Aug 03

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Struggling to find balance? Here’s the answer (to that and everything).

worklife balance stress solution

Here’s a question – originally posed on social media – and answer (written by me) which encapsulate everything you

need to understand why people struggle (with anything) and how to perform better.

It’s the conversation that underpins all of my work. It can take on many distinct themes, from relationships, anxiety, and confidence, to team work, leadership or decision making. But whatever the particular flavour of the conversation, the substance underneath remains unchanged.

Here it is.

The Question: I’m struggling to balance two extremes.

At one extreme I get worked up about the tiniest details, because someone has to; I have to be at the top of my game and perform at 100% at all times otherwise disasters will happen and it will be my fault and everyone will hate 


At the other extreme, having taken a step back to think “actually this one detail isn’t so important” (followed by “well if I’m letting my guard down over that then maybe this doesn’t matter so much either”) I keep stepping back all the way to “Earth is just a rock in space and we all die one day so nothing matters so why get out of bed.”

These views are equally unproductive but I’m struggling to know where the right middle ground lies. How much am I expected to be responsible for? How many mistakes am I allowed to make in the name of learning? Aren’t all 

mistakes avoidable so really I should be making none?

My Answer: It’s tempting to think that the middle ground lies somewhere externally. “If only we could figure out what falls into the category of unnecessary detail, and what falls into the category of important and crucial, then we’d know what to do and we’d feel ok all the time”. 

The trouble with that is there’s no set of rules that can be drawn up to apply to any issue, particularly anything that happens in real life. There will always be future scenarios that you didn’t take into account when drawing up the rules.
But it really doesn’t matter, and here’s why. The feeling of struggling, or imbalance, isn’t caused by external factors (even though it really feels like it is). It’s caused by your state of mind in that moment. This is why sometimes things look terrible until you sleep on them, and then in the morning they don’t look so bad at all.

When we’re in a calm, clear state of mind, we can make a sensible decision about how much is too much detail, and what professional levels of responsibility look like. If there’s an actual problem, we can see what to do about it, or seek help if we don’t know.

When we’re in a state of disarray, it’s impossible to know which way to go.
The cool part is that our brains naturally revert back to clarity (hence the benefits of sleeping on it, or getting a breath of fresh air).

Even better than that, if we really understand that our state of mind is the only factor affecting our experience of a situation in that moment, we’re less likely to get more het up when we’re feeling unresourceful. We simply recognise it for what it is (dodgy thinking) and know that we’ll get some fresh thought any moment and things will look clearer (including the answers to your questions about mistakes). In the meantime, we’re less like to try to fix the situation (or figure it all out) from an unclear state of mind.

Job done.


And that’s the job done not ju

st for matters of struggling to find balance. It’s the job done for anything that feels difficult at that moment. Which is why understanding the importance of state of mind is the single greatest means of improving everything.

With thanks to the person that let me share the original question.

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