The journey towards ‘balance’ seems to come up often as I work with leaders and young professionals.  Early on, I always assumed balance meant that we gave parts of our lives equal attention, especially with the on-going, ambiguous, and somewhat unhelpful “work/life” balance discussion.   Recently though, I’ve come to find that balance is more a state of mind, and it has to do with how you perceive and feel about the rhythm of your life, your work, and your service. Balance is an individualized pursuit and a science of one. 

So to that end, I thought I would offer a second mini-series exploring the eight areas identified by the ‘Wheel of Life’ as I’ve had some new insights about the topic for leaders and individuals. 

Relationships as Partnerships

My seven-year wedding anniversary with my wife is coming up next month and I always spend this time period reflecting on all of our adventures and the great life we have lived together. Throughout the year, we also do our best to not take one another for grant-it, remembering to appreciate how much more our lives have been enriched by one another. Am I getting too sappy?

Maybe so. But the theme in all of this arrives from our mentor, friend, and college professor whom married us. In his counsel, he spoke about marriage not being an attempt to keep the great love affair that started the relationship alive, but to nourish and take care of the partnership that the relationship becomes.

It is sage advice. And while it has worked extremely well for Lindsay and I, I’ve also found that the concept of partnership works well in several settings, including how we relate to our family, how we treat and interact with our friends, and how we do business with others. Healthy partnerhships take work, and that burden can’t just fall onto one person; whether with family, friends, or in business, everyone must contribute in meaningful ways to make that relationship thrive.

At the heart of a strong partnership is open and honest communication. Feelings and ideas must be shared. Discomforts and excitements must be recognized and celebrated. Wrong and right doings must be learned from and acknowledged. Partnerships require self-awareness and awareness of others. We can’t be afraid to ask questions nor can we be afraid to reflect and arrive at answers. Did I mention this takes work?

I get to this point in my think pieces and think like an outside reader: this is an intriguing (maybe) take on relationships, but what does this have to do with seeking balance?

Since healthy relationships (and whatever your approach to them might be) take time and energy, you must consider the effort relationships deserve and the space you’ll make for them within your life. Do you have time to stay in touch with your 20 closest friends from childhood and college? Are you making space for your family scattered across the country? Are you leaving room for new friendships that develop at work or in your new community? How much capacity do you have to really honor and value all of your relationships?

For me, these are not easy questions to contemplate and they’ve come with a cost. I have sacrificed friendships at times for family. And I have sacrificed time with family for work on a few too many occasions than I care to remember. There are people I care about deeply and that I have known for a long time, but I can’t seem to find the time to pick up the phone and call them. And each of these scenarios makes me feel a little out of balance.

To be centered and putting our best foot forward in the world, I think we need to continually assess and manage our balance, asking these difficult questions. Relationships often define who we are as humans, so they demand the care and concern of a compassionate partner.