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It’s All About Counterbalancing NOT Work Life Balance

Posted on December 18, 2019

Have you ever been on vacation with someone for the first time? Like a first date, it’s a dance as you try to “feel out” their expectations. I’ll never forget my honeymoon. Paden and I headed to Tahiti, and we hadn’t really talked about how we relax until we were on the beach in Bora Bora. It didn’t take long for us to realize that we do not relax in the same manner. Paden is Miss Adventure, ideally having every hour accounted for and Instagram-worthy, so she can “suck the marrow out of life.” I, on the other hand, am the exact opposite as I like to shut down completely. Laying out in a beautiful place with a cocktail in hand, relaxing for hours in the sun is my ideal vacation. For Paden, this is shockingly equivalent to “doing nothing for hours”, but for me it is a critical step in recharging my batteries. On vacation, I shift into a state of near-comatose as I finally slow down and allow my mind and body the chance to rebuild. It was laughable how we were able to get through two weeks of this daily realignment of expectations and the inevitable string of personal compromises! 

I’m happy to say that our vacation expectations have evolved since then, and we have struck a good compromise of combining cool daily events with afternoons/evenings without plans. It has appeased both our styles of relaxation, and we now easily hit our stride while on vacation together.  

I’m about to head out on a highly anticipated vacation this week, and I’ve been thinking a lot about the need for counterbalance. Now, I don’t mean work-life balance as it’s often spoken about, but as a counter balance to the amount of effort I’ve recently been putting into my profession. I think that understanding the difference between work-life balance and counter balancing is a critical life lesson for me. 

A defining belief I used to hold was that I should strive to carefully build a life of balance or, “work-life balance.” I should be the best dad, husband, business owner, movement practitioner, personal example of prime fitness, volunteer/citizen, as well as being invested in my spiritual and emotional health, and also able to cultivate meaningful relationships with friends and family members. I’m exhausted, just reading this list. But for years, I viewed this work-life balance as the gold standard for the all-American man who had it all and who was always disciplined. 

At face value, trying to be everything to everyone sounds like a good, even noble, endeavor. It is appealing because it means that you don’t have to compromise – you can have it all! The end goal behind this belief is you can cover all your bases and look back on a life well lived. 

I have since changed my mind, and I now believe that this strategy is not as wise as it sounds when it is put into practice. Is it really possible to be THAT disciplined and actually get everything you want at the same time? It seems more likely to lead to burnout, depression, stress and a lot of unhealthy behaviors.   

The reason we shouldn’t pursue balance is that magic never happens in the middle; magic happens at the extremes. When we are motivated to create magic, out at the extremes, the way to protect the downside is not by chasing after work-life balance, but by leveraging counter-balance. – Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, The One Thing

I read this quote and before I knew it, I’d finished a chapter in a book called The One Thing, by Gary Keller. It really inspired me. 

The book illustrates a very logical, although less popular, belief: Nothing truly excellent was ever accomplished by being in “balance.” Normally, you need to flex out of your comfort zone and into a place of extreme focus and effort, to truly accomplish anything. 

As an entrepreneur, I can certainly relate to this. Some of the most grueling days and weeks that brought me to the brink of burn out, produced the best results that lasted far longer than they took to build. But after a big push, it’s equally important to swing back like a pendulum into extreme relaxation. 

I’m ready for that part of the pendulum swing this month. I find it important to keep a pulse on Paden’s and my energy expenditure and to carefully add well-timed vacations. This is the counterbalance that we need in order for us to stay passionate and motivated in our mission to empowering fitness professionals to double their business and build a life they love. 

So I’m a big believer in not faking success to sell more services. The truth is my business does not need me to show up daily to still make money. That in itself is a miracle. But what got me there was an insane work ethic that I’m so proud of it has almost become my identity. Most entrepreneurs get this. You push so hard to evolve and grow to be the leader and creator that others want to follow. But who wants to follow the path of someone who can’t shut it off and enjoy life? Isn’t that the ultimate goal?

Paden and I used to be out of practice in stepping away. In part because we love what we do. I train now not because I have to but because I always want to be working with clients. Why build a skillset to retire? I love the challenge of working hands on with a client. The other part of why it’s hard to step away is that both of us had fallen for the glorification of hustle to the point where it’s pushed us both to the brink of burn out numerous times. 

I’ve seen her numb burnout with binge watching TV shows. I’ve seen myself coast through life with such a low energy I barely leave the house. It’s no way to live. 

So what we’ve found is that part of our growth is to force ourselves to step back and relax. This is actually hard for us. It’s actually where we need to grow and we need to lean into the discomfort of pausing. 

Fitness is always the place I go to for analogies, and this one is perfect! As I would encourage any athlete on the floor to go big, do hard things and push their potential, I also encourage them to prioritize their “cool down”, post an intense workout. When I first connected these dots I laughed at myself. I feel hypocritical because I struggle to take the advice myself. Just feeling hypocritical throws me into action. So I booked a family vacation, to practice slowing down and coming back to a place of restoration. 

This is what I will be doing for the next 10 days. I look forward to returning and getting back into the extreme output that I find inspiring!

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