FORGET ABOUT BALANCE
“Congruence entails living in dynamic harmony, where strands of our lives play in concert together in a way that has a deep and meaningful resonance and that changes as we learn to grow” – C. Gergen & G. Vanourek
I used to really love the balance of work and life and I did make several attempts to integrate it into my life without success. My best attempt always was to score the life wheel (I used to call it work plan for life) into categories that included health, education, financial, personal development, career, family & friends, leisure and contribution. For someone who is familiar with this, the next step is to score the different areas. The scale to use is 1 – 10 with 1 with being the lowest and 10 being the highest. So, I would do this once in a while when I felt like I was struggling with my life or not getting any fulfillment.
The most challenging phase was when I decided to quit my job and start my own enterprise. I would spend the day on non-essentials with my mind wondering and questioning if I worked with someone would they pay me having this kind of focus. This was the time when social media was becoming popular and I would notice that I spent hours on this platform.
Regardless of my attempt to attain balance, my success was very minimal and the frustration kept on growing until I read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steve Covey. What caught my eye was the last habit, “Sharpening the Saw.” It caused a mind shift in my life and I learned that life is not about balancing all areas of life. I started thinking, maybe true balance doesn’t exist just as perfection doesn’t exist. This challenged me, and I thought to myself, maybe we should look at balance from another perspective.
To start addressing my frustration, I had to start with replacing the word balance with congruence. Congruence is a noun that means agreement or harmony. Wherever your attention is, it is undivided. Whether you are watching a sunset or working on a project, no part of you is attending to something else. No part is whispering, “but you really have to start preparing dinner,” or “I should have checked my e-mails earlier.” No part is imagining how the sunset could be improved by a little orange or thinking of starting a new project. With this realization, I replaced my work plan for life with life of congruence.
Most people think of a life of congruence in terms of maintaining “balance” in their lives – ensuring enough time for each of the important area in their life they value. Surprisingly, time is just one variable and doesn’t speak to the quality and nature of our respective endeavors. Moreover, such thinking allows us to compartmentalize these attempts without having the distinct areas to cohere.
To be able to start living a life of congruence, I have now started to see myself as integral; what I do, who I am and what I believe is one integrated life. Congruence is about alignment, integration and the notion that there has to be some flexibility and control into how work is done. When I am stuck, as happens once in while in my pursuit of congruence, I take a step back to self-reflect and ask, “What do I need most right now?” instead of juggling so many things at the same time. “What is the one area of my life I have been neglecting that I need to focus on?”
The best way to achieve congruence is to make our passion and our work one in the same. Our values and purpose should resonate with every aspect of our life, showing up in all our activities. You can be the same person in every aspect of life, in your work, in your home, family life, and in your community. When we don’t have that congruence, eventually life can blow up.
A life of congruence also means taking time for personal renewal and reinvention, beyond resting and recharging, often including restoration of authenticity and passion in our lives. When we drive too hard or end up on the wrong path, we must have the courage to stop, look around and self-correct. Renewal and reinvention help keep us on track.
As we strive to piece together this dynamic puzzle known as life, our aim should be a life of congruence, one in which the different areas agree with one another in ways that cohere. What do you think? Let’s engage.
– Bikundo Onyari