Balance & Rhythms

Life-Balance (or Work-Life Balance) has been part of a cultural discussion for the past few years. I believe it’s always been under the surface– work takes up so much of our lives, pays the bills and hopefully gives us some fulfillment and contribution to the world in the process. Since I’ve entered the working world, my own questioning of work and life intersection has been persistent. Do work and life have anything to do with each other? Where does your work stop and your life begin?

I’m not a politician or a trend analyst, but I can make a strong guess at why balance has been at the forefront of management journals and yoga magazines alike. Due to events like 9/11, the economic recession, the gun violence epidemic and instant access to all of this news, I believe people are starting to question what’s really important to them and how they can do more to get it. So employees take jobs with more vacation time for rest, and management grants more flexibility or creates remote working arrangements, hoping it will spur creativity and engagement.

Let’s step back look at life-balance as a methodology. You decide what your priorities are, make a list maybe, and sketch out what percentage of your 24-hour days you can give to each one. Maybe it looks like a pie chart, or a scale on which you place each piece so that the bigger categories equal out. Life-balance requires intentionality in maintaining your time “budget” so that it doesn’t get out of whack. Your mental and physical energy is spent on keeping balanced, and your emotional energy is often spent on the guilt and frustration that comes when you can’t maintain that balance.

I spent years trying to perfect my time budget, thinking if I only added up the hours in a week I spent on x and y, I’d come out with a balanced line and a healthy me. I would add more and more, because I had space on my calendar to fill. I learned the hard way (by breaking down and getting sick) that time spent does not equal energy spent.

When I came across the idea of rhythms, it felt familiar, like an acquaintance I occasionally bumped into but never invited to coffee.  An idea of rhythms is much more natural. We are wired for rhythms. It’s how the earth works – the tide, the lifecycle, the cadence of a song. We repeat our days, sunrise and sunset, seasons, months, years. God created it this way in the beginning. I was looking, and I imagine you are looking too, not just for rhythms, not just repetition, but life-giving rhythms.

Crafting your time around life-giving rhythms looks vastly different from the idea of balance. You’ll still have a schedule (I can’t live without mine!) and you’ll still have blocks of time mapped out if that’s what works for you. Instead of just trying to balance different categories, you’ll intentionally piece in activities, rest and relationships that re-charge you and make your life flow in a way it never has before.

Life-giving rhythms are:

  1. Personal
  2. Centered
  3. Intentional and Integrated
  4. Sustainable
  5. Graceful

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing from these 5 qualities of life-giving rhythms. Building your life around rhythms takes some investment. It will be messy sometimes. It might not look like what you expected. Yet, you will experience a whole and full life with rhythms, because you are doing what feeds your body, mind and heart.

What have you experienced in your search for balance? How do you know when you’ve found it? How would your life look if you created it around rhythms instead?