As I’ve written many times over the past year, the decision to dedicate time to truly knowing myself better has been life changing. Before that I would have, as most people do, just assumed certain things to be true without giving it much consideration. It’s easy to be distracted by what I wish I were like or what I (or others) think I should be like. And thus I just assumed that I must like music (I really don’t), that pizza is delicious (I have always been underwhelmed), and that “everything in moderation” is a good thing (not for an abstainer like me). And learning that, for me at least, balance is not key has been an extremely liberating realization.
The idea of achieving balance is ubiquitous in the mainstream and especially amongst self help outlets or well-intended advice. And on the surface, it makes a lot of sense to strive for some semblance of equilibrium or moderation – when it comes to how we spend our time and energy or to what we eat and drink, we are constantly encouraged to find a “balance.” And this might work for some people, but for me, it’s confusing and it feels like an unattainable and moving target. How will I know when I have achieved such an elusive state? What does that look like and how can it be when some things are simply in opposition to one another? And upon further consideration, it feels like another avenue on the path of my unending quest for perfectionism – my least helpful and hard-to-kill quality. So instead of chasing it, I have started to slowly accept that balance is not key.
Now before you think I have totally jumped off the deep end and believe that we should be all work and no play or that we should totally live for pleasure and act on every whim as opposed to diligently working to support ourselves and help others, please allow me to clarify. When I say that balance is not key, I don’t mean that we shouldn’t live in such a way that we don’t attend to the various important areas of our lives, but that we shouldn’t allow ourselves to become caught up in the idea that we can actually achieve balance, fairness, or equity in all areas of our life. As Todd Emaus wrote for Forbes, that although “balance sounds good [and] making sure that your work doesn’t take over your life (or vice versa) also makes sense…[it’s actually] one of the most harmful myths that has been told in modern society… Work-life balance becomes nothing more than tug-of-war for your time and energy.”
We can’t possibly devote equal amounts of time to all the important aspects of our lives, because we only have 24 hours in a day. We usually spend roughly 8 of them sleeping, roughly 8 of them working, and the other 8 probably include a pretty strong mix of things that we want to do and things we simply have to do. Similarly, it’s not possible to devote an equal amount of effort to everything either. For one, how would you even measure that? And further, how would you decide what is “enough” effort in any area? If you’ve heard my gripe about workouts which supposedly go to fatigue, you know that I am of the opinion that in reality, we could always get one more rep, give just a little more, work harder, or do a little better. And although we could, it doesn’t always mean that we should. Besides, the amount and type of effort involved in work versus parenting or maintaining relationships versus maintaining your home are not comparable. Trying to achieve and then maintain “balance” would be exhausting to say the least. In this way, balance becomes a dangerous and anxiety-provoking myth.
So now that I have seen the light and recognized the ways that striving for balance is not key for me, what am I doing (or more accurate – trying to do!)? To start, I have gotten a lot more clarity around my priorities. Of course it’s obvious that I try to spend the most or best of my time and energy on those things which are best aligned with what matters, but I also like what Dr. Timothy A. Pychyll wrote for Psychology Today, “balance is a dynamic thing, constantly changing moment to moment….[it] requires a dynamic response to losing balance, to regaining balance, to trying again.” At a high level, my priorities probably don’t change too often, but they might flip and flop during particular seasons, weeks, or days. I think continuing assessing and reassessing the items on my to do list or calendar in terms of both their importance and urgency helps a lot. Sometimes a looming deadline means more hours and a bigger tilt towards work and other times, special occasions or travel means stopping what I am doing to be with whoever I am with. Which brings me to my next point, being present. I have really been working on being fully invested in who I am with, wherever I am when I am with them. This means, not checking my phone while out with friends and similarly not trying to “multitask” during work meetings. Being all in, means doing more with less and I get a lot more out of the experience or more done in a shorter amount of time. It’s quality over quantity.
And the last thing, I do a lot of, which might seem contradictory to being present at first glance is pairing. When and where possible, I try to create opportunities for synergies. When I listen to a podcast, while I am taking Coco for a walk to run errands – I am learning something new, moving my own body and getting her some exercise and crossing things off the to do list. It doesn’t have feel too onerous and it allows me to maximize the time that I do have. When Jon and I workout together, we are not just exercising, but also enjoying the time together. And for the past uncharacteristically sunny and warm week in Ireland, I’ve been trying to pair everything to allow for as much time as possible outdoors for both work and play! It’s been fantastic and last night we celebrated summer with dinner al fresco – a seasonal Whole30 Stone Fruit and Blackened Chicken Salad! It’s a fresh and festive blend of sweet and savory – the perfect balance, if you will 🙂
- Paprika 2.5 TSP
- Sea Salt 2TSP
- Black Pepper 1 TSP
- Cumin 1 TSP
- Cayenne Pepper 1 TSP
- Chili Powder 1 TSP
- Onion Powder 1 TSP
- Oregano .5 TSP
- Garlic Powder .5 TSP
- Thyme .5 TSP
- Chicken Breast 4 Each
- Coconut Oil, Melted 1 TBSP
- Blackened Seasoning 2 TBSP
- Avocado 2 each
- Peach 2 each
- Nectarine 2 each
- Plum 2 each
- Jalapeno 1 each
- Onion, Medium 1 each
- Zest and Juice of 1 Lime
- Cilantro/Coriander, Minced Finely .25 cup (15 g)
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Avocado Oil 1 TBSP
- Mixed greens 8 cups (400 g)
- Mix together all spices in a small bowl to combine. You will likely have some leftover, but it will keep well in an airtight container for quite awhile and can be used as a tasty topping for a variety of proteins.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F / 180 C and line a baking sheet with foil
- Brush a thin layer of half the coconut oil on the foil to avoid sticking and then place the chicken on top. Brush the remaining coconut oil over the top of the chicken.
- Sprinkle the 2 TBSP blackened seasoning over the top of the chicken breasts evenly and then bake in the oven for approximately 20 minutes or until done.
- In the meantime, pit and dice the avocados, peaches, nectarines, and plums and place all into a large bowl. Mince the jalapeños and onion and add along with the lime zest and juice, avocado/olive oil, and the cilantro/coriander. Stir to combine.
- Portion out the mixed greens on each of the four plates and then top with equal portions of the stone fruit mixture.
- Once the chicken is done, remove and slice thinly to top the salads.
- If you want, add a bit more olive oil or avocado oil as dressing, but I like mine just as is with the fresh fruit salsa. Enjoy your summer on a plate!