There is no such thing as balance.
More and more today, we hear that phrase. Is it true? If it is, then why do we seek after it with such intensity? Why is it that our minds house these scales of justice always trying to provide a countermeasure to time spent at work, on our laptops, or phone on the weekend? In the end, we want our families to know that they matter.
Maybe we need a different word because “balance” is just not working. Perhaps we need a whole new language! Seeking after balance is not a bad thing, but it’s also not the best thing. Let’s ditch being so concerned about what we aren’t doing and instead pursue what we can do. What if the focus were to shift to whether or not we are fully present wherever we are?
In today’s hyperspeed and technology-centric culture, being fully present is challenging, but also necessary. If balance is a mirage, then being present is the actual earth under our feet. It is possible.
There is an old Zen thought that says, “Chop wood. Carry water.” The idea is that when it’s time to chop wood, swing that ax! When it’s time to carry water, carry that bucket! So do not try chopping water and carrying wood! Stay in the moment. Too many times, when we try to balance, we end up trying to chop buckets of water, and it just does not work.
Being fully present carries some distinct advantages:
- Calmness – When you focus on what’s in front of you vs. what is swirling around you, it provides a sense of peace.
- Clarity and Focus – You do your best work when your mind is clear, and you can hunker down and focus. Being present means that all of life’s distractions are put away.
- More Meaningful Conversations – If you can focus on listening without a mind packed full of distractions, you will take more away from it and also deposit more into the other person.
- Appreciate the Little Things More – When you do too much, you cannot appreciate the small, little amazing parts of life. Being fully present allows you to slow down and see colors, smiles, and the things that help make life amazing.
If these are the benefits, how do we become fully present?
Good question. Natasha Barton, contributor on LiveStrong.com, provides a few tips.
- Breathe – When you notice you’re feeling stressed or anxious, structure your breath like Navy Seals. Take a deep inhale for 4 seconds and then do a deep exhale for 4 seconds. Do this for a minute, and you’ll notice a sense of calm, looser muscles, and decreased heart rate. You will be amazed at how much better you can focus.
- Put the Phone Down – Technology robs us from connecting with people. Park the phone and focus on those around you. Being present requires your full attention.
- Call a Short Time-Out – Chiropractor Michelle Robin, D.C. suggests, “If you’re rushing to a meeting, pause outside the door and take a breath or two before going in,” she says. “Before you start hustling to get dinner on the table after a long day, pause to take a breath and let go of the time before now and be present while you lovingly prepare food for your family.” This will bring you back to the present so you can give that activity or person your full attention.
- Set Reminders – I use reminders in my mobile device every day. I have reminders to help me focus on how I lead and serve others. I also have ones that remind me to pray for my wife. Use technology to your advantage to help pull you back into the present. Set up questions like, “What makes you smile right now?” or “What do you appreciate the most right now?”
- Be Grateful – Find a few things every day that cause you to be grateful. Having an attitude of gratitude forces you to slow down and appreciate others and what is around you.
- Start a New Tradition – Shelley Henderson, co-founder of Henderson Properties in her book, Starting from Scratch, encourages people to start a new tradition. You may have moved to a new town, started a new job, or perhaps even your son or daughter is heading off to college. When life change happens, start a new tradition. Pick a night of the week to do something fun, or start a new habit like exercising. Maybe you already do. Find a way to try a new routine and see how your awareness of being fully present in the moment grows.
In the end, it is not about balance. It is about being fully present. Give these tips a try and leave a few comments. We would love to hear how you apply rigor through your pursuit of presence, and who knows, maybe we’ll send you a new, awesome, super soft, “Apply Rigor” t-shirt! But remember, you must be PRESENT to win!