Juggling instead of balancing
The other night at dinner, I casually asked our waiter, “How are you?” not expecting anything other than, “Good, how are you?” But, the response I received took me by surprise and I’m still thinking about his unusual answer, which was, “I don’t know how I am. I’m trying to figure that out.”
It struck me – aren’t we all trying to figure it out?
And as we try, aren’t we also trying to balance the rest of life’s equation – which may include work, family, home, hobbies, sports and education as well as other time bandits? I’ve spent a lot – perhaps too much – of my mental real estate thinking and talking about work-life balance, and I’ve decided we should rename this elusive concept – because it’s not about balance – it’s about juggling.
Balance implies a stillness – think of the Crane Pose in Yoga – while juggling brings to mind clowns and circuses, swords and flaming batons, which in my life is more apt than the concept of stillness and flow. Balance is about all the elements somehow being equal or at least in the correct proportions, while juggling, according to its definition, is “to keep several objects in motion in the air at the same time by repeatedly throwing and catching them, and to do (several things) at the same time, while making changes to (something) in order to achieve a desired result.” I would add that juggling often amuses others…
So here’s why I’m more apt to use the term juggling rather than balance. Years and years and years ago (actually in another century), I had a graduate school professor who required each student to learn to juggle as a part of an organizational development class. It was quite a profound exercise and here’s what I found:
- You will fail, over and over again.
- You should pick easy, soft objects to start. Hurting yourself is not a good option.
- It’s easier to juggle three balls, than two.
- Gravity is a B*#@%!
- The secret of juggling is throwing, not catching.
- It starts to feel natural when you find a rhythm.
- Stay calm but move when you need to.
- And practice some more!
- Celebrate and yell “Yippee” a lot.
I also found this incredibly helpful as a mother, a sister, a daughter, a wife, an employee, a leader, a volunteer and a traveler trying to figure it all out. I know that I’ll always be a juggler rather than a balancer, and that I’ll fail, but I’ll also probably amuse others. And I’ll also say “Yippee” despite gravity.
Suzanne T. Allen, Ph.D.