Thursday, April 4, 2013

Balance: A personal choice

Life is such a balancing act, isn't it? You and I try to balance work and play, careers and family, living in the moment and planning for the future. But one person's balance is another's imbalance!

My latest issue of Outlook, the magazine of AAUW (American Association of University Women), features Melissa Harris-Perry on its cover. Harris-Perry is a Tulane University professor, scholar, author and host of the Melissa Harris-Perry TV show on MSNBC. She credits AAUW and a fellowship from that organization as key to her successful career, saying, "The support of AAUW allowed me to finish my first book and get it sent off to the academic press for review just one week before giving birth. And, as most academic women can attest, it sure got much harder to write after my daughter was born. AAUW support was the key ingredient that allowed me to balance the tenure and the birthing clocks." She knows it does take the help of others to keep all those balls in the air.

Harris-Perry, who lives in New Orleans where she teaches at Tulane, commutes to New York City for her show every weekend. She balances all that with her personal life, crediting her husband and mother as supportive family. But she says something I've not thought of before about balance: "Balance is over the long term, not the short term." As she manages marriage, motherhood and a busy career that also includes an ongoing publishing schedule, she says she has no plans to slow down. I was both exhausted and inspired as I read the article about her. I admire her drive. And yet I know that balance is such an individual thing. Seeing it as short term or long term—that's an individual choice, too. I can't tell you what's right for you. You can't tell me what balance means for me.

Find your own sweet spot. What does balance mean to you? What needs to be included as you try manage all the pieces of your life? What's essential? Non-essential? These are good things to consider. Be intentional—and make your life work for you (not for someone else).

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