Striking a Healthy Balance

April 21st, 2009

Many years ago, a teacher and I were discussing balance. At that time my life was quite out of balance, way too much work, and way too little everything else. I thought that if I waited long enough - after the next big meeting, at the end of the semester, once the project was finished, etc. that my life would even out and equilibrium would commence.

I quickly discovered that it doesn't work that way. Balance and equilibrium don't magically happen just because we hope they will. It takes an act of will and determination. Hard to do when there is so much to attend to, so many causes to care about, so much work to do.

And, like you--because I am dedicated to social change, fighting injustice, and building a better world--sometimes it is hard to "allow" myself to relax, slow down, say no...

We need to remember that, paradoxically, it is precisely because there is so much to do that we must be quite mindful of how we spend our precious energy and time. It is crucial that we are as capable of saying "no" as we are able to agree to something. Perhaps it is even more important that we develop the skills to refuse. We need to be able to say "no" gracefully and definitively.

In this time of abundant opportunity given the current political context, and scant resources given the financial context, leaders now find ourselves in a place of wanting to take advantage of possibilities, while juggling real capacity challenges. I know that many of us feel as though we are walking a very precarious tightrope. The choices we make now can have long-term implications, and we can't predict what the future will look like, which brings us back to the issue of balance.

If we wait for the next granting cycle to be over, or the next project to finish before we attend to our well-being, balance will never happen. Well-being is something we need to attend to everyday. Take a minute and put down whatever you are doing right now (including reading this column) and reflect on:

How does my life feel?

Am I happy with the balance I currently have?

If yes, what can I do to keep this balance that I enjoy?

If no, what small step can I take to shift the balance?

Imagine a step you can take this week, tomorrow... What is it?

Imagine yourself taking that step - whether it is to maintain what you have, or to make a shift.

How would your work be impacted if you lived a life in balance? What would happen in the rest of your life?

Equilibrium is not static - it is a constant dance. It is a state or sense of being able to maintain balance and composure. No one can stand still for long - everything changes. Our capacity to respond to the dance of life depends on how we move through every moment. Which is why making a small change in how we move can make a very big difference in the overall feel of our lives. And if we are balanced in our lives, our leadership becomes much more elegant and effective.

So may your "yeses" be clear, and your "nos" be graceful. May you find good balance. I wish you well.


March 2009


In addition to the appointments of Rockwood alumni Van Jones and Cecilia Munoz we wrote about last month, we are happy to report that Rhea Suh has been announced as the Assistant Secretary of Policy Management and Budget for the Department of the Interior. Rhea comes from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation where she has been a conservation and science program officer. Prior to that she served as an environment program officer with the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. She is a member of the board of the Consultative Group on Biodiversity and the Environmental Justice Initiative of the School of Natural Resources at the University of Michigan. Rhea holds a master's degree from the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University and a bachelor's degree in environmental science from Columbia University. Congrats Rhea!