A 2009 study by Marcus Buckingham asked the question, ‘What are happy women doing differently?’ And the response was not – as you might imagine – somehow striking the perfect balance between work, life, health, family, passions and spirituality.
Rather than aiming for balance – which the women in the study realised was impossible to achieve, stressful to attempt and boring to live – they ‘tilted’ instead, towards commitments and activities that were meaningful and enjoyable. Towards the area of life that required their attention in a particular moment, intentionally choosing to be there, present, and then intentionally tilted into another area as needed.
Tilting is about being aware of the changing pressures of life and being flexible, while also rejecting the idea that everything needs to be perfectly balanced every single minute of every day and that anything less is a failure.
But what about balance?
For years we’ve been sold the idea of work-life balance. And if you look at balance as something you need to achieve every day – keeping the scales evenly weighted between your partner, kids, family, friends, yourself, spirituality, health, keeping the home, work – you will struggle to find real balance and expend so much energy simply on trying to create and maintain it. Frankly, I think this idea of striking a work-life balance is a complete myth. It’s damaging and pressures us to achieve something impossible, where a more fluid approach provides the flexibility required to meet the different needs in our life, as and when it’s needed.
Rather than aiming for balance, they ‘tilted’ towards commitments and activities that were meaningful and enjoyable.
Instead of exhausting yourself by trying to achieve balance, learn to tilt. To willingly throw things out of balance. And, importantly, learn to be OK with that. Actually, we need to learn to embrace it!
OK, here’s how to master the “tilt”
It’s not a matter of learning a step-by-step approach. It’s more about keeping the idea of tilting in the back of your mind. It’s about understanding – and accepting – the fact that you cannot and will not ever achieve perfect balance. What’s more, you probably wouldn’t want to.
Some days, you are extra busy at work – tilt towards simple meals, light home duties and simple rhythms. Or, say your kids are happy to play independently – tilt towards catching up on tasks around the house. On another day, maybe you need to recharge – tilt towards being kind to yourself and letting go of the things that don’t help with that. At other times, you might need to regain order at home – tilt away from social engagements and towards time spent focused on those needs.
This article is an edited extract from Destination Simple, by Brooke McAlary.