I recently began a new workout routine. I was looking for something that I could do daily, and that I could take with me on the road and do in my hotel room. I’m learning (quickly) how much I’ve allowed my physical intelligence to wane due to the frantic, intense demands of life over the past several years. I’ve spent time on the treadmill, in the weight room, playing basketball, etc., but as this new workout has forced me to use every muscle in my body, I’ve learned (via the aches and pains) how many of them I’ve thoroughly neglected.
The most challenging exercises for me are not the “just push yourself and grunt through it” kind, it’s the “stand there and hold a pose as your muscles scream for relief” kind. Many of these require good posture and balance, neither of which are in my wheelhouse.
As I stood struggling to gain my sense of balance for a stretching exercise, the instructor on the DVD suddenly shouted “FOCUS! FIND YOUR CENTER!” I quickly realized that my mind had been racing in ten different directions as I was struggling to stay on my feet.
“Did I reply to that e-mail?”
“Do we have a post queued up for later today?”
“Why do my legs hurt so much?”
All of these side thoughts were silenced by the instructor’s command to focus. I snapped back to where I was, felt my body struggling, re-affirmed what I was trying to do (stay centered and balanced), and something amazing happened. I stabilized. I was balanced. Nothing had changed physically. I was still standing on one foot, arm outstretched, feeling the burn. But I was suddenly – because of a simple change of focus – perfectly poised and balanced.
It’s amazing – truly – that a simple change in focus could have that much power over my entire body’s ability to stay balanced. By clarifying my thoughts and eliminating distractions I changed my entire ability to engage in the exercise. (It still hurt, by the way.)
And Finding Balance…
I hear many creatives lamenting their inability to find a sense of balance in their life. This usually means that they feel overwhelmed by the volume of expectations in their work, and the pressure to produce is a specter that haunts them even when technically “off the clock”. (This is the value-versus-time tension described in chapter two of The Accidental Creative.) The weight of all that’s still undone feels oppressive and clouds everything else in their life.
But what if a shift in focus could change all of that? I’ve experienced frequently that defining the work to be done, truly clarifying objectives, and gaining a better sense of focus around ongoing expectations brings an immediate sense of balance to people and teams. The simple (but difficult) choice to truly focus on what’s in front of you rather than allowing everything “out there” to weigh you down brings an immediate sense of clarity of priorities.
Here are a few ways to apply this focus-shift:
Define your work. Do each of your projects have associated challenges? A challenge is a simple, non-complex question that defines what you’re really trying to do. I frequently find that a frantic sense of imbalance often stems from a lack of definition of objectives.
Commit to being single-minded. When you’re working on something, commit to that thing. Don’t bounce back and forth from task to task, priority to priority. Stay in the moment until it’s time to break and do something else. There is no such thing as true multi-tasking. You will probably end up doing both tasks less effectively.
Have dedicated time for centering. Block off several minutes a few times during your day to remind yourself of what you’re really trying to accomplish, and to re-define your work and expectations as needed. Don’t simply drift through your day following the plans you made yesterday or last week. Re-direct and re-define as needed, and find your center.
If you want to find a sense of balance, it begins with a commitment to the proper mindset. Take some time to center, simplify and define and you may find the stress dissolving and a sense of focused intensity in its place.
How about you? Do you have techniques for finding a sense of balance in your life and work?