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LEAN IN, LEAN OUT…. OR LIVE WIDE?

“By the way…don’t go looking for balance in your life. Scholars tell us exceptional performance requires focus and determination, and you will not perform well if you are perfectly balanced in midair like some overwhelmed cartoon character.

Life events do not come to us in moderation, they come in twists and turns and towering waves, complete with unrealistic expectations. Balance is both a myth and an unproductive distraction. Life requires action.”

This quote from my 2007 book, “The Cahill Factor: Turning Adversity into Advantage” is as true today was is was in the mid 1900’s when my grandmother was widowed twice by the time she was 34 years old, and after she had given birth to seven children, only to see two die in young childhood and infancy. (Grandma would have laughed at the concept of balance in life…but she was a satisfied woman who worked until her 70’s and reared five productive daughters!)

Cognitive Behavioral Psychology teaches us that our thoughts affect our feelings and our feelings affect our behaviors. If we think we are supposed to have a balanced life…which is a thought that must be associated with great privilege because it totally does not happen in the life of anyone I have ever met….then we will feel like a failure, or short changed, or just plain frustrated to not be able to achieve this mythical goal.

A more realistic thought is to see ourselves as “Living Wide” This vision allows us to move both forward and lateral…. across the width and breath of our lives. We might spend hours on a work project, more or less time with the family that night, then visit our mothers, plan a cook out, or send a care package to a college student or child in the military. Women actually can do it all…and laugh at the same time.

The idea of moving easily from one task to another, living in the moment during the task, and confidently realizing we do not have to be frozen in time lest we fall out of balance, can actually boost performance and confidence. (Confidence develops from competency)

In fact, since anxiety inhibits learning, I believe the stress of trying to find balance actually reduces our effectiveness. Besides, a great life is one where we lift up our eyes and contribute in authentic ways to those around us. Constantly measuring our balance and our time may not allow us to project forward to a world that could use our help.

Women are really good at living wide… in fact, it is believed that the fiber that connects both sides of the brain is often wider in some areas of some women’s brains, than in most men’s brains…allowing us to “take it all in, ” live wide, and thrive! Sometimes I wonder if all the talk about balance is a way to “dumb women down” and give men a fighting chance to succeed in the 21st Century…and we fell for myth because in a sexist world we are easily convinced we must be doing something wrong!

This information is for educational and informational use only, and is not meant as a substitute for professional psychological, psychiatric or medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.  Always seek the advice of a qualified mental health or medical provider with any questions you may have regarding a mental problem or disorder, or medical condition.