On Balance, Boundaries, and Choices

fisherman and kid
I open my email to find a compilation of 499 quotes just for coaches, courtesy of The Coaching Tools Company. Delighted, I skim through, but only manage a few pages before one waves at me and catches my eye:

“Balance is not better time management, but better boundary management.
Balance means making choices and enjoying those choices.”
~ Betsy Jacobson

Ooo. I’m liking that. About a week ago, in spite of my vow of abstinence, I was drooling over a leather-bound planner/iPad holder/notepad. Oh, it was gorgeous – that rich, buttery soft leather that’s almost sinfully sensuous to touch. I coveted it.

I do love planners in any form – leather, vibrant contemporary vinyl, off-the-wall designs, computer programs, cell phone apps. … I love them all, yes, but they don’t love me back. So unless it’s a really weak moment, I won’t buy them. I pass them up because I know they’ll soon be in some dusty corner finishing out their 365 days of time management on their own.

Time management has never worked for me. Although I long ago shed my guilt over failing all those well-meaning time-management programs, planners and other shiny organizational doo dads still call to me from time to time.

That e-mail arrives at an opportune time; it’s another Quantum Flirt with a message that splashes like cold water on my face. Balance is less about time management than it is about boundary management. Now, why have I never thought of it that way?

Maybe I’m primed for this message because we’re purging “stuff” and making hard choices about what we value. Purging always creates a little angst when sweeping away what no longer serves or what we’ve held on to in service of “eventually.”

Or perhaps it’s because the holidays are so close and I’m nowhere near prepared. … if only I’d managed my time better. Maybe it’s because boundaries and choices dance in my head like seasonal sugarplums – decisions required as we contemplate selling one house while building another.

All of those thoughts are to weak moments as water to mosquitoes. And weak moments are when buttery soft planners call out to be held, when potential jobs offer good financial rewards but not much heart, when “perhaps I should…” thoughts begin obscuring “what resonates…” knowledge.

Today’s Quantum Flirt crystallizes what I know on a visceral level but haven’t always articulated – at least not until Betsy’s words take a quantum leap off the page with a blinding clarity: the secret to balance is being accountable to my authentic self, developing my own litmus test for determining which choices hold contentment and which merely toleration. If I accept the gauntlet that’s been tossed before me, then I also accept the fact that accountability lies with me and only me. I must give up blaming outside forces, other people, or lack of time for my boundary disputes.

I have a friend who’s wildly competent at her job. She acknowledges that being competent is vastly important to her, deeply embedded in her psyche. She also has a beautiful inner drive to help and inspire others.

These two purposes jockey for time in her life. For a while she juggled both – an example of time management at work – but quickly found out it just wasn’t enough. Both purposes suffered, boundaries were breached, frustration reigned. Finally she realized that it was time to set and honor her boundaries, which meant making hard and maybe painful choices about which path to follow (or how to travel both without allowing either to encroach).

Today, she’s still wildly competent at her job … but the official coaching and inspirational work is on hold. She set her boundaries, made her choices, and followed the path that resonated the most at this time. She’s fully accountable for those choices, and that’s why those boundaries are standing firm.

I love this Quantum Flirt of a quote. It restores accountability where it belongs: with me. If there’s anyone or anything to blame, it’s me – not outside forces, not the boss, not my family, not even how I do or don’t manage time. Best of all, there’s not much need to manage time when I manage my boundaries and remain accountable to my choices, because time falls right into place.

Now, that’s not to say I won’t covet a planner here or there, especially a buttery soft leather one. But sometimes coveting reawakens a sleepy awareness. And that’s always a good thing.

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