A lightbulb went off for me the other day in speaking with a good friend who works from home on the subject of how in-balance or out-of-balance her life felt. She lamented how much harder it was to find time for herself when the kids are home from camp – while loving the balance she is experiencing while they are away. She is committed to keeping life in balance, and even though she has clear boundaries on work time vs. family time when everyone is home, she wants to be available to respond to her kids if they need her yet this takes away her time to take care of herself. In listening to her, it occurred to me that we often think we are out of balance because of what we are doing – how much exercise we are getting, the food we are eating, the time we spend working, time with the kids, or time on self-improvement. What if we could seek balance in an energetic way instead? What if we looked each day to balance how much energy we are giving vs. how much energy we are receiving? Instead of focusing on how much time we are spending producing, accomplishing or completing, what if we focused instead on the energy of the experiences instead? When we focus on the energy that we are giving and/or receiving from what we say yes and no to in our lives, it can help us begin to loosen our attachment to how and when things happen, and instead focus on how it feels as they are unfolding.
From this perspective, I can look at my day and see how balanced it feels. Many of my activities provide energy of both giving and receiving.
· Meditating gives me energy, it’s a gift I give to myself.
· Walking my dog in the morning is both giving and receiving – we both love it.
· Connecting with friends provides both an opportunity to both give and receive by listening, expressing and supporting each other in turn. Certain people are easy to give and receive energy with, and others, not so much.
· I give energy to my coaching and consulting clients by uncovering issues and finding solutions with them.
· I choose clients where I can both teach and learn to keep the energy balance in place for myself.
· What drains too much of my energy is people that are not willing to be responsible for their own experience and the ones that drain my energy the most are those that want me to be responsible for their experience - as if it’s my job to make them feel better about their story.
Knowing this about myself is very helpful in deciding how I spend my time, who I spend time with, and how I relate to others in my efforts to manage my own energy balance.
Take a gut check
One way to get a sense of this for yourself is to see how you feel (gut reaction) about each experience that you have planned for the day or week ahead. As you acknowledge each one, one at a time, notice if you feel open, relaxed and expansive, or focused, tight and contracted. Perhaps you feel some anxiety when you anticipate a phone call or meeting, yet feel excited and grateful when you consider your plans for the evening. You feel passionate about a discussion you are going to lead next week, and feel exhausted about the upcoming parent-teacher conference anticipating issues with your child. These feelings are a great indicator of how much energy balance you already have for each one. The more relaxed, calm and grateful you are, the more you are allowing the energy of receiving to envelop you – even when you are giving at the same time. The more focused, tight and contracted you are, the more you are giving your energy out – even when you do not want to be giving. You know the situations and people that feel draining to you. It can feel like they are putting you in a giving situation that you don’t want to be in, yet feel that you must give anyway.
Time to attend to the balance.
The art of true balance is about building our lives and decisions around experiences that allow us to stay in balance energetically with ourselves. Few of us do a good job of receiving as much as we give. Most of us have been taught we have to work hard, and do more than what is expected to just get by. We think that the energy exchange is like that. We have to give, give, give, and hope to get what we want in return – yet we are often disappointed in the exchange. Most of us need to balance the scales by creating more ways to receive in all areas of our lives.
In fact, for some of us, when it’s so easy and we are in the flow and our giving and receiving is in balance, we feel guilty, like we are getting away with something. As if we have to pay a price for getting what we want. As if we can’t have it all. For example, a client of mine felt that she should just be grateful that she got a good job out of school, is learning like crazy, has great hours and can telecommute, yet has a horrible supervisor and is severely underpaid. I assert we do not have to pay these types of prices, and we can have it all. First, we have to believe that is possible and then we can have it all, all of the time.
As I look back at the dramatic and wonderful changes I’ve experienced in my own life over the last few years, it’s the energy balance that has changed. I have reduced or eliminated relationships where responsibility is an issue between myself and that person as this drains my giving energy. I consciously design my days and weeks to create ways to receive energy from myself, nature, or others several times during the day. As I look at my week, I say no to filling in open time in the evenings to keep myself in balance if the days are full of ‘giving’ activities. You can start to do this too. Look at this month on your calendar and consider which activities you give and/or receive energy from. I use two different colored categories to mark them so I can see the balance visually. Blue for giving, Yellow for Receiving and Green for both. How balanced are your days and activities?
Most of us are in the business of over-giving and need to focus on creating more experiences of receiving from ourselves and others and reducing the number of times we say yes when it takes us out of balance. This might look like saying no to the planning meeting for the block party, and yes to a hot bath and good book. It may look like saying yes to a cup of tea with a friend instead of writing up another report. It may look like asking your partner to put the kids to bed so you can stretch and meditate before bed or by putting them to bed an hour earlier to hold this sacred time for yourself. It may look like signing up for the paddle boarding lessons on one Saturday over the summer while letting another mother take your son to soccer practice that day. It may look like walking in nature for 10 minutes to breathe fresh air and clear your mind before starting the afternoon meetings.
If we continue looking to others to receive the energy balance we crave, we continue to feel like a victim when those people are unable to give us what we need. When we remember that it is our job to make ourselves feel good, not someone else’s job, we can find ways to take care of ourselves and can always get what we want if we are not attached to how it happens. If I want the hedges clipped, but my husband has not had the time yet to get the hedge clipper fixed or replaced yet, I don’t have to wait for him to take care of it. And continue being frustrated each time I walk by the hedges and get wet from the extra growth. I can decide what I want and either go get a new cord or hedge clipper, ask a neighbor to borrow theirs, or pay the person that mows my lawn to take care of it for me. I have choices. Choices that allow me to shift the energy balance for myself. Instead of waiting for someone else to give me what I want, I can give to myself so I can stay in balance and not give my energy away to situations where it’s not necessary.
Balancing through the unexpected
While it’s easier to maintain the balance when life goes as planned, many giving situations happen unexpectedly in our lives and can tip the scales for us when we don’t adjust our level of receiving in other areas to balance the energy out. A sick parent, child or pet can demand most of our giving energy and absorb the time and attention we would usually give to ourselves. A job or work situation that has us feel bad about ourselves or the world can take much of our giving energy – even if we are paid well for our efforts. A disrupted home situation can make it hard to tend to our most basic needs including privacy. The allure of potential future fulfillment can keep us working too many hours while ignoring our body and our families, which both need our attention now to stay in good order. Any of these can create a higher than normal energy imbalance between giving and receiving. Sometimes this intense level of imbalance can lead to health challenges - forcing us to receive from others without feeling like we are at choice.
How do we intentionally find the balance?
When we need to pour out a large amount of giving energy into unexpected situations, that is the time we need to find ways to increase the amount of receiving energy we are getting even more. That may mean canceling appointments and using that time to refresh and recharge until the unexpected situation has settled down. It’s important to be clear about what is and isn’t our responsibility so that we reduce the drama in our lives and allow others to have the experiences (and consequences) they require in order to get the lessons meant for them. When we let others have their own experiences, and we tend to our own experiences instead of theirs, we can enjoy and maintain a stable energy balance in our lives much more effectively.
To keep our energy in balance, regardless of circumstances, our job is to notice what drains or refreshes our energy and decide to pay attention to the balance.
Here is a short list from me to jump-start your own exploration:
Now you give it a try – what goes into these boxes for you?
Ready to shift the balance in your own life?