When something is out of balance in our lives, it can cause other areas of our lives to tilt into what feels like chaos.
As an accountant, balance is a nearly obsessive trait of my profession, especially in the area of bookkeeping. Ok, ok, maybe balance is more than nearly an obsession. While that is often confining, like many extremes that we experience, it has taught me some lessons in dealing with life.
No, no. I’m not going to insist that each and every part of your life must be in perfect balance in order for you to be happy. (You’d expect that advice from an accountant, wouldn’t you?) Maybe 10 years ago I would have offered that, but I’ve stumbled my way through to realizing just how stifling it is to expect perfection with everything, even in the field of accounting.
What I am going to suggest as something that you may want to try is a method that I frequently use in my CPA practice when working with client projects. When a bookkeeping error emerges and the accounts won’t balance, it can often seem like all the numbers are wrong and the books are just hopelessly out of balance. When that happens, or preferably before we reach that point of frustration, we have two methods that help us to quickly hone in on the problem.
First, we calculate the amount that we are off. For example, if a checkbook register won’t balance to the bank statement, we subtract the bank balance figure from the adjusted check register figure to determine the dollar amount of the imbalance. Sometimes this is all that is necessary … we may calculate that we are $23.92 off and glance at the register or the bank statement and see a check or a debit for that amount and zoom right in on the area of the problem.
Second, if we have not already quickly found the issue, we will start matching and eliminating the areas that do balance. In our same example, we may be able to add up the deposits on the register and determine that the total balances with the amount showing for total deposits on the bank statement. We continue on with different totals and sections of the check register/bank statement to find out what does balance and to hone in on the section that does not balance. This eliminates the need to go over the register or bank statement line by line to find the problem.
Usually, when we combine these two methods, we very quickly find the pesky imbalance. Pesky is a mild word sometimes, but we won’t go there right now. Once we correct the number, it seems almost miraculous to find that all the numbers depending on that one calculation now snap back into place and the books are now in balance.
So how could this possibly relate to the real world? Or more specifically, to your beautiful life?
Let’s start with the larger picture: When your life feels chaotic, or totally out of balance, it feels like everything is tilted. Nothing makes sense, everything seems out of your control, you are exhausted, confused, and demoralized.
In the project of life, flipping the sequence of the above steps may be the answer for helping you get your life back in balance.
First, start backwards. What is working? Maybe you’ve still managed to eat healthy meals, however hurried. Maybe you are getting to work on time everyday, even though your mind is racing during the whole commute. Maybe your mom or spouse is being extra supportive, even though there is not much they can really do. Maybe you have a lovely home that you’ve managed to keep more or less clean. Maybe the kids are happy with their school and friends.
Once you start setting aside the areas that are fundamentally working, even though your mind has been too frazzled to allow you to appreciate them, then you can begin honing in on the area or areas that really are out of balance. For example, once you’ve recognized that things are basically fine with your home, your spouse, your kids, and even your mom, then you may realize that it is your job that is out of balance and that imbalance is spilling out and affecting the rest of your life.
So now you can further examine the job. Do the same exercise: determine what is fundamentally fine with your work and then begin your close examination of the areas that are creating the disruption.
You may determine that you have acceptably good co-workers, a great boss, an easy commute, and good pay. Yet you dislike the type of work or maybe the workload is overwhelming.
Once you’ve defined the offending areas, now go back to our step one: figure out, as best you can, just how much it is out of balance. You may decide that the workload will be crushing for just for the next two weeks, or you may decide that you don’t want to deal directly with customers anymore, or perhaps you really can’t stand accounting (gasp!) and you want a line of work that is less rigid.
Now that you know the area that is causing all the unrest and you have calculated a measure of the problem, you can more easily begin to work on solutions. Maybe you will just endure the next two weeks by meditating or temporarily relaxing your other responsibilities, or maybe you will ask for a shift in your duties, or maybe you will decide to go back to school to train for a different career.
It’s easier to work on the one identified area than it is to have the feeling that you are helpless because you think your whole life is hopelessly tangled.
Now, realistically it may not always be this simple. Sometimes more than one thing has become problematic. Maybe your toddler (or teenager) is acting out, you just got transferred into a department with the boss from h*ll, and at the same time the mortgage company just sent you a lovely notice that your monthly payment is going to increase by $203.00 a month.
You can still use the same process when multiple parts of your life seem upsetting . Acknowledge the areas that are really fine, even though you’ve been too harried to acknowledge them. Then begin to examine the areas that do need your attention. Ask your self what might bring your life back in balance.
Start with one of the ideas and figure out the steps you need to take to fix it You will often be surprised to find that when one area comes back into balance, that other areas settle back into balance, too. For example, you may find that once your are at ease because you have determined how you will pay the extra $203.00 monthly mortgage payment, your toddler (or teenager) may pick up on your cues and relax a little, too.
There is another part of balancing accounting records that you should know: when searching for solutions, sometimes you need to guess. Sometimes, we will pencil in the correction that we think will work, and we run the numbers to see if it works. Hurray if it does, back to the drawing board if it does not.
You will find that sometimes, even though you know the area of imbalance, you will need to take your best guess about what will solve the problem, and then take a step or two to see if it really is the solution. If you think you need a new career, you may sign up for a class in the new field, or you may spend a day researching to determine which career you may prefer. From there, you can decide to either continue on, or you can start again with a new set of steps in another direction.
And in life, not only is everything not always in balance, but it’s often perfectly ok for a few things to be out of balance or imperfect. The secret is in getting things enough in balance that you are able to easily flow with the changes and challenges as they appear.
Now, about your check register….