if your life feels profoundly out of balance, yes, you do have a choice in developing a whole life that is more in rhythm with who you really are and wish to be. In fact, you’ve taken the first step towards positive change if you’re noticing your physical, mental, and emotional discomfort in a state stuckness and imbalance. Learning to create the balance in your life revitalizes the way you work, feel, and relate with others!