Balance is far more than something you find in your boat. It’s just as important — perhaps even more so — in life.
So what is balance? In a kayak, it’s staying upright no matter how turbulent the waters. It’s the concept of equal distribution — perhaps leaning one way a little more at times to counter forces coming at you from another. And it’s the same in life. Aren’t we all just generally running from one end to the other of a teeter-totter, all while trying to not fall off?
Balance is something I always found frustratingly unattainable until I started approaching it from a “mental” balance and less of an actual physical one. Talk about life changing.
My name is Emily Jackson. I am a professional kayaker, mom, wife, full-time employee, world traveler, runner, OCD cleaning mad woman and I would say I’M HAPPY!
Several years ago I would say I was not happy. I was that clown running back and forth on a teeter-totter and often falling straight off only to have to restart. I was the person following the paddler in front of me without having time to breathe and look around me — often wondering why I was off line. It just wasn’t my line! I have since recognized that life shouldn’t feel so heavy and that my perception on how to do things and why may have been a little off. With the help of a life coach and some deep self-reflection, I have found some simple steps to help me find balance in otherwise unbalanced times. In other words, I started to have a broader external focus and finally got to choose my own lines.
Step 1 – What’s most important to you?
Not your partner, kids or anyone else, but YOU. Take time to recognize what goals are you working towards? What makes you excited? Happy? What makes you feel successful?
I keep this list short — to five things to be exact. Any more means I will be dropping the ball and any less means I may get burnt out. Mine are:
- My Family
- Step 2– What are your goals?
Try to set goals for each thing that is important to you. Also try to keep the goals that are in your control. For example, I can’t control what other competitors do at a competition, but I can control what I work on learning. So instead of writing “Win the World Championships” as my goal for kayaking, I write, “Learn to be as consistent on my left McNasty as my right.”
Step 3 – Break down the goals.
Once you have a clear idea on what you are working towards and have taken time to review what your schedule looks like you can set a plan that will help you be more successful. It’s just like dissecting your way through a rapid, and breaking it down into manageable sections in order to get through the whole thing.
For years I wanted to practice yoga consistently. But having two monkeys climbing on me really ruined the vibe for me, and made it seem impossible; I was closer to a UFC wrestling match then I was yoga.
So I failed time and again to get that goal to fruition. That’s when I realized I didn’t take timing into account. Not just timing in a year per say, but timing throughout the day. I started waking up 30 minutes earlier so I could do 20 minutes while the kids still slept and viola- one step closer to my ideal self and the balance I was looking for… literally.
With kayaking I found breaking down my kayaking goals into easy bite size pieces not only made getting out on the water more fun, but motivated me to say yes when opportunities arrived. Goal setting can sometimes be the added push you need.
Step 3– Organize your schedule.
Look over where you spend your time in a day. Finding time to do things is impossible — there really is no time to “find time.” Time is something we create, as we choose how we spend it. Learn what things are helping fill your cup, and what is less meaningful to you and where it goes. There is a setting on your iPhone that lets you know how much time is spent on each app. You can also recognize how much time you spend cleaning, driving, working, taking care of friends and so forth.
I realized I spent a lot of my day trying to find solutions for other people’s problems and it left me with no time for my own. But not that I have a general schedule that makes time for all the things I need to do in a day; I almost feel I have more time and I’m a better listener than before, because I am happy with where I am at and don’t blame anyone for making it so I don’t “have time.”
For kayaking I give myself the weekends and I have blocks in my day to “exercise or boat.” Some days it may not work out, but by giving myself that time, I don’t feel I’m not doing something else I am supposed to.
Step 4– Communication
This is probably one of the biggest steps — and it’s as important in scouting and running a big line as it is in life balance. By sharing your goals and your schedule with those most important to you, you will feel less alone when trying to tackle this whole balance business. By being vulnerable, people (whether you want them to or not) will share advice or ideas as well. You can take them or leave them, but often something will resonate with you and help you overcome your challenges.
Your significant other is the first and most important person to confide in. From there, your circle of friends and family. By sharing — I just don’t feel like I have time to train as much as I want to (and it pained me to say that out loud) — my family, my husband and lots of friends who I would’ve never expected to offer to help did.
If you’re reading this kayaking is probably a big part of your life. In order to be the best versions of ourselves, honesty and sharing how important kayaking is to us is key. To share our time with others happily, we need to feel that we are also giving ourselves the same attention. For me that’s kayaking. Most people want to see you happy and succeed, so don’t be shy to share the things that make you happy.
Remember: There will be days and times that you fall off — just like getting washed out of a hole or being slightly offline in a rapid. Last week my son broke his ankle and my normal routine got shaken. But deep down I knew that I could find and maintain balance. I wrote out my next day of things I wanted to take care of, but I was also paying attention to the #1 on my list — which is family. Occasionally, things will sway hard to one of the things on the list: race days, flying days, meetings. But by finding a base balance to return too I don’t feel like I’m losing progress towards my other goals.
Rarely do we think the perfect day is the one we have in place; it’s often the ones we weren’t expecting when things just kind of come altogether. So when opportunities arise — whether it’s to go paddling or something else that makes you happy —take them. I’m incredibly grateful each time I do.
Anyone is more than capable. And remember these words by Jana Kingsford: “Balance is not something you find, but create.”