Monday, December 31, 2012

Mouse View/Eagle View: Life Balance


Stress, exams, deadlines, holidays, parties, shopping, spending: that's what the end of the year typically brings to those of us living in North America.

And then there's the looming new year and all its expectations: Lose weight! Get fit! Make more money!

Life balance: yeah, right. "You have to balance client expectations with personal needs." "Too much work and no play." "Family time, couple time: they have to balance out."

If it's helpful to you to think of balance, great; go right ahead. But at any particular moment, I don't particularly want to be "balanced." I want to be enthusiastic, passionate, productive, energetic -- or contemplative, resting, processing, mellow. Intense, tense -- relaxed, loose.

Or something completely different, something that can't be measured on a binary scale. Like I want to be listening, witnessing, watching, looking, tasting, luxuriating, sharing.

For me, balance doesn't work because it's not something you can see from the mouse view at which we live every day. Balance is best seen from the eagle view.

So when I feel something -- frazzled, overstimulated, underenthusiastic -- I take a step back (or up, to continue the metaphor). What's been happening the past few days? How about the past week? Month? Year?

For example, if I'm feeling crabby and out of sorts, I can ask questions like these: in the past week, how many times have I gotten some exercise? (Probably not enough, if I'm crabby.) How many nights have I gone to sleep before 11 p.m.? How many hours have I spent working toward long-term goals ahead vs. putting out fires?

Sometimes it's appropriate to work 12 hours straight to meet a deadline -- and sometimes taking a day "off" in the middle of the week is appropriate. Sometimes work and leisure appear in the exact correct proportions in a given day -- but for me, they usually don't.

Those who prepare tax returns for a living (bless them) know that they will work long hours in late March and early April; they take vacations at other times of the year. My math professor mother decreed that the Christmas season couldn't start until she'd finished marking exams and submitted the semester's grades. Once she'd done that, she could give herself over to lights, baking, and shopping.

This is probably going to sound kind of nutty, but simply by reminding myself of mouse view/eagle view, I automatically reduce my stress -- because I no longer feel pressured to create a life that's perfectly balanced in any given moment. Or day, week, month. Or even year.

So take stock of the past year, make some resolutions, set business goals, whatever you do to celebrate the calendar's change. But spare a thought for which perspective you're adopting: the mouse's or the eagle's.