Stop Living a Balanced Life

November 2013, by So-Young Kang

Why do people always talk about living a balanced life? Have you ever stopped to think about what would happen if you actually took this advice? I remember being shown a picture of multiple balls that I had to juggle and I was warned to never let any of these balls drop. These balls were my career, family, health, friends, etc. Each ball is extremely important. I still remember receiving 3 balls in one of my leadership training classes as a physical reminder to always keep the 3 balls in the air.

When you stop and actually ponder that for a moment, I get quite exhausted thinking that I have to keep juggling many extremely important balls in the air in perpetuity. At any given time, I am only barely touching 2 of them since the rest are in the air. I would be in constant fear of dropping any of them since each is important. So why do people keep talking about work-life balance? What do they really want?

What if we could focus on living one life – a whole life? One that was integrated. At the core of each of these selves is ONE individual with ONE set of beliefs, values and mindsets. What if we spent more of our time focused on how we could be ONE integrated person so wherever we showed up, we would bring all of ourselves and not just the part we feel should be shown at that moment. Let me give an example.

When I think myself as being made up of different selves or wearing different hats, I have to constantly be aware of which hat to put on or take off. It seems natural but it’s quite exhausting to have to constantly monitor myself and which self I am being. So when I have a client meeting, I have to remember to put on my corporate hat, speak corporate speak, leave my emotions at the door and behave in ways I feel are ‘fitting’ for the corporate person. The meeting could be efficient and even somewhat effective. But what if I chose to bring my whole authentic self to that corporate meeting? I would then give myself permission to connect not just intellectually and professionally but also personally and emotionally. For example, I would be able to see that my client is not present because he just had a really bad meeting before seeing me and is feeling a bit rattled. I would be able to build trust at a deeper level while talking about ‘non-corporate’ topics like family, faith, personal aspirations which would make our ‘corporate’ conversations go to another level. When we experience parts of people, don’t you intuitively know that you are not experiencing the full person?

Aren’t you tired of wearing multiple hats and trying to live multiple selves? Isn’t it exhausting to try to juggle multiple important balls in the air all the time? For me, I only have one ball that is my whole life. I don’t even try to juggle it. I keep it close to me and it follows me wherever I go. When I show up, I don’t worry about which ball to show or which self to represent. I just represent me – all of me. This gives me the freedom to call on any aspect of myself at any given time. I give myself full permission to be fully me all the time. I can be the same and have the same conversations whether I’m with my client, my best friend, my father, my pastor, or my partners. I choose to be more authentic and bring my whole ONE self wherever I am.

So do you still want to live a balanced life? Or do you want to join me in pursuing an integrated life?