Tuesday, May 05, 2009

A Week of Balance: Sunny Schlenger

Bending With the Wind

Have you ever watched high wire performers negotiate a tightrope in the wind? They use a pole to help them balance and if you keep your eye on the pole, you’ll see it tip here, and dip there – sometimes gently and sometimes dramatically as the tightrope artist endeavors to stay upright and even.

Their strategy is actually a great metaphor for living your life, because in real life there’s also wind. Certain days and even weeks are calmer than others, but eventually a gust comes by or even a gale. Sometimes a tornado. There are no “normal” days in nature, but there is balance. And balance is what you’re striving for.

I spent way too much time in my life waiting for predictable seasons and schedules. Ha ha. What I eventually learned is that there are probabilities and likelihoods but that’s as predictable as life usually gets. That doesn’t mean that you can’t plan, but that you need to be ready for those gusts and gales that suddenly appear. And as anyone familiar with the martial arts knows, the most effective strategy for dealing with an onslaught of any kind is to bend with the force in order to gain leverage.

We’re all going to be out of balance a certain percentage of the time. What’s important is to recognize that you’re being blown one way or the other, and to correct for it as soon as you’re able. Some gusts can be handled with a gentle dip the other way, while longer-lasting gales might require a more forceful correction.

If you apply this analogy to an endeavor like coaching, you might be able to identify your naturally more profitable times of the year when business is more solid and sustainable. As a professional organizer, I found that spring and fall were the seasons when people thought more about reducing clutter and creating systems and were willing to look for help. What surprised me was that new year’s, a time of the year where people are naturally thinking about new beginnings was much less of a busy time for me. The reason? Folks had spent their money over the holidays. Balance in business has a lot to do with recognizing if and how your own seasons turn.

Balance is not only about natural cycles but also ways that you can feel more in control. If kids’ school schedules are running your show during the academic year, you may need to actively schedule balance breaks so that you feel that your creative needs are being met. The same is true if you’re working and/or going to school yourself, or caring for young children or elderly relatives. Or maybe your best chance for some relief and re-calibration is to get away for awhile. Everyone’s situation is different but you do have to stay aware of what’s happening and how you feel about it.

I don’t know that anyone can maintain balance all of the time; too much of life is out of our direct control. But if you carry your pole and bend with the wind, you’ll have a much better chance of making it to the other side – confident and whole.

Sunny Schlenger is a professional organizer, author and mentor with over 30 years of experience as a pioneer in her field. She helped launch the “custom-tailored” approach to getting organized in the 90’s with her best-selling book, How To Be Organized In Spite Of Yourself, whose approach was licensed by Harvard University’s training and development program. She then took the concept of organizing to the next level by integrating it with spirituality. The result, Organizing For The Spirit was published in 2004. You can find Sunny's website here and her blog here.


Holly said...

As a black belt in Aikido, I found the analogy in this post to be very appropriate and real.

Whenever we are in conflict with something, even if it's being frustrated about the weather, we're throwing ourselves out of balance.

The first step toward lasting change is simply accepting the spot that we're standing. Once we do that, we can balance the steps toward change...

Nice post. Nice woman. Nice.

Tess said...

Thanks Sunny, this is indeed a really good analogy, both for life generally and focusing more closely on this business example.

Danette said...

I really like the tightrope metaphor. I'm imagining the pole as "feelers" that we dance with, getting a sense of the atmosphere and an understanding of what it will take for us to move through it.

Funny, but somehow thinking about that makes me feel like I can exhale and relax.

Thank you Sunny.

Sunny said...

Holly, Tess and Danette - thank you!
And yes, exhale and relax into whatever the moment brings to you. It's the best strategy for deciding what should come next. :-)

Jackie said...

Thanks, Sun. I always find myself breathing more deeply and exhaling more fully when I read your posts. It's been a puffy week or two; always good to steady the pole.

Sunny said...

Hey Jac - Puffy week? Hang on tight and stay in touch. :-)

Tori said...

Wow, this post hit home! Thank you for your words.

Helene said...

Thanks, Sun, this really hit home for me too! Just the right timing!
I'm going to exhale and relax, something new for me.