The topic of “balance” often arises in a coaching conversation. It could be about the desire to achieve work/life balance; strike a balance in practicing directive and participative leadership; achieve equilibrium in quantity vs. quality; and the list goes on.
Why do people worry about not having a balance? I’ve come across many reasons during my conversations with others. Here, I will broadly summarize them into the following four categories:
- Transitions – When situations in life changed. For example, a marriage; a job promotion; or parenthood, which requires some adjustments in the priorities in life.
- Crises/Challenges – A failed exam; a poor state of health; a trying relationship, often prompt people into considering re-balancing, re-calibrating things in life.
- Dilemmas – The feeling of one aspect is over-shadowing the other aspect in life such as when someone feels over-invested in his or her career and neglected other aspects such as family or health.
- Growth Agenda – Sometimes the desires to strike a balance come from a growth mindset. When people have a vision or goal to achieve something and they want to take a more holistic or wholesome approach in the several ends of each spectrum.
“Balance”, however, does cause some level of skepticism for some people. Will life be too boring or will one loses his or her leadership identity from being too “balanced”? Here I’d point out that striking a balance does not necessarily equals to being “neutral”. It is not about picking a ‘5’ position on a scale of 0-10. A balance is more often a position that makes us feel we have achieved some on both ends of a spectrum. Whether a “balance” means a 70-30 or 60-40 of two competing aspects, it is less relevant. Most of the people whom I had conversations with, never really sought for a “neutral” or “perfect balance” condition. What most people wanted were to lessen one extreme of a particular spectrum in order to be more successful, happier, and fulfilled.
There are many ways to coach for balance from using a priority matrix to Neuro-Linguistic Programming tools, but I’d like to share a concept that is less well known from the NeuroLeadership Institute (NLI). According to NLI, the way we can think about coaching for balance is to consider the idea of cognitive balance. The theoretical underpinnings made by the works from NLI’s Dr. David Rock and Dr. Dan Siegel is The Healthy Mind Platter, which addresses the need for simple, clear information about good mental habits.
The Healthy Mind Platter touches on seven essential mental activities necessary for optimum mental health in daily life. As a coach, I like this tool because it helps the coachee to evaluate and focus on a series of fundamentals that are going to make a significant difference in the way they approach balance. Fundamentals such as sleep, exercises, attention, social connections, play, relaxation, and mindfulness. Very often, people get incredible insights on how changing the way they approach these fundamentals lead to change of habits and eventually change in the way they manage work, life, hobbies, health, career, relationships and even finance.