I’ve mentioned that I’m learning aerial circus at the moment, and that includes the silks. We were doing a strength activity the other night where the silks were tied and we were effectively see-sawing from being upside down with legs in a wide V to stop falling out, and then pulling ourselves up to a slightly seated position (like the picture above). As I was pulling myself up the instructor said “feel for the point where you go from pulling to pushing, that’s very important for some of the more complex tricks.” As I was lying in bed that night I thought that was a great metaphor for life in general, and particularly since I’ve moved into the freelance/working by-for myself space.
On the silks, the movement is all about balance. It’s about being able to feel that point where, if I were to keep pulling I would fall forward and out of the safety of the silks, so I need to rapidly shift to pushing back a little to keep my balance. But if I push back too far, then I will turn upside down again, and if my legs aren’t ready for that it would mean falling out of the silks onto my head. The pushing and pulling of this physical activity is how you maintain balance and, eventually, elegance in the silks.
The metaphor is great, because I’ve had to learn a lot about balance, starting my own business:
- Sometimes I need to push everyone away and buckle down for business development — sometimes I need to remember to pull people close so I have mentors and support
- Sometimes I need to push myself out into the world to get the work and make sure people think of me (and yes, that means selling) — sometimes I need to pull back, be kinder to myself and recharge my batteries
- Sometimes I need to push through, giving the business more time and energy, making sacrifices — sometimes I need to pull away from the fun, but not time sensitive business activities and be with Derek, Lily and my friends
It can be a fine line, this yin and yang of starting your own business. I’m not doing a lot of things that I need to push myself to do, as a result I’m not pulling in the amount of work I would like to have. When I was an employee this was never a concern of mine, now it is a vital component of my balancing act.
Balance isn’t about equal measures
The reason this struck me as so relevant in my business is because I’ve been working very hard on understanding myself as a freelancer (the solopreneur title does not fit – but that’s a whole other blogpost). I did a whole activity on Balance in My Year of TED, and that resulted in defining my perfect day, but that was a perfect day as an employee – and the concept was problematic. I had tried to do some mix and match to redefine that, but working for yourself is more complex than that, the value of everything changes a little bit. What do I mean by that?
When I am balanced on the silks, the top half of my body weighs more than the bottom half, which is effectively just my legs. The balance is not about being perfectly level, because the two sides do not weigh the same – and that is how it works in life as well. Having work/life balance does not equate to spending the same amount of time at each, we all know that. So everything gets a value inside our heads, an arbitrary value that only we can define and decide upon. If I hate my job, then I’m going to need a lot more non-job related activities that bring me fulfilment and joy to balance that out. If I’m in a crappy relationship, then maybe spending more time at work is how I achieve the ‘balance’ of happiness.
My ‘perfect day’ when I was commuting into a job that was slowly sucking the life out of me, and watching people around me being treated extremely poorly, had a very different set of values than I have today. So, the last year has been about trying to understand those arbitrary measures for myself; learning which tasks I enjoy, which I hate and how much pushing or pulling is required so I don’t fall on my head, or face plant the mat.
Do you know your arbitrary values?
This post isn’t about me, it’s about you. Do you know how to get the right balance in your life? Do you understand your tipping points, and what keeps you in the safety of the silks? I don’t mean knowing that 30 minutes of X will require 2 hours of Y to make it better, I don’t think any of us know that. But are you aware of when you are pushing or pulling and when you need to shift gears to stay balanced? If not, maybe you need to spend a little time trying to work it out, or else when you’re at the point of learning the more complex tricks, you are likely to fall from a greater height.