I’ve had a longing, and been on a quest, for the elusive work-life “balance” for as long as I can remember. Whether it was in high school balancing school work, a part-time job at 3 different municipal pools, and get-togethers with my friends; or as an adult balancing executive roles, now my own business, family, and friends.

I constantly found myself out of balance on a day-to-day basis. I became well acquainted with the feeling that, on any given day, I was letting someone down. Speaking with mentors, and folks who had done studies and research in this area, I eventually shifted my mindset about balance: balance across all areas of my life was something I would maintain over time rather than attempt to be in balance across all areas of my life, every day. And I went about my busy, productive life. Hoorah! I thought, I’d solved the balance equation.

Or so I thought.

Enter 2020, when suddenly the need to commute or travel to client meetings across the province or country were no longer permitted. No more meetings, lunches, coffee meet-up’s, and all-day in-person workshops.

There was now all this extra time in my calendar. Balance was more within my grasp than ever before – possibly even on a daily basis! I imagined myself having pots of stew simmering on the stove; doing yoga in the living room as a lunch-time break…the possibilities were endless.

Or so I thought.

Instead, I suddenly felt wildly uncomfortable, and compelled to fill all this new, extra time with productivity. I mean, there were all these new online facilitation tools to learn, workshops to re-design for online delivery. Glancing at my yoga mat across the room, I shook my head and muttered under my breath with indignation: Yoga breaks. Bah! I’m too busy navigating a pandemic to get into warrior pose right now.

That was the moment.

Hearing myself utter those words is when I realized I had a problem. Imbalance, it turns out, is my comfort zone. Productivity is my addiction. I’m familiar, comfortable, and my personality is fully in cahoots with imbalance. I have systems, ways of being, and ways of working all built around the assumption of imbalance in my life. If I couldn’t fit in a yoga break now – when I was my own boss, facing no commute, with no young children in the house – then when?

I am the one getting in my own way. I am the one allowing myself to be lured by my favorite drug: hyper-productivity.

This realization was a breakthrough.  And a reminder of why it is so hard to break patterns: our behaviour can be so embedded in our personality that we don’t even notice the patterns we are creating for ourselves – even when those patterns don’t serve us, even when we’ve been longing to change a pattern for a long time. Here I thought I’d solved the balance equation when, in fact, the root cause was still running the show: an addiction to hyper productivity.

Key, though, is that I am now conscious of this pattern, and of my own behaviour that supports this pattern. And now that I’m conscious of it, and have identified it, I can no longer ignore it. In my coaching practice, my clients and I work together to identify unconscious patterns of behaviour so that we can identify a specific pattern, make it conscious, and then get curious about it by asking some key questions:

  • How is this pattern serving me?
  • How is this pattern not serving me?
  • When does this pattern show up?
  • What gets in the way of me breaking this pattern?
  • How would it feel to break this pattern?
  • How might I interrupt this pattern?
  • What will support me in breaking this pattern?

So, I will be spending some time now working through these questions myself, to work through this pattern of imbalance that has looped on repeat for decades of my life. Has this same pattern shown up for you over the years? Is there another pattern that keeps showing up in your life? Let me know in the comments or flip me an email.

Over on the Instagram page, @agencytochange, we’re using these questions as journal prompts to support intention setting for 2021. I also share journal prompts, tools and tips in the monthly Agency II Change newsletter – to receive it, sign up to become an Insider at agencytochange.com

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