I can’t seem to find the mental bandwidth to improve in all the areas of life that I want to improve. When I lean into my business, my health becomes neglected. When I focus more time on exercising, I feel I’m not present enough for my kids. I’m losing hope that I can ever fully reach my potential. What can I do?
There are two issues to unpack here. First, the idea that balance will be the stabilizer for you, and second, the immeasurable amount of effort we pour into seeking that balanced life. Everyone searches for it, but few if any ever find it.
Your use of the term bandwidth is interesting—and telling. Think about the bandwidth of the internet in your home. It’s finite. When that bandwidth maxes out, what happens? Your streaming slows, the entire picture is no longer visible, and you shut it down. There is no more bandwidth to use.
We are all aware of and accept the battle between our internet’s bandwidth and our Netflix account, but we don’t correlate that to the use of bandwidth about ourselves. We expect our bandwidth to expand continually. We expect our brain can always contain more, our bodies can always work harder, and our shoulders can always carry heavier weight.
Here is where the problem lies: That’s not how our brains or bodies work. Our bodies are not made of armor, and time is unforgiving. So in a world where the goal is to have it all, the question to be asked is, deep down, do we really want it all?
At some point in my first coaching session with clients, they inevitably say, “If I could only balance my life better,” or, “I am just missing some balance.” But can I let you in on a little secret? A balanced life is never the ultimate goal.
Picture two children of equal weight on a teeter-totter, both fighting gravity to balance just right in the middle. Once they discover the right amount of leg force to halt them suspended above the ground, what happens? Nothing. They sit there, perfectly balanced, and they become stuck, stagnant and bored. Instead of seeking balance in life, what if we started a quest for the perfect imbalance?
I talk to many clients about this. I ask them: What are you expecting your mental bandwidth to cover? For many people—just as in the original question—it’s a combination of career or business, health and family. Each of these areas can include measurable, attainable, reasonable goals, as long as they work with each other and not against each other.
How do you determine whether your goals are aligned or at war? You first must look at who is setting the standards you are trying to achieve. By this, I mean, do you want to achieve this outcome, or is there an external factor (societal influence, family member, friend, peer) creating the need for improvement? This step will give us the power to see through the person you think you should be and discover the person you truly want to be.
Now is where the magic happens because we have clarity on what is truly desired. There are stages of life during which we excel in a few areas while maintaining in others.
Many of my clients are moms in lucrative real estate businesses. A commonality between them is a feeling of a tornado above their heads filled with their responsibilities. They look up and see a spinning, vibrating, whirling mass of chaos ready to swallow them whole.
I tell them that just because the tornado is there doesn’t mean they have to be sucked up into it. I tell my clients to close their eyes and imagine the tornado they described to me. Now, freeze that tornado and pull out only what’s most essential and falls into their MVP category—Most Valuable Productivity. Everything else stays in the tornado because if it’s not moving you closer and closer to your goals, it’s moving you away from them.
After this exercise, my clients inevitably realize they say yes to too many things, causing them to say no to their MVP category. They are so busy filling other people’s cups that there’s nothing left for their own.
It’s easy to say, “Focus on what’s important.” Deciding what’s important is not as easy. It’s all very personalized. To help my clients find clarity, we walk through a series of questions. What is important in your life? Where do you want to be in the upcoming years? Who do you want to walk this path with? Who or what can help you gain traction?
When you focus on the answers to those questions, the tornado gives way to sunshine.
SUCCESS Coaching certifies industry-leading mentors to create transformative growth in entrepreneurs and professionals. To inquire about becoming certified, visit coaching.success.com/certification.
This article originally appeared in the November/December 2021 Issue of SUCCESS magazine. Photo by @WR36/Twenty20