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Balance is a word that’s thrown around a lot these days. Every time you look up there’s a new article advocating for work/life balance or living a well-balanced life. We are told that working to achieve balance will ensure we lead more fulfilling lives. As if the key to life satisfaction lies in balance.
What if that’s not true? Working towards better balance might be what is keeping you from finding passion in life and potential in running. Balance could be holding you back. When you are willing to challenge the seemingly ideal concept of balance, you can figure out if it’s a goal that supports the life you want to live.
What’s Wrong with Balance?
You are a runner. You are also a friend, partner, employee, boss, and/or parent. You have so many roles at once; a multi-faceted human with many interests and responsibilities. You don’t turn off being a parent when you go for a run or stop being a runner when you’re at work. You are a whole, complete human made up of many parts.
The problem with balance is that it operates from the assumption that your work and your life are separate entities. That could not be further from the truth. The skills you develop at work elevate who you are at home and as a runner. The perseverance and dedication you bring to your running is also part of who you are as a leader at work.
Take some time to think about the person you are in each part of your life. How would you describe yourself? What qualities do you bring? Creating awareness around this will allow you to see the qualities and values inherent to you that you bring everywhere you go. You are the same person. Who you are as a runner does not take away from another area of your life. Instead of seeking balance, practice integrating who you already are with what matters most to you.
Why Balance is Limiting
Have you ever stopped and asked why you are trying to achieve balance? Whose idea was it anyway? And is it serving you?
Forcing yourself to live under the idea of balance, just for the sake of balance, does not make sense if it does not support the life you want to live. The more attention you give to any area of your life, the more results you will create in that area.
Passionate about running a half marathon in every state?
Excited about some backpacking excursions you have coming up with family?
Amped up about a work project you are leading for the first time?
Whatever it is, go all in on it. You cannot and will not know what is possible within these goals without first ditching the goal of balance. You have to first give yourself permission to let go of someone else’s idea of how you should live your life.
At the same time, it is important to remember that we have limited hours in a day and limited bandwidth. Going all in is not only about what you do, but how you do it. Make sure how you are spending your time is in alignment with your goals, priorities, and who you want to be.
The Power of Choice
If you are trying to balance every aspect of your life, each part of your life gets equal attention. Which means no part of your life has the chance to become the most important. As a result, you cannot achieve your best in any particular area because your energy and attention is divided. What do you want to achieve in the different aspects of your life?
It takes time to become a stronger, faster runner. If it’s important to you to progress as an athlete, it will require more time and energy resources. Each stage of life brings different priorities and challenges, which might require going “off balance” to achieve a goal. It’s important to see this as an intentional choice that supports the greater vision for the life you want to live. If you have a goal to run your first sub 4 hour marathon, your training volume will inevitably increase. This might mean less social time with friends and family in the build up to the race. It does not mean that you will never spend time with those friends and family again! This is just a time in your life when your race goals require more from you. The most important thing you can do for yourself is honor the choice. This allows you to be more present in your training and get more out of the time you are putting in. Additionally, it will likely make you more present in the social time you do have, knowing that it’s limited and sacred.
Be intentional with the choices you make and the energy you put towards those choices.
As it turns out, balance might not be the right goal. Especially if as you are trying to achieve balance, you are living by someone else’s standard and limiting yourself. Ask yourself this: if I stopped chasing balance, what would I achieve?
This article first appeared in Women’s Running