I have an early memory of working on a vocabulary treasure chest. I think I was in Miss Peterson’s second grade class. I had to choose from a list of words to fill in this sentence: “The man walked ____ across the tightrope.” Having no idea what any of the options meant, I chose “nonchalantly.” (The answer was “gingerly,” for those wondering).  Weird that I still remember.

Treasure Chest
Photo by Ashin K Suresh on Unsplash

Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could walk tightropes a bit more nonchalantly?

These days, I frequently find myself sketching a shape like this as I talk to groups and individual mentoring clients about the challenges of navigating seemingly endless contradictions and tensions:

The infinity symbol seems more dynamic and encouraging than a pendulum, where we handle uncertainty by swinging too far in one direction, then inevitably over-correct the other way.

Photo by Mike Von on Unsplash
Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

I appreciate Gary Keller’s advice to think in terms of “counterbalance” rather than balance here. He writes about magic often happening at extremes and requiring extraordinary time commitments. We overinvest out of necessity, then compensate eventually in the other direction, rather than keeping all of our roles in perfect balance at any one time. The image of a tight rope walker helps me here, where they lean slightly too far one way then gently course correct — rarely spending much time exactly in the middle of the wire, but not catastrophically overcompensating either.

Over the next four weeks, I plan to explore four areas where I see us needing to borrow this ability of skillfully counterbalancing between two extremes. Thanks for watching this space. My hope is that it will help us walk through these challenging days a bit less gingerly.

In the meantime, if you’re feeling a bit out of balance this week, don’t be too hard on yourself. Think “counterbalance” instead, and trust that a time of leaning slightly the other way will come before too long.

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