Balancing Self Care and Hustle

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When I was a kid there was a time when no one could get enough of Tetris. It may have been the first truly addictive video game (later followed up by Mine Sweeper— raise your hand if you’ve spent your share of hours on either!). I remember being at family gatherings and my full grown uncles and teenage cousins would pull out their Game Boys and pop in the Tetris cartridge.

They were hooked.

The idea behind the game is simple, these blocks keep coming and you have to find ways to make them all fit. Sometimes there isn’t a perfect place for them and they stack up a bit. But if you’re good, you can catch up a few blocks later.

Re-framing Balance

I had a conversation with Rachael Ellison some time ago. She helps businesses become parent friendly and helps parents advocate for themselves in the workplace. In our conversation I asked her about the idea of work-life balance.

She replied simply, “No. There is no balance.” And went on to talk about other metaphors that are better suited for the struggle.

She mentioned the game of Tetris.

There are times when you have to work more than you should. And there are times when you have to do other things more than you want to. There are times when the blocks stack up and you have to trust that you’ll catch up a few blocks later.

Playing Tetris With Your Life

For the past two months I’ve been struggling through the transition from hospitalization to home life. Everything came crashing down on me two months ago with an emergency surgery. It was as if life put up a road block and said, “you have to stop everything.”

And stop everything I did.

I worked really hard to be kind to myself and to readjust my expectations. I couldn’t work–the pain was too great. I had to focus on healing and let myself just do that.

But coming home from the hospital has been hard.

Now that I’m home, the rest of life is more present. From where I’m sitting writing this, I can see my whiteboard with a massive grid of projects and deadlines: details for the Calling Course, this a goal setting product that I’ve been developing for years, photography projects and weddings that need to be edited, and more.

They’re all shouting at me from across the room, telling me to get back to work. Enough of this dilly-dallying. Enough rest. Enough recovery.

Those voices and judgements that I feel toward myself have a point: it’s not going to get done unless I do it.

But there’s another voice fighting back: the one that reminds me of what these months have cost. I’ve been through hell. I’ve literally had my insides taken out of my body and put back in.

(I still can’t wrap my mind around that!)

I’ve suffered much and I need recovery.

In the midst of all of this, Stacia and I welcomed our son into the world and our lives. He’s the cutest and sweetest little guy. He keeps himself and us very busy— he never stops moving!

I want to be with him, and I want to recover, and I want to create great things in the world.

It’s all just too much!

How do you balance self care and hustle?

The entrepreneurship community is big on hard work. They say things like, “Great things come to those who hustle” and believe that the one who works hardest wins.

I live in that world and am guilty at times of over working and under resting.

But I also walk in the therapeutic world of personal formation. This world likes talking about self-care and being kind to yourself.

These messages are both important. I believe that hard work matters, and I equally believe that kindness and self-care matter.

You must allow for both and acknowledge that at times one may take priority over the other.

The work blocks have definitely stacked up for me. I feel them. But I need to trust that, just like a solid game of Tetris, things will return to normal and I will catch up in due time.

May the blocks of life stack high and not overwhelm you. Happy holidays.

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  1. Thanks for this one, Dan! Seems an important topic and one that has been something I’ve wrestled with in the past several years. Appreciate your thoughts on your recent health challenges as well as the tetris metaphor. I feel like I could relate to that through my years of grad school and then shifting focus towards a more internal place after graduating… for a time. Helpful words, and glad your writing on this topic!

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