Don’t let your heart be colonized by fear.
– Jack Kornfield
What I Learned About Practicing What I Preach
The Battle for Balance is a life and death struggle. Stay balanced, and we enjoy life to the fullest. Lose balance, and life gets hard.
I’ve learned this lesson many times, over many years, and I’m sure most of you have, too. But a couple of years ago, I discovered that even a therapist with a toolbox full of self-help tools can get unbalanced if he doesn’t practice what he preaches.
A big part of my job is to help people deal with difficulties and uncertainties. Because I’m an empath, while I’m working with them, I’m also feeling what they feel. Usually, I can process those feelings in the moment, so that by the time the next client walks through my door, I’m ready to freshly take in who they are and what they may need.
My work feels like a calling, and that’s a good thing. But there have been two extended periods when too much of a good thing was… too much, and it was in these periods that I truly learned the importance of balance. The first one got me. The second one got me to write a book about balance.
That first time started just as the harsh Boston-area winter of 2014/2015 was ending. Relentless weather not seen in decades seemed to crush the spirits of a lot of people, and beginning in March and continuing for many weeks thereafter, former clients came back to therapy, about one per week. They came not for a tune-up, as I had expected, but for extended stays, and they not only overwhelmed my already pretty full schedule, they also overwhelmed me.
Not their fault at all, of course. I was a victim of my own hubris. Therapists, like anyone, need self-care, but I thought – if I thought at all, really – that I was the exception. Instead, I was the proverbial frog in a pot of gradually heating water.
When my schedule got crowded, I created extended office hours out of what had been my down time. Then, as the clients kept coming, I dropped non-work time almost entirely, eliminating recreational activities, meeting with friends, and finally basic functions such as meal preparation, house cleaning, and car maintenance. When even that wasn’t enough, I cut back on sleep.
You can see where this is going, but I didn’t. My work schedule was grinding me to the bone. By the time the buds were on the trees I drove past on the way to my office, I was too tired and too wired on caffeine to notice. My wake-up call was a blind spot in my right eye, the result of unmonitored high blood pressure. After that, I took steps to regain my balance, but it was several months before I recovered my equanimity.
The next time I experienced a steady return of clients was the fall of 2016 and all through 2017. The unsettling state of this country since that Presidential election brought many people back into therapy, regardless of their political persuasion. But I had learned from my 2014/2015 experience. I took my own advice, and this time I avoided burnout. I also kept track of what was helping me stay sane, and what was helping my clients.
The result: my new book The Art of Balance: Staying Sane in an Insane World.
Unlike most articles on the Internet and a lot of self-help books, The Art of Balance provides much more than a laundry list of the “Top 10 (or 25, or 100) Tools and Techniques.” It’s not a greatest hits. It’s a system.
It’s a system that will help you recognize the forces that knock us out of balance, outline a strategy for overcoming them, and adopt a methodology for achieving lasting balance. The self-help tools and techniques are in there, sure, but they are integrated into a framework that also teaches you how to create your own tools, develop your own techniques, and refine your own strategies—and thereby become the master of your destiny.
The Art of Balance doesn’t “give a man a fish,” so he can eat that day. It teaches you how to fish.
- The 6-step process for recovering and maintaining life balance
- How to recognize when your balance is shaky—before you fall
- How to boost your emotional resilience and stay steady on your feet
- How to fend off unbalancers if they strike
You can see a preview here: The Art of Balance preview
The Art of Balance will be released in early February as both an ebook and a paperback. For a limited time, the ebook will be available for $0.99. Its list price is $4.99. The paperback will be $9.99.
And there’s more!
I plan to help people apply this system to the situations they struggle with in a special group I’m calling The Balance Lab. Some of the types of problems we’ll be working with include:
- Acute stresses that can knock us flat, such as an accident, the death of someone close to us, a romantic breakup, a major health crisis, or some other misfortune
- Time-limited stresses, such as an overwhelming work load or major event
- Chronic stresses that take us down one notch at a time, such as a too-demanding job, a relationship gone awry, or an addictive behavior
I will be drawing on my experiences working with clients as well as my personal experience, but I’m really interested in working with your issues, too.
What are some of the “unbalancers” you experience today, and have faced in the past? Let me know, and I’ll feature some of them here and in The Balance Lab. The Balance Lab is currently open to anybody who buys the book – even at $.0.99.
Please leave your comments on the blog, or you can email them to me.
More to come, including links to the book’s launch page and Amazon.com page, really soon.