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May 24, 2019

The Illusion of Balancing It All

by Michael Hughes

Have you ever been on vacation with someone for the first time? Like a first date, it’s a dance as you try to “feel out” their expectations. I’ll never forget my honeymoon. Paden and I headed to Tahiti, and we hadn’t really talked about how we relax until we were on the beach in Bora Bora. It didn’t take long for us to realize that we do not relax in the same manner. Paden is Miss Adventure, ideally having every hour accounted for and Instagram-worthy, so she can “suck the marrow out of life.” I, on the other hand, am the exact opposite as I like to shut down completely. Laying out in a beautiful place with a cocktail in hand, relaxing for hours in the sun is my ideal vacation. For Paden, this is shockingly equivalent to “doing nothing for hours”, but for me it is a critical step in recharging my batteries. On vacation, I shift into a state of near-comatose as I finally slow down and allow my mind and body the chance to rebuild. It was laughable how we were able to get through two weeks of this daily realignment of expectations and the inevitable string of personal compromises! 

I’m happy to say that our vacation expectations have evolved since then, and we have struck a good compromise of combining cool daily events with afternoons/evenings without plans. It has appeased both our styles of relaxation, and we now easily hit our stride while on vacation together.  

I’m about to head out on a highly anticipated vacation this week, and I’ve been thinking a lot about the need for counterbalance. Now, I don’t mean work-life balance as it’s often spoken about, but as a counter balance to the amount of effort I’ve recently been putting into my profession. I think that understanding the difference between work-life balance and counter balancing is a critical life lesson for me. 

A defining belief I used to hold was that I should strive to carefully build a life of balance or, “work-life balance.” I should be the best dad, husband, business owner, movement practitioner, personal example of prime fitness, volunteer/citizen, as well as being invested in my spiritual and emotional health, and also able to cultivate meaningful relationships with friends and family members. I’m exhausted, just reading this list. But for years, I viewed this work-life balance as the gold standard for the all-American man who had it all and who was always disciplined. 

At face value, trying to be everything to everyone sounds like a good, even noble, endeavor. It is appealing because it means that you don’t have to compromise – you can have it all! The end goal behind this belief is you can cover all your bases and look back on a life well lived. 

I have since changed my mind, and I now believe that this strategy is not as wise as it sounds when it is put into practice. Is it really possible to be THAT disciplined and actually get everything you want at the same time? It seems more likely to lead to burnout, depression, stress and a lot of unhealthy behaviors.   

The reason we shouldn’t pursue balance is that magic never happens in the middle; magic happens at the extremes. When we are motivated to create magic, out at the extremes, the way to protect the downside is not by chasing after work-life balance, but by leveraging counter-balance. – Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, The One Thing

I read this quote and before I knew it, I’d finished a chapter in a book called The One Thing, by Gary Keller. It really inspired me. 

The book illustrates a very logical, although less popular, belief: Nothing truly excellent was ever accomplished by being in “balance.” Normally, you need to flex out of your comfort zone and into a place of extreme focus and effort, to truly accomplish anything. 

As an entrepreneur, I can certainly relate to this. Some of the most grueling days and weeks that brought me to the brink of burn out, produced the best results that lasted far longer than they took to build. But after a big push, it’s equally important to swing back like a pendulum into extreme relaxation. 

I’m ready for that part of the pendulum swing this month. I find it important to keep a pulse on Paden’s and my energy expenditure and to carefully add well-timed vacations. This is the counterbalance that we need in order for us to stay passionate and motivated in our mission to merge restorative therapies with fitness performance. 

As we head into the summer, kickstarted by Memorial Day weekend, my hope for all of us is to take time to check in with how we’re spending our time and energy. Where you put your focus and energy is where you will find success. Are you satisfied with where you are investing your time and energy? Have you been willing to go into the extreme to hit goals that matter to you? Maybe you have been out there working for too long to achieve something, and you are in need of a recharge?  

Fitness is always the place I go to for analogies, and this one is perfect! As I would encourage you on the floor to go big, do hard things and push your potential in your fitness, I also encourage you to prioritize your “cool down”, post your intense workout. Let’s make this summer the one where we pursue a counter balance. Where we reach and stretch out to achieve big goals, but where we also practice slowing down and coming back to a place of restoration. 

This is what I will be doing for the next 10 days. I look forward to returning and getting back into the extreme output that I find inspiring!

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