Life Balance, Mermaids, and other Myths

Grow in Wisdom
myth of life balance

You may or may not have noticed but mermaids are a thing right now. So are unicorns.

No kidding. Spend a little time on Etsy or at your local kitschy gift boutique and you’ll find all kinds of unicorn and mermaid themed merchandise, everything from tea towels and coffee mugs to jewelry and throw pillows. I even found a bottle of mermaid hair tonic online. (I’m not really sure what that is or does but I bet you anything it has glitter in it. And I kind of want to buy some. Just to see.)

It’s easy to understand why women have latched onto the mermaid/unicorn thing. Everybody needs a bit of magic in their lives, a harmless fantasy or two. What makes it harmless is the fact that we know that mermaids, like unicorns, are mythical creatures. (But wouldn’t it be cool if mermaids really did exist?)

The Myth We Actually Believe In

Many of us have allowed another mythical creature to inhabit our lives. This one is much more dangerous because we believe it truly does exist – or could, if were just tried harder, worked harder, and got our act together.

The mythical creature to which I refer is balance. Life balance, to be precise.

You know what I’m talking about.  The state of peace, grace, and perfection that is achieved when, finally and simultaneously, we…

Catch up on work, current events, reading, and unfinished craft projects

Clean the freezer, closet, garage, and gutters

Call our mothers, children, financial planner, and old friends from high school

Start working out, taking vitamins, eating kelp, and doing yoga

Bathe the dog, volunteer, journal, recycle

And – oh, yes – make time for ourselves.

Balance.  An unobtainable condition. A totally mythical creature.

But we wish it were real, don’t we?

The Problem with Balance

Obtaining balance in our lives, being able to do, and be, and accomplish all the stuff that we truly want to would be even cooler than seeing a mermaid or unicorn. As women, we’ve been conditioned to believe that balance actually exists. Or would, if we were just better people.

Okay, let’s pause here for a moment. If you look at the list above, you will note that I’ve written more than one encouraging and/or inspiring (and hopefully helpful) posts on quite a few of these subjects.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do any of these things. In fact, most anything from that list could add something good to your life.   But you can’t do all the things, all the time. Trying to do so will only result in failure, guilt, and stress. Why?

(Repeat after me…)

Because balance is a myth!

What I’ve Learned About Life Balance

As a younger woman, I spent most of my life running after the illusive work-life balance and never once catching hold of it, not even for a day.  Now that I’m older, wiser, and fiercer, I’ve learned about something far more useful than balance and one-hundred percent real – choices.

I can’t do all the things. But I can do some things – the important things.  The trick lies in figuring out what those things are.

Now, in a given year, I actually do accomplish more than most people. As I’ve said in previous posts, I’m a huge fan of setting goals and using planners to make sure I am using my time wisely.

As a woman over 50, I’ve come to appreciate that time is the most precious commodity I have. No amount of wishing or work will give me more minute on this earth, so I don’t want to waste any of them.

However, in addition to not wasting those precious minutes, I also want to make sure I’m enjoying them.

When we overstuff our agendas, we might accomplish more (though I’m not honestly convinced of that) but we probably won’t do it as well, and we definitely won’t enjoy it as much – and perhaps not at all.  When I make smart, realistic choices, the opposite happens. I get a lot done, I do it well, and I enjoy what I’m doing.

But I can’t do it all. Nobody can.

Letting Go of the Myth and Taking Hold of What Matters

Unless you want to spend your life feeling stressed out, spread too thin, and steeped in the knowledge that you’re not doing anything as well as you should, you’re going to have to make choices.

On any given day, there will always be more things to do than hours to accomplish them in. That’s just a fact of life. In order to be your best self, the woman who fulfills her purpose and fulfills it well, you’re going to have to say no to some things – probably way more things than you want to.

But here’s the good news, you also get to say yes! Yes, to the things that matter. Yes, to the things you do well.  Yes, to achieving your dreams. Yes, to fulfilling your purpose.

Here’s the challenge I’m issuing to you. This week, instead of buying into the myth of balance and getting bogged down in minutia that masquerades as urgent – just say no.

Then say yes.

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