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14 July 2011

Allison read and listened to some of her favorite poems that always help her to reboot her brain and find the path back to a little more balance.

Tags: allison partners favorite, allison read, balance, david whyte, maya angelou, music, poetry, rita dove

If you’ve been keeping up with some of my blog posts in 2011, then you know I often think about the topic of balance (1 January, 14 May, 23 May, and 8 June). I’m always trying to maintain balance for myself, encourage a culture at Allison Partners where everyone feels that balance is within reach, and support clients as they seek to find balance in their own lives. I even teach a course called Choosing Balance and Leadership so the topic is almost always on my mind at some level. Like clockwork, my own life gives me a chance to practice what I preach from time to time and it’s been one of those summers. We’re growing at Allison Partners, I’ve been asked to support some new volunteer efforts, I’m trying to do more in the social media world, I’m supporting a few friends who are struggling with some serious illnesses, and I have many fun things I want to do this summer. You get the picture… these are all important things to me and ways I want to spend my time, but it’s harder than usual to strike a balance. I bet you’ve been here before and might even be here right now.

One of the tricky things about balance is that it usually means something different for every individual and organization and it’s a definition that often changes. What constitutes balance during one phase of life can be very different from another phase. So it’s really not about finding the perfect balance and then maintaining that status quo indefinitely. It’s more about figuring out what really matters to you and making sure your choices support those values. Then I find most people need to figure out what tools help them to maintain daily balance and what special tools they need when things get out of whack (because sometimes they will).

In my experience, one of the first things to happen when you feel out of balance is that the self-talk can get pretty nutty. It might sound something like these things I’ve heard from people over the years: "I hate email. I wish no one would ever call or write again." "My children will never eat a healthy meal at our table." "My wife and I haven’t been on a date in a year. I’m not sure I could pick her out of a crowd." "I might as well eat whatever I want because I can’t ever lose these 10 pounds anyway." "I work so hard, but I never get caught up and no one seems to care. What’s the point of even trying? I’ll never win." Your inner dialogue is probably slightly different but you get my drift. Things can get pretty ugly in your head and while sometimes that’s the motivation your brain needs to change, I often find it ends up making things worse and leading to some pretty unpleasant paralysis.

So what’s a person to do? Well, your reboot buttons are probably different than mine. More often than not, I need to go to the gym, write in my journal, brainstorm with somebody I trust, sit with my dog and just go to bed. I also need to do something to change the story in my head while I’m trying to make new choices and recreate my balance. I do this with all sorts of deep breathing, relaxation, meditation and even self-hypnosis tools, but sometimes those fail me and I turn to my back up plan… poetry.


Long before I was a consultant or got an MBA, I was an English major. I still look at the world through that lens every day and I don't think poetry and business are mutually exclusive. I was especially gratified when I learned about David Whyte’s book, The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul of Corporate America. It still makes our reading list of our seven all-time favorite books. Poems make me happy for many reasons, but over the years I’ve collected a few that both scratch my literature itch and happen to be about balance. So here’s what I read or listen to when I need to press the reset button:

What do you do to reboot when times are tough? Are there any poems that help and inspire you? Maybe we can get a nice set of answers to these questions started here. I hope so.


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Suzanne Henry
Jul 19, 2011

Your post has touched both my heart and head, as I believe this is a lifelong struggle for many of us.

Poetry sounds like a wonderful way to calm the beast that says “do more, do more.”

My process to handle out-of-balance moments is to write everything I think I should be doing into one gigantic “to-do” list. Then, I prioritize it and “slot” the items onto different days on my daily calendar.

I make sure I schedule an equal number of things for self care, business, friends, family, home and marriage. Yes, this even includes gym visits, dinners—at the table!—with my husband and other personal items.

An amazing thing happens when I do this. Items that get put on “later” days (Must call that acquaintance! Must clean the refrigerator! Must do that blog editorial calendar!) often never get done because I find they weren’t that important to begin with. They keep getting pushed to later and later dates until finally I forget why I had them on there to begin with.

Allison Linney
Jul 19, 2011

Thanks for taking the time to write about how you reboot. And now that you’ve written about your process here, you’ll always know you can return to this post in case you forget! That’s one of the hard things about when things get out of whack…sometimes we can’t even remember what works for us. It’s also helpful to have some people on your balance “Board of Directors” or “Balance Buddies.” These folks are authorized to check in with you from time to time and take action by asking some probing and caring questions if you seem to have lost your way.


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