Forget about balance - Try conscious imbalance

26 Feb 2014 22:03 | Armelle Loghmanian

 Forget about balance - Try conscious imbalance

By Caroline Kersten and Sapna Welsh


Caroline Kersten                Sapna Welsh     

Partner at LeverageHR   Partner at LeverageHR

New years are often marked with resolutions - you know, the things you want to do differently or better. One of the most common resolutions we hear, especially among women, is the wish to find more balance between work and personal life.
If this is one of your resolutions, we are going to go out on a limb and suggest that you strike it from your list. Rather, we recommend you resolve to embrace conscious imbalance.

A positive definition

We define conscious imbalance as: “tipping the scales towards what gives you energy and fulfillment, with the realization that the scales will need to be rebalanced on a regular basis”.
People are searching for deeply satisfying personal and professional lives, not a balance or compromise between the two. Often there are competing priorities, and we need to understand which way we want to tip the scales in order to achieve deeper fulfillment.

When Matthew Kelly, author of Off Balance (video:, conducted interviews, he found that responses to his questions about people’s most satisfying periods involved descriptions of extreme situations. They were stories about putting in seventy hours per week for a few months in order to deliver a high-profile project on time and under budget. Or, they were stories of sitting on the beach in the Bahamas doing nothing more than sipping on a Pina Colada. They were rarely stories about taking conference calls throughout a beach holiday, for instance, which would reflect the proverbial balance.

When you talk about men tipping the scales toward work, it is considered normal, and it is certainly regarded as acceptable. However, when a woman does this, it is often questioned. “How could you be happy doing this?
We interviewed 62 Women in Senior-level Expatriate Roles (WiSER) (1) to find characteristics that made them successful and we discovered that half of them demonstrated ‘conscious imbalance’.

WiSER Britta, for example, drew from her personal experience when discussing this phenomenon. “You have to go after what you want, when it is the right time for you,” she advised. “People have criticized me for wanting it all --- child and family and living abroad and ambitious career.”
She added that many people had recommended that she scale down her commitments and her aspirations. “I think it is important to accept when you have a demanding job and a child or family, there is no balance ---  forget it” she said. “Prioritize and outsource things like house cleaning, lawn care, and other low-priority items in order to spend your time on high-priority, high-value things.”

The key to conscious imbalance is understanding what gives you energy.

Maintaining imbalance - Tips

Maintaining conscious imbalance is like “surfing”. To be a good surfer you must develop a feel for where your body is positioned relative to the flow of the waves by keeping your eyes on the horizon, looking ahead and never down. You must instinctively tense and release muscles at the right times in order to stay on the board.
To maintain conscious imbalance, you have to constantly recalibrate and reassess your priorities to remain content.
The women we interviewed in senior-level expatriate roles (WiSER) demonstrate time and time again how they have unbalanced their lives in order to do what gives them energy and happiness. Here are some of their tips:
  1. Don’t let societal expectations determine how you live your life
    Go after your dreams.
    Don’t give up on your goals because of other people’s attitudes toward you, your lifestyle, and your choices. What may work for you does not necessarily conform to other people’s values and practices - and vice versa, but that is ok.

  2. Make worthwhile concessions
    Pursuing your goals often means giving up on something you care about less. Imbalance should be purposeful for you, and even with strong intentions, it is not always easy. The overall message is: you can have it all, just not at the same time. Concessions will have to be made, they will be worthwhile.

  3. Don’t try to be Wonder Woman
    Our advice is, don’t try to be Wonder Woman undefined the woman who can do it all. No one can manage to do everything they want to do, therefore, it is important to ask for help. No one can do it all by themselves, nor should anyone be expected to do so.

  4. Review and reconsider options regularly
    The scales of your life will need to be re-calibrated on a regular basis. This means that, over time, you may desire to spend more time with your familyundefinedor after devoting a good deal of time to your family, you may wish to start working again.
Never stop thinking about the moments in your life that have brought you great joy and fulfillment. Once you understand what gives you energy, you can make the hard choices that are involved in tipping the scalesundefinedand leading a more fulfilling life.
We have but one life, and we withdraw time from the same time bank, which provides twenty-four hours a day, spread over 365 days a year. We aren’t simply trying to balance, say, a cup of “work” and a cup of “personal life.” We are looking at one cup that is brimming with who we are, and we don’t want anything valuable to spill out.

Short Biography

Sapna and Caroline are Partners at LeverageHR where they work with organizations to increase the number of women in leadership positions. They have developed an innovative female leadership development approach, based on research which is the foundation of their recently published book “Worldly Women - The New Leadership Profile”.

Sapna Welsh
Sapna Welsh has helped individuals improve their performance through professional coaching, training, mentoring, skills assessment, and performance management. Coaching currently includes cross-cultural preparation of managers as they prepare to expatriate to the US. She has worked in various sectors including: banking, insurance, public accounting, manufacturing, logistics, non-profit, academia, and start-ups.

Sapna holds a Masters degree in Labor and Human Resources from The Ohio State University, a BBA in International Business from The George Washington University, is licensed as a Professional in Human Resources and she is a Registered Corporate Coach. She previously served as an HR adjunct faculty member at Franklin University and also served on the Human Resources curriculum advisory board.

Caroline Kersten
Caroline Kersten has twenty years of experience, first as a business strategy consultant followed by tenure as a Human Resources manager in both profit and non/profit organizations. In 2008 she started her own consulting business, Kersten HR Consulting, advising and supporting businesses in HR and organization development. In August 2011, she started a partnership with Leverage HR. She is an experienced consultant in the areas of HR strategy, change management, personal development, competency management and performance management. Caroline currently teaches “Managing People & Organizations” to American university exchange students, at the Akademie für Internationale Bildung in Bonn. She has worked in various sectors including: government, automotive, consumer electronics, and leasing.

Caroline holds a Masters degree in European Studies and a Masters Degree in Dutch Law from the University of Amsterdam, as well as an LL.M. in European Law from the College of Europe Bruges. She is fluent in four languages (English, Dutch, German and French).

Contact Details

Sapna Welsh
Partner at LeverageHR
+49 170-9005541
Caroline Kersten
Partner at LeverageHR
+49 170-3097529

(1) <<Worldly Women - The New Leadership Profile>> by By Sapna Welsh and Caroline KerstenThis book is based on interviews with 62 Women in Senior-level Expatriate Roles (WiSER) from all corners of the globe. (
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