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Integration vs. Balance

How many times have you heard the debate or felt the frustration personally over trying to achieve a “balanced life?”


Why do we focus on balance as the ultimate goal?  Who decided that balance was the ideal.  Ok – so if we were balanced everyone in our life would get exactly what they needed when they needed it…. (including me) work, family, children, spiritual well-being – balance.

When are we going to just own that this perspective is inherently wrong and destined for failure 100% of the time?

Yes that would make a balanced life impossible.

I would rather have us talk about an integrated life.

This allows us to acknowledge the reality of our world today.  Our lives are complicated and include give and take. Sometimes we need to be all in, but over time we can integrate the other pieces to make the right blend for us.  Each priority can be right-sized to meet our needs/goals/aspirations vs. some unattainable ideal of perfectly balanced.

I love the “5 circles of life” exercise to illustrate the point.  Here’s your assignment.  Draw a circle for each of the following:



Family & Relationships


Give back

Draw the circles in the appropriate size and in relationship to the other circles.  Are they all perfectly even and balanced? Mine weren’t but that wasn’t the point.

I did this exercise for the first time when I was 40.  Since then, I drew them for the 5 key periods in my life….first for my early career immediately following college;  then early marriage pre-kids;  then marriage with kids,  marriage post kids and finally for today as our kids live adult independent lives.

For my current state, I drew both my current and ideal state.  It had a profound effect on how I “saw my life”.  A new perspective that clearly showed it was about integration and not a balance.

There were periods early on when I was all in WORK,
and all other circles were either very small or nonexistent. That is what that time of my life required to launch my career.  As I drew my current state and ideal state, it was clear to me very quickly, that they did not match.  But is that bad?

This helped me understand my unrest and tension.  It also made it clear where I needed to focus to get the mix more integrated. I wish I had done this exercise earlier in my life.  It would have added a new perspective.

Let’s quit beating ourselves up over whether or not we have a balanced life.

Instead, let’s reframe the exercise into identifying what kind of life we want to lead.  Then we can focus our attention and debate about how to integrate it so that our overall lives are fulfilling.

And remember, each phase of our life may look different because what’s important at that time changes as we change.  Let’s make the goal about living a full and integrated life…and remember it is always up to us to lead it.



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