Be Present, Not Balanced: Stop Trying to Live a Well-Balanced Life

Years ago, my wife, Susan, traveled to Birmingham to visit our daughter, Megan. They had a fun girls’ day that included taking a Pure Barre class, which I have since learned is a ballet-inspired workout designed to build muscles like dancers. And it requires some ability to balance, which is hard to do and can never be perfectly attained.

We can never achieve perfect or even near-perfect balance in life either. For decades, we’ve been told to strive for work-life balance. But it’s not reality and can’t be attained. And people experience so much guilt because they feel like they are neglecting their families while they are trying to have a successful career or vice versa. So-called work-life balance is a mythological utopia that people are searching for, but will never find. Here’s what we should aim for instead.

We should aim to be present.

I want to encourage you to stop worrying about achieving balance between work and family life and instead begin striving to be present. On any given day, we all have what feels like a million different things vying for our attention. It can definitely be overwhelming. You’ve probably said something like, “There just aren’t enough hours in the day.” But instead of trying to keep all those balls in the air, take things as they come and be 100% focused on who or what’s in front of you. Here are three P’s to remember that’ll help you move past the myth of work-life balance and be more focused on being present.

1. Priorities

There are some things in our lives that will just have to take a back seat to more important things. That might mean watching less television or spending less time doing your favorite hobby so you can be all-in for your kids when you’re home. It may even mean your obsessiveness about cleaning the house or doing the dishes needs to take a back seat to things like wrestling on the floor with your children, throwing the ball with them in the back yard, or just gazing at the stars at night.

On the other hand, there may be some seasons when you have to spend more time at work for a few days for a special project, presentation, or event. That’s OK, too, as long as you’ve been all-in on a regular basis for your family. And when you need to focus on work, be sure to prioritize what needs to be done and then do it with all your might.

2. Perfectionism

We can’t be perfect, though some of us try with every fiber of our being. The need for things to be perfect ends up hindering us at work and at home. At work, our fear of not being perfect prevents us from being creative on projects or problem solving, and can certainly hamper our productivity and keep us from getting the job done efficiently and effectively. At home, we can talk ourselves out of spending time with our children because we don’t have the perfect amount of time to do some big event or to come up with a super-creative activity to do with them. Remember, just being there with our kids is all it takes.

3. Powering Down

This is a big one for me. There are times when we need to unplug at work and at home so we can be present for others. When we’re at work, we normally don’t have to answer every phone call or email when someone is sitting with us in our office. I’ve been guilty of this one on many occasions. When someone’s meeting with us, we need to give them our full attention. Likewise, when we’re at home talking to our spouse or kids, we need to put away our phones and resist the urge to check that Twitter feed. Be 100% present.

Do you have trouble being present? Share in a comment below.

Here are some other ways to make the most of your time with your family:

How to Stay Joined at the Hip and Heart with Your Teen

How to Spend Time with Your Kids

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.