I’ve dreamed of the entrepreneurial lifestyle for a long time. I’ll never forget the day I sat in a coffee shop in Barcelona, tapping away at my laptop, and observing all the life that happens between the hours of 9 and 5. In all of my adult years I’d been inside an office during this time, and it was that moment that I decided I wanted to be a part of this daytime world.
Since then I’ve been working my way here, but not just because of the freedom it offers – because of the balance I expected it to bring to my life. I mean, working for yourself should offer the ultimate work/life balance that we all seek, right? I can go to yoga anytime and cook all my meals at home and honor my night-owl-nature by staying up late to work but then sleep in to make sure I get my rest. I make my own schedule, so how could it not be balanced, if I want it to be balanced?
Well, turns out, balance is not a destination. It is not a place of stillness. Balance is an active state. As my wise yogi friend pointed out, balance requires strength, alignment, and focus. And of course, your center of gravity can change, so what once worked well for you, may no longer result in balance.
Consider, for a moment, standing on one leg – or for my yogis out there, perhaps your most challenging balancing posture. Do you just get into the pose and then hang out? No. You work your way into the posture, building your way up from a solid foundation. You steady yourself the entire way in, and then keep working to steady yourself. You engage muscles to support yourself, you find alignment of the joints, and you focus your gaze. You are never still. You are never effortless. The only reason it gets easier, is because you get stronger.
When you want to go further, you move slowly, keeping that solid foundation you've built as you shift your center of gravity. Sometimes you fall out, and have to build it from the ground up again. Sometimes, you find a deeper posture.
After returning from Spain I built up from the foundation again. I eventually found my groove with working out and eating well and reading in the park and doing all the things I wanted to do. I’d created the lifestyle that I’d been striving for and thought I’d found balance, when I lost my focus. Like a shiny object in the corner of my eye, I was distracted by a guy and fell right out of my beautifully balanced posture. I not only fell out, I got sick, because I’d lost the foundation of self-care that supported the pose. I was trying to stay jammed into the shape without the strength, alignment, or focus to back me up, and it wore me right down.
Noting the distraction I recommitted to myself, and found a new balancing posture. I rebuilt it slowly, fearful of getting knocked down again. I realized that maybe I’d been too rigid before, that there needed to be a little space to sway in the breeze, to be resilient when distractions challenged my focus. Once again I felt super strong, aligned with my values, and focused on myself and my goals. Feeling stable, I decided it was time to start my business. And that’s when my center of gravity shifted.
I changed my focus towards a bigger challenge, a deeper posture; it was a new growth opportunity with new vulnerabilities and not to mention new demands on my time and energy. My foundation was strong but I had to constantly adjust as I made my way into the new pose. I wobbled back and forth on one leg, seeking that alignment again, making concessions and shifting my weight, re-strengthening my muscles, re-focusing my attention. Over and over again.
Honestly I struggled with this for some time – it was a day-to-day effort of trying to balance, trying to tap in to what my body and mind needed that day to make it all work. Some days I needed to rest. Some days I needed to hustle. Some days I needed to lean on a friend. Some days I’d wobble a little left, and some days to the right. Once again, I was never just still at center. I was doing it – standing on one leg – but constantly swaying, working to stay up, searching for my foundation.
Tired of wobbling, I left my day job, thinking that would do it. I could create the most beautifully balanced life for myself! I could fit in all the things I want to fit in, and yet still somehow be free for spontaneous adventures. I could sit in the coffee shop to work, and be a part of the daytime world. I could be perfectly centered in myself, and live a life aligned with my values. So, naturally, I wrote myself a schedule for my new balanced lifestyle.
I stuck to it for one week, quickly being reminded of the fact that balance is not a destination, or a set schedule. What works one week may not work the next. There are different demands on your time and energy, and there are always bright shiny objects catching your attention out of the corner of your eye, trying to throw you off. You may shift your focus too quickly, and tumble right over, having to build from the foundation again.
You may be able to hang out in a pose without alignment for a little while, but it will eventually wear on you, potentially having longer-lasting impacts. You can hang out without the muscles engaged, but the pose will have no integrity and you will fall out with even the lightest breeze.
On the mat we can find balance with physical strength, alignment, and focus. Off the mat, these things feel a little more difficult to locate.
Because off the mat, your foundation is YOU. It means getting to know yourself well beyond your physical abilities, which can sometimes be the most challenging and scariest practice of them all. In yoga this is called Svadhyaya, the study of oneself. It means getting curious, digging deep, observing yourself and asking questions. It might mean facing some messy stuff, but it also means letting what’s in you shine out. It’s part of the eight limbs of yoga because it’s required to find your balance, to be able to shift your focus without falling, to sway in the wind, to be resilient.
So start at the bottom, plant your feet into the ground, and build your way up...
What are your values, and how can you build a solid foundation around them? These values are your root system, the things that hold you in place, no matter how strong the wind gets.
What are your goals, and how can you align yourself with them, to be constantly working towards them? How can they infuse everything you do, so you’re always working with integrity?
Where is your focus? Where is your breath? Where is your mind? If it is scattered, you will likely not feel balanced. If it you are easily distracted, you may fall out. And probably, if it is on something other than your goal, you aren’t really in the pose to begin with.
If you feel like you're struggling to find your balance, set up a call to see how working together can help you strengthen your foundation and find alignment with your goals.
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