Inner Work 101 is a series of in-depth blog posts I’m working on to de-mystify the inner workings of inner work. I’m tired of seeing brilliant creative people stumble around and settle for less than they really want because they don’t know how to navigate the path of their own potential and this is what I’m doing to help change that. Find all the Inner Work 101 posts right here.
Creating balance can feel like an impossible dream, or a never-ending task, because it is both of those things.
Balance has a crappy energy to it.
Ugh. I’ve just spent all day writing and re-writing this part. It keeps coming out way too crabby. The truth is, I am anti-balance.
The only times in my life when I have been “super balanced” are the times when I was playing small, denying my real dreams and settling for less than what I actually wanted.
Sure I was balanced but no it wasn’t worth it.
Life is messy. Dreams are messy. You’re not always going to feel balanced and on top of everything. That’s ok. Actually a lot of growth happens in those messy un-balanced places.
So, if you can let go of wanting balance all the time – that’s really helpful.
On the other hand, always feeling like things are out of control and like you can’t balance it all is not healthy and won’t nurture you or your dreams.
So, you need to be balanced in your need for balance. Sometimes you’ll have it, sometimes you won’t.
Balance is precarious.
The energy of the word balance always makes me think of balancing on a balance beam. It feels awesome when you get it right but the threat of falling is always right there.
What is it that you want, when you say you want to be more balanced?
Take that question into your journal and really explore it.
For me, I want stability. The quality of stability feels grounding and helpful and safe for me. I want to feel stable in my life and in my dreams.
So I work with stability, not balance. For you it may be a different quality. Once you know that, then ask yourself:
What is it that you need, in order to feel balanced/stable/whatever quality you come up with?
Spend a lot of time with it in your journal. Go deep with this. Write out everything that comes to mind, even if it’s super impossible.
For me, it’s actually really simple.
I need to be organised for life to feel balanced or stable. In fact being super organised helps me be more present and free – not just more balanced and stable.
Rushing to meet deadlines destroys my sense of stability so I don’t do it. I plan everything out so that I’m working on things wayyyy in advance of actually needing them to be done and keep lots of empty space in my schedule.
This gives me a lot of freedom to handle unexpected things that come up.
And it gives me the space to be actually present with myself and my actual needs in the moment – I don’t have to put that aside to meet a deadline.
And it means I can take full advantage of those times when my creative energy is high and I want to work a lot.
I’ve experimented a lot with this stuff over the years and this is what really works for me.
What actually works doesn’t necessarily “look” balanced.
We all have stories about what a perfect, balanced life would look like. Those stories are mostly bullshit.
For me, it means working 12 hours a day sometimes, and 2 hours a day other times.
It means having routines that change with the seasons, which includes adjustment periods at the beginning of each new season where I feel off.
There will always be trade-offs.
Part of why our culture has such a problem with balance is that we tend to want to have it all and balancing it all is hard.
Stability, simplicity and spaciousness are important to me, so I keep them as my priorities.
I say no to a lot of projects and opportunities.
I say no to a lot of my own ideas, if they’ll take up more energy than I feel comfortable giving them.
I don’t do a lot of things I could be doing to make my business bigger.
And I am really happy with the choices I’ve made. It doesn’t feel like settling, it feels like clarity, freedom and my perfect-fit life.
When I moved into my Dream Loft, I did a LOT of work simplifying my life. I got rid of 1/2 of all of my things (the Dream Loft is big, but has no closets). I thought very super carefully about my stuff and about how I wanted to live and about what kind of stuff would support me in living how I wanted to live: with stability, simplicity and spaciousness.
My life is very thoughtfully set up to create stability. Yes this took a lot of time and it was totally worth it.
Luckily, there is a secret magic shortcut.
So creating balance is about trying to fit all the different things you want/need into your life in such a way that feels good.
Referring back to what I wrote in the How Change Works post – that kind of stuff happens on the surface. It’s really just about shuffling puzzle pieces around to try to get it all to fit.
Meanwhile you have all this power and magic beneath the surface.
So in a way, focusing on balance can be a bit of a trap that leaves you constantly chasing something you can never really hold onto.
But focusing on being happy and fulfilled and connected to your inner gifts makes you stronger and more capable – BIGGER.
Which means you can hold more and do more.
Some of the balance stuff that seems to hard when you’re staying on the surface becomes really easy when you’re more rooted in your depths.
This has been my strategy as a highly sensitive business owner: the more I focus on nourishing self-care, the more I can do because I am more connected to my inner gifts.
When I focus too much on managing my time better and balancing it all then I wind up frustrated and overwhelmed because that leaves me feeling like there’s too much on my plate, no matter how much is actually there.
Because it’s all about where you are focused.
In other words: it doesn’t matter how much is on my plate, all that matters is how I feel about my plate.
Some things that are helpful for this:
1. Do the things that light you up. Every day.
Self-care practices really need to be daily practices to keep your tanks full. (This is why I share my bike rides and picnics and other adventures on my Instagram – as reminders of the delight of making self-care a daily priority)
2. Learn more about what you need.
Ask yourself “What do I need right now?” and sit with it until an answer comes. It’s normal to not know what you want at first, the more you practice this the better you’ll get.
3. Be honest.
It’s amazing how much we lie to ourselves about how we feel. If something isn’t OK for you, tell the truth. If it’s too hard to tell other people at least tell yourself the truth about how you feel and what you want. Remember that your attitude creates the energy atmosphere that you live in. “I don’t want this but I’m doing it because I don’t know what else to do right now” is better than trying to convince yourself you’re ok with doing something when really you’re not.
4. Remember that your perspective is not The Truth and be willing to change it.
Like, if it makes sense to you that your self-care needs should always come last – change your perspective on that! Question your beliefs. Explore your inner world. Inner work is magic and it’s amazing how much you can change your beliefs and attitudes which changes how you see the world which changes what is possible for you. (See the How Change Works post for more on this)
5. Get creative about how you create your life.
If you’re filling your life up with stuff you don’t really want to be doing, stop it. Your dreams and your happiness are more important. You are a creative GENIUS and there is always a way to do things differently. (You may need to work on #4 in order to be able to do this)
Not that I am always super successful at this but this is my aim.
This means really diving in an exploring what’s going on so I can find ways to get what I need while doing what I need to do.
For example: I am highly sensitive and very introverted – so much so that just getting a lot of email is overwhelming for me. But I run an online business. I get a lot of email.
So it’s just email. I can pretend that it’s not a big deal to take care of it and then get all burnt out, putting my dreams and well-being in jeopardy while I do it.
Or I can be honest.
I can look at how I feel when I get “email overwhelm” and what happens in my personal and work lives when I am in overwhelm.
I can remember that I get to choose my perspective and that “I have to do all this email in order to have a successful online business” is not an idea I have to accept as my own truth.
I know I can always hire an assistant to help. And I can get creative and look at other options.
So I meditate and journal and explore. I meet up with various inner critics and limiting beliefs that keep this situation all tangled up.
In this case, my explorations led me to a different solution: Zendesk.
I’ve had over 7,000 people go through my free e-course. I simply cannot offer each of them customer service support! But I did want them to get answers to their questions!
No wonder I felt overwhelmed about it. So, I used Zendesk to set up a self-serve help centre that answers the questions people have about the course.
And my Zendesk means if people don’t see the answer in the help centre I can send them the answer with just 1 click. So I can just zoom through those kinds of emails and people get the answers they need without me going into overwhelm over it.
If you’re too quick to go into compromise-mode to create balance, you can lose out on finding a perfect solution.
Before I really sat with how I was feeling about email overwhelm I was sabotaging my business growth without being aware of what I was doing.
And that makes sense – I am really sensitive so I will avoid overwhelm whenever possible.
And if I have never taken the time to explore what was really going on I’d still be doing that.
That’s why it’s important to take the time to really explore what’s going on in your inner world before taking action in the outer world – if you go right into action mode you are acting out of your limiting beliefs.
You are a creative GENIUS after all. And genius trumps balance every time.
There is always a way for you to create a perfect solution.
The key is to not put your energy into “creating balance”, instead put your energy into creating a life that nourishes you and your dreams.
Which means being really committed to creating the life you want and taking an active role in creating it, every day – living from your genius.
Some days that will feel balanced and some days it will not. It’s definitely messier than being all balanced all the time, but more fulfilling.
I know this can feel particularly challenging at this time of year.
The holidays can come with extra obligations and overwhelm.
If you’re a member of the Creative Dream Circle – there’s a class called The Happy Peaceful Holiday Season which gives you some tools for helping bring in more peace and joy, plus it comes with a mandala coloring book.