Forget Balance and Embrace Harmony



Hey guys! Ralph Plaskett here, author of the acclaimed book, Deepening Growth: Powerful Lessons in Cultivating Your Personal Transformation, and founder of the Plaskett Institute where we help passionate coaches, consultants, and educators strengthen their personal and professional mastery so that they can create transformational impacts. 


Welcome to January 2020 guys. This isn’t my first video for January, but I wanted to be able to again, welcome you into 2020. It’s an amazing thought to be in a year that was so far away at one point but now is upon us. 


So I want to have a conversation about balance. Here’s my position. My position is, forget a balanced life. You see, a balanced life is a misnomer. It is like the thought of having to be perfect. It doesn’t exist, at least not in this life, in this form, to be balanced isn’t something that can be achieved in the human condition.


We see balance all around us in nature, but we can’t, and don’t have the ability for balance as a human condition. Here’s why I say that. Balance requires simplicity. See, balance is a balance of equal portions of a thing or things. It could be two or more, but it has to be equal portions so that the thing balances out, so we don’t have something that is off-kilter. Imagine something like that in your life. 


There is thought, conversations, and even marketing about having a balanced life. But if we stop and think about it, balance in its truest sense is not achievable. We have marketing around a work-life balance, for example. See, a work-life balance says there are equal portions of work and equal portions of life. It also assumes that you’re two separate beings. One being that focuses on the work, the other being is focused on life.


So that isn’t reality. You are one being who has a portion of their existence or their day at work, but that doesn’t mean that you leave that portion of your life at home. You see, when you come to work, you come to work with your challenges, your ambitions, your goals from home. As you go home, you go home with the challenges, the frustrations, the goals, and the hopes from work. 


To have a balanced life, one would have to have an equal portion of time, of commitment, of energy on either side. Now, I don’t know about you, but if I told my wife that I have to spend an extra 20 hours this week at work, but I’ll make it up with another 20 hours of time at home, or tell my boss that, that wouldn’t turn out very well on either side. But this is what we’re saying when we want work-life balance. This is what we’re saying when we want to achieve a balanced life.


You see, balance has been misconstrued – the thought, the purpose, the intent of where it was coming from has been misconstrued. 


We’re not seeking a balanced life, rather, what we’re seeking is a harmonious life. 


You see, when we’re playing music, music is a harmony of notes, harmony of instruments of various types to make a beautiful sound. If we’re looking at a painting, for example, it is not equal portions of a color or colors, rather it is a beautiful display of harmonious mixture to create the art that we see before us. 


If we are looking at dance, it is not equal portions of a two-step and an equal portion of the lean back. Rather, it is a beautiful mixture that creates a symphony along the dance floor. 


You see, we recognize harmony for what it is in these areas of artistry, but we seek balance in other areas of our life.


As I described before, balance requires simplicity. Harmony adapts itself to complexity and complexity is the very thing that we have in the human condition. 


Complexity is the very thing that we have in our day to day life. If we run with the work-life balance example, there was a time where the separation between the two was much simpler. But in today’s world, there is no separation, there is no cutoff point. We take work home, work is home, work is everywhere. Life is everywhere and there is no separation. 


There is increased complexity in a way that we deal with everything around us and the tool to deal with that complexity isn’t balance. The tool to deal with that complexity is harmony. See, this requires a shift in perspective, a shift in mindset. In order to be able to embrace complexity, we need to understand how we embrace harmony.


Harmony says, “Look, I might have to spend some extra time over here. But I need to create the conditions that make it harmonious not just over there, but everywhere.” It demands that there is a harmonious tune throughout. 


I was having a conversation with one of my coaching clients and we came to the point of this type of conversation where we need to seek harmony and not seek balance. You see, the goal that they were striving for was to be able to produce the same amount that they produced before their life changed completely to ever-increasing complexity, not ever-increasing simplicity. See, and in this, they required to have an ability to deal with and embrace harmony, deal with complexity by embracing harmony.


My client could no more produce 20 widgets in a week, for example. They now had to be able to harmonize everything else within their life so that they can produce three widgets, for example. You see, harmony embraces the complexity of life. Complexity is the state to where we exist and harmony is the tool that we use to be able to go through and embrace the ever-increasing existence that we find ourselves in.


So what does this mean? How do we go ahead and shift from a place of balance to a place of harmony? 


Well, one, we have to get rid of the notion of balance, the same way that we got rid of the notion of perfection. See, to get rid of the notion of balance we have to say, “It doesn’t exist,” and replace it with harmony. We must recognize that our lives are not equally proportioned. 


Call it out of balance, whatever you want to do, but it’s out of proportion where it is not singing a harmonious tune. So what do we have to do in order to be able to put it into proportion? That means that we need to raise the bar or lower this bar so that we have just the right amount of pieces in the parts of our life. 


Let’s bring it into a bit of practicality. I’m a husband. I am a father. I am an executive. I am a friend. Just use those examples. If I haven’t checked in with my friends in a while, am I really being a good friend? That means I need to check in with my friends on a consistent basis. Am I neglecting my wife and having our monthly deep intimate connections? Or am I putting that energy and attention in my work? Am I putting too much in my work where I’m neglecting my children and building them up in these formative years that they’re in?


You see, we cannot be everywhere in all places at all times. Certainly, it’d be great to have a clone. But is it really? It won’t be you in all of these places. It would be images of you in all of these places. 


So in order for us to be successful at living out a harmonious life, we have to be conscious of the elements of our life that are important to us, where we need to bring our attention. 


The second thing that we need to do in order to bring about a harmonious life is to realize that time is finite


No matter how much you want 25, 26, 30 hours in a day, there are only 24 hours in a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, unless there’s a leap year and there’s 366. The point is time is finite. Your time is finite. So if this finite resource that you have is being stretched to its limit, the question becomes not how to do time management, but the question becomes commitment management.


See, when we are looking to stretch time beyond its confines, we are saying that we are over-committed and we have too much on our plate. We’re balancing way too many plates. 


How are we going to be able to do this all? Well, we can’t. Plain and simple. 


Let’s come to a place of reality. We cannot. What we need to do though is do the things that are most important to us. Do the things that are most important to us in the moment, in the day, in the week. You see, when we’re looking at being able to do time management, we’re really looking at commitment management. I have too much on my plate and I need to move off things that are no longer important to me; the things that I said yes to where I probably shouldn’t have said yes to.


With just these two conditions alone we enable us to live and embrace a more harmonious life. 


As we get rid of balance as a perspective we can no longer hold with the greater complexity that we become aware of in our lives, we gain the ability to embrace harmony as the tool to thrive in the complexity around us. 


I’m Ralph Plaskett. This is my message for you today. Get rid of the thought process of a balanced life and embrace the mindset of a harmonious life.

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