Finding Personal Balance

Finding personal balance - metallic spinning top on wooden surface as a metaphor
Photograph by Christophe Hautier

Finding personal balance is an ongoing work. For me, but for many others too, I suspect. This year more so than most, given the world is in a once in a generation or once in a century crisis right now. Writing a blog post every so often is part of my wider strategy to maintain my balance; expressing some of the thoughts on my mind is helpful. It’s been gratifying to find that some of my posts have helped others too, I have received some great emails.

There hasn’t been a post for some weeks. Somehow it seems trivial to be posting about my life and thoughts while society is being torn apart by the COVID-19 virus. On reflection, even though frightening and tragic, it’s part of our lives now and our lives have to go on through good and bad. Life has to go on. Not in a trite way. But in a way that accepts that it’s not all smooth, not all positive. And we have to move on, we can’t stop, we owe it to ourselves and to others and to our world to carry on. Personal balance is critical to be able to contribute effectively on an individual level.

Thankfully people carrying on and dealing with the world is bringing out the best in many. Reviving forgotten civilities and kindling a lost sense of community. I would guess that this is part of people needing to discover some equilibrium in an unstable time. As is often the case, crisis bonds people. The collective is more powerful than the individual.

I’m trying to do my piece. Small social connections that don’t get any mind space when I’m in my usual head down rush through life. Reconnecting with my friends. Asking my friends for support and advice. Working with my business colleagues to navigate through these choppy waters, a period of Darwinism for many business sectors. Emphasising the team working and personal support aspects in parallel with the harsh realities of the financial spreadsheets.

I’ve posted several times on general wellbeing and mental health. My journey towards finding personal balance continues. It’s not a project with a start and an end. It’s managing a wave, sometimes with a white peak of spray breaking from the crest. Sometimes the trough of the swell, darker, shielded from the sun. Like most capabilities, it develops over time, my skillset and self-awareness have advanced.

Yesterday was a day of small anniversaries. 19 months to the day since my last alcoholic drink. Hitting the target of having meditated 100 days in a row. Both of these have been practices to help me with finding personal balance. Funnily today my wife asked a craft beer salesperson whether any non-alcoholic beers were in his range and he scoffed and asked was I a recovering alcoholic. The common and simplistic comment or thought. But no, just a man who finds it better to face up to himself with complete clarity of mind.

100 days of meditation has really helped me. The vast bulk just before sleep and it’s made a lot of difference. I also do some morning or during the day sessions and have even tried walking mindfulness and commuting mindfulness. All have been helpful. Even after many months, it’s still a task to keep the mind focused during practice. Like many areas, application over a long period is required to achieve a useful level of competence. I’ve found the Calm app hugely useful.

I’m trying to bring balance professionally too, and understand the fit between the professional me, the social me and the private me. Lack of balance professionally is common, I work in a fast-paced environment. It’s hard to remain in balance, we signed up for a fast-growth strategy and that doesn’t always result in equilibrium. Consciously or unconsciously that’s part of the attraction at some level.

Strategies for finding personal balance at work has resulted in me focusing more. Asking at the start of every week what are the activities that will make a difference, then forgetting the rest. Then each day checking the list and at the end of the week checking once more. Working out what will make a big difference and then forgetting all the rest of the tasks. It sounds easy, it sounds like something out of a consultant-penned business book. But it’s harder than it sounds. When you have been with a business through phases and you know it inside out, it’s easy to fall into a trap where you’re conscious of thousands of moving parts. But most of them are just white noise. I’ve stopped watching them all and I expect colleagues will pick them up, or I’ll hear the sound of spinning plates crashing.

Other areas for me include connecting and reconnecting with friends old and new. I find I can get lost in my own life and neglect staying in touch. Easy to do for an off the scale introvert. But by definition friends are open and welcoming and supportive. The measure of a good friend is when you start chatting with them, it feels like the continuation of the same conversation you were having weeks, months or even years ago. And being able to talk about any subject and not feel self-conscious.

I’m also trying to keep the creative space in my brain alive. Not just creativity in the business sphere, but in the creative and intellectual areas. I picked up my bass guitar for the first time in a while. I’m rediscovering reading more. I’m listening to music more. Looking at old films and top-class drama series. Finding personal balance is enhanced when I stretch across a spectrum of serious and creative pursuits.

It’s a serious time for the world. The trap for me is to become very focused on the challenges before us all and spend my time anxiously reading and tracking events. The best solution for me is to stay healthy by following the advice and to work on my personal balance, to derive strength and resilience from finding personal balance.


Also published on Medium.

2 thoughts on “Finding Personal Balance”

  1. Good stuff Stephen, as someone who self harms through being a workaholic your article touches a nerve. My own strategy is very simple, the outdoors, I love walking, climbing and generally being outdoors. My dog Archie died suddenly last year and I notice I go out less, not because I have less of a need or desire but I simply don’t have to go out first thing or last thing because he needs to pee. Our walk down the path and into the woods was a moment to set the mind for the day, to absorb the green, the smells of decaying leaves and the sound of the birds. Even in the midst of a shit storm this time was a great leveller and still is. That constant in life of woods, rivers, birds and the feeling of your body moving across the countryside creates vivid and evocative imagery which I can recall a stressful moments.

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