New Model For “Balanced” Living

I remember playing on the playground as a young kid. This was back in the day when all the equipment was made from metal that was riveted, bolted or welded together. Those works of art were usually placed on a pad of black asphalt or concrete; if it was on pea-gravel then you were really living large! Some you reading this may remember those days. The see-saw was my favorite, until the first time the person on the other end jumped off while I was suspended in air. Can you relate to that one? See-sawing for me after that experience was never quite as much fun and always a bit anxiety producing.

The myth of work-life balance is a lot like see-sawing. In both, balance is a core concept but you are never really balanced! Instead, it’s a constant up or down with an occasional, unexpected let down that can be painful (and sometimes harmful). Balance implies something static and life is anything but. Instead, our lives are dynamic, have a rhythm and are lived out in chapters and seasons.

So, let’s “get real up in here” and get rid of the wishful notion that work-life balance is a workable model we aspire to. Have you ever seen it? I don’t think so. When you see someone who appears to have a handle on work-life balance, it’s most likely someone who experiencing and building enduring success. Striving for work-life balance and building enduring success could not be more different.

Although we know that enduring success has 4 irreducible components, is there a model, framework, or heuristic of some sort that can make it workable and applicable?

Yes, it’s called the Kaleidoscope Strategy and is based on the extensive work Nash and Stevenson have done with high-level executives, professionals and achievers who have achieved enduring success. As with much useful knowledge, the Kaleidoscope Strategy has been around for a while (over a decade) but most haven’t heard of it. That’s one reason why it hasn’t been touted as a workable model for “balanced” living, but it should be.

A kaleidoscope consists of a single lens within a tube along with a number of different chambers that contain a lot of different and varied pieces of glass. These peices then get moved around either intentionally or unexpectedly. Each time the glass pieces are moved, new and beautiful patterns of symmetry and variety are created that can then be seen when reflected by mirrors in the Kaleidoscope.

A Kaleidoscope Strategy for living is similar. The Kaleidoscope would be your own vision or picture of a successful life consisting of 4 chambers. The chambers would be the 4 irreducible components of enduring success……..Happiness, Achievement, Significance and Legacy. The glass pieces are all your “stuff” that is constantly getting moved around to create the actual patterns you see . Viewed in this way, your success is now becomes about being intentional with choosing all your “pieces”, how well you move them or respond to the unexpected, which pieces you need where and when they need to be there. Your picture of success will look different at various chapters and seasons of life and viewed from different angles, but when you step back and look at the integrated whole it is indeed a thing of beauty and work of art.

The successful people in Nash and Stevenson’s research who achieved enduring success used a Kaleidoscope Strategy. It seems they intuitively know that life was about “give and take”, or knowing “how-much-of-what-to-do-when”. In other words, in addition to knowing what they wanted they also knew you could have it all, just not all at the same time.

To simplify it further, the people Nash and Stevenson found to particularly successful shared two characteristics:

  • Success wasn’t attributed to a single event or aspect of life; they viewed it as a broad, dynamic experience of accomplishment that factored in all 4 categories of enduring success.
  • What they counted as “real” success included a wide range of accomplishments of varying magnitude (they didn’t have to “blow it out” in every area). It also wasn’t about a specific number or amount of activity and rewards in any one category, but rather a proportionate mix.

So, the good news is there is a workable model for “balanced” or successful living. But how do you practically move from the Kaleidoscope metaphor to making it an applicable tool for your life….or business? It turns out there are two key skills:

  • Being able to recognize “Just Enough” and act on it
  • Knowing how “Switch and Link”

I’ll discuss both of these in the next couple of posts. In the meantime, what model are you using in your pursuit of success, whether that be life in general or business? Please leave a comment, I would love to know how its working for you, what needs to be better, or what’s missing.