Balance Is NOT Your Ultimate Goal: With Curtis Christopherson

“Finding a better work-life balance” might just be one of the most-searched terms on the internet. Many of us are looking for ways to carve out more time to spend with our families, hobbies, goals and interests. At face value, achieving a better work-life balance might seem like a noble pursuit — after all, it’s important to seek happiness and satisfaction in your life — but what if I told you that chasing the concept of balance in the first place was the problem?

The individual we’re going to focus on today has been wondering about his work-life balance. He has asked questions that include “How can I get all this done myself?” and “How can I feel less tired after work so I can enjoy my time off?”. While these might seem like difficult problems to tackle, the solution is actually rather simple. Instead of contending with a work-life balance problem, he needs to address the thinking problems that are preventing him from leading a better life. 

What is “work-life balance?”

In order to “forget” about work-life balance, we first need to understand what a problematic work-life relationship looks like. Take Curtis, for example: he’s an entrepreneur who, in his own words, has “the least amount of time and the most amount of stress.” With two children at home, he needs to keep his business afloat to make a living, but not being able to spend more time with his kids is eating away at him. He feels guilty, upset and disgruntled that he doesn’t have the hours in the day to be a proper parent to his children. 

This is the concept of a poor work-life balance that most of us are familiar with. It’s the prospect of something we’re engaged in getting in the way of something else that matters to us. And while a million things make us want to move on and engage with what we truly care about, countless other factors — money, time, commitments — keep us from moving toward our goals with purpose. 

How to improve work-life balance (by forgetting it) 

Now that we’re more familiar with what a bad work-life balance looks like, I’m here to tell you to forget about balance entirely. I don’t mean you should throw yourself into work and never look back — quite the opposite, actually. In order to demonstrate the concept I’m about to illustrate, I want you to imagine something that is perfectly balanced. 

Let’s consider a seesaw, for example. When children are playing on a seesaw, it’s going up and down, back and forth; it’s moving with great energy and purpose. When not in use, however, a seesaw sits perfectly level on the playground. Nothing happens to it, and there’s nothing to be said about it. And so this concept of achieving a better “balance” really isn’t ideal, because for those of you who are already go-getters and are engaged with work at a high level, you probably have a lot of drive and desire to do the things that are important to you. You’re not a seesaw at rest; you’re a seesaw in motion. Rather than sit back and let life happen to you, you enjoy showing up in every part of your life that matters. 

So balance might not be the ultimate goal. The goal, instead, is to be present wherever you are, which is much different from finding balance. For Curtis, that means he’ll need to become just as present when at home with his children as he is while at work. Doing so will help him feel less guilty about not being available enough in their lives. 

While that’s a good line of thought to get us started, it begs the more universal question: how does one become more present wherever they are, and what does that presence look like? Let’s try to understand it by first examining what a lack of presence looks like. For many leaders and achievers, it shows up in the form of work-related beliefs that push them away from their values when they’re engaging with their families or hobbies. “I’m the only one who can keep this business going.” “Nobody else can do what I do.” These are beliefs I hear every single day that hold leaders back from living up to their true values.

If your beliefs are getting in the way, that means it’s time to change your beliefs, not your work-life balance. You’ll always be someone who craves action and movement and motion, but that doesn’t mean you have to be at the mercy of your own work. To embrace a better sense of presence, you have to say — and believe — that you’ll never be at the mercy of your business again. 

In practice, that might look like tapping into additional resources and people to free up your time. That might look like leveraging your time differently, and it might also look like improving your delegation skills. By loosening your grip on the things you’re holding onto for dear life, you’ll be able to push away tasks and responsibilities that aren’t critical to your everyday operation, and you’ll start to feel that sense of presence you’ve been searching for. 

Simplify. Eliminate. Delegate. And then? Stick to your guns on things you want to do. What parts of work actually light you up? What family responsibilities bring you joy? Make specific choices about what matters to you, and be present during those times. The rest of it can go.

It’s this sort of mentality that can help you get a better perspective on your work-life situation. If you want more advice on how to navigate your work-life balance (by forgetting it), check out this podcast episode on the subject. Then, get in touch with someone who can help you master your own sense of presence going forward. 

Episode Transcript

00:00:05] Kim Ades:
Hello, hello. My name is Kim Ades, I am the President and Founder of Frame of Mind Coaching™ and you have just joined The Frame of Mind Coaching™ Podcast, where we invite leaders from all over the world to come onto the podcast and get coached live and in-person.  

Today, my guest is Chris Christopherson and he comes to us from Vancouver, and he runs a company called Wrkout Media. I said it wrong... Did I say Chris Christopherson? 


[00:00:30] Curtis Christopherson:
Yeah, you did. [Chuckles]  


[00:00:31] Kim Ades:
I'm totally sorry. But we're going to continue. It's Curtis Christopherson! I don't know. I'm thinking of the singer. That must be in it, right?  


[00:00:38] Curtis Christopherson:
Happens all the time, yeah.  


[00:00:40] Kim Ades:
I am so sorry. Curtis, welcome.  


[00:00:42] Curtis Christopherson:
Thank you. Thanks for having me.  


[00:00:45] Kim Ades:
So what do you do with Wrkout Media? Where are you located? You're in Vancouver. Vancouver proper or on the outskirts?  


[00:00:53] Curtis Christopherson:
Yeah, outskirts of Vancouver, Canada. Yeah. And... Pardon me?  


[00:00:59] Kim Ades:
Where specifically?  


[00:01:00] Curtis Christopherson:
Yeah, a town called White Rock.  


[00:01:02] Kim Ades:
Okay, I know White Rock. Okay, and what do you do? What is Wrkout Media?  


[00:01:08] Curtis Christopherson:
Yeah so, for the last 22 years I've been in the health and fitness space. I own a company called Innovative Fitness, which is a premium personal training company. And then through the pandemic, we launched a virtual training company called Wrkout Media. So we connect users and consumers around the world to a vetted fitness experience, whether it's online or in person.  


[00:01:27] Kim Ades:
So, give me an example. I'm in Toronto, how do I tap into your services?  


[00:01:31] Curtis Christopherson:
Yeah so, if you went to workout.com, you could, if you're looking to work with a trainer, a yoga instructor, or a pilates instructor, you know, someone that's at the convenience of either in your home or on the road, you could go to our website and then you can search the trainers or the fitness professionals that you're interested in. 


And then you can actually connect with them and buy with them directly. And then you could connect with them virtually over a very similar platform like Zoom, or you could book their services in person, if they lived locally. So you could train with a yoga instructor in New York, or you could train with a trainer in LA, or you could book someone in person, in Toronto, depending on what you wanted. 


[00:02:22] Kim Ades:
Wow. So you're like the Uber of trainers.  


[00:02:26] Curtis Christopherson:
Yeah, it's like Uber meets Airbnb for the fitness community.  


[00:02:29] Kim Ades:
That's very, very cool. Okay. So, you were running a, I guess a personal fitness studio or a concept, and then the pandemic hit. And so you pivoted.  


[00:02:42] Curtis Christopherson:
Yeah. So, for the last 20 years, I've built and grown a company called Innovative Fitness, which is their premium personal training brick and mortar business. We have 225 full-time employees, and that still exists today during COVID. Because we didn't know how long we'd be shut down for, we pivoted online and realized there was a unique opportunity in the virtual training space and that's how Workout was born.  


So currently today I run both companies. I oversee, you know, I have a great executive and management team and leadership team at Innovative Fitness, that manages our 12 studios, and then at the same time, we have a startup called Wrkout Media, which is, you know, what I just described.  


[00:03:24] Kim Ades:
Yeah. So it sounds great and it sounds like you're super busy.  


[00:03:27] Curtis Christopherson:
Oh, yeah.  


[00:03:28] Kim Ades:
Okay, so what is the challenge you want to talk about today?  


[00:03:32] Curtis Christopherson:
Yeah, I mean, I think it's relevant for a lot of people out there, especially entrepreneurs or people that are starting up businesses. I've been in business for 20 years and never has there been a time that I've been, I'd say less-- I have the least amount of time, most amount of stress. I have a surviving company and a startup company, and I got two kids at home. So a five-year old and a seven-year-old that, you know, allocating the time, energy and focus can be challenging at times.  


Sports is more demanding than ever, with young kids and I don't think a business is nine to five anymore. So, as an entrepreneur and a business person, I think, you know, in challenging the responsibility and commitment to your family or kids at the same time, you know? Yeah, I guess making a living is definitely a challenge. And I think there comes guilt with that.  


[00:04:28] Kim Ades:
I was going to... That's exactly what I was going to ask you. Talk to me about the guilt. Tell me about what do you feel guilty about and, are you married? Do you have a partner? And what is the arrangement?  


[00:04:43] Curtis Christopherson:
Oh, yeah. Happily married, been married for the last 10 years and have a very supportive wife and spouse, named Melissa. And she, you know, I think at the end of the day, we definitely, I would say some people say we vibrate at a different level. We love to take on the world, whether it's business, adventure, you know, family commitments. And I think just managing both our expectation, but the expectation of the world these days is very, very difficult.  


And what I mean by that is, you know, nowadays when you involve your kids in sports, it's not a one day a week practice and a one day a week game, it's three days a week practice and, you know, a game or tournaments at a very young age. So, you know, you want to provide opportunity for your kids, but you have to draw the line sometimes.  


So it's that balancing act of being disciplined around your time, around your energy, around your commitment to your commitments personally, professionally, you know, family-wise, you name it. And then spouse-wise, I think we do a good job, but it doesn't seem to be easy. I'm not saying that things should be.  


[00:05:57] Kim Ades:
So, I'm hearing a few things. So, just tell me a little bit about the guilt. What do you feel guilty about? Do you feel guilty that you're not giving your kids enough time? Do you feel like you're pushing them too hard? Like, what's the guilt about?  


[00:06:12] Curtis Christopherson:
I would say, you know, if there's one area that probably stands out most would be the guilt around focus, time and attention to our kids, for sure.  


[00:06:27] Kim Ades:
So, tell me a little bit about them. You said you have two kids and they are, what ages did you say? Seven and five?  


[00:06:34] Curtis Christopherson:
Five and seven, yeah. 


[00:06:34] Kim Ades:
Okay. And so, what are they like? Just tell me a little bit about your kids.  


[00:06:40] Curtis Christopherson:
Well, I got an older daughter that's seven years old and she's full of fire and as some people say, she's got a lot of jam, so she does nonstop and keeping her busy and active and engaged is super important. 


And then our little guy east end, he is salt of the earth, you know, very even keel, super steady, and I think he provides a level of groundness to both the dynamic in the family, but also the difference between our daughter and son, they're completely opposite that way. 


[00:07:22] Kim Ades:
And when you say he provides grounding in the dynamic, talk to me about the dynamic. What is the dynamic in the family?  


[00:07:29] Curtis Christopherson:
Yeah. I just think people have a level of like, an energetic field that they operate in and he vibrates at a much tidier, more calm pace than I would say majority of the home does. And so, it allows for that balance that we have that, you know, it keeps us– I think our family, myself, my daughter, particularly, vibrate at probably a higher level. And–  


[00:08:01] Kim Ades:
When you say vibrate, are you saying that she's highly energetic? 


[00:08:05] Curtis Christopherson:
Oh, yeah, energetic. Like, the energetic fields, overall fun for life and taking on adventures and really not slowing down.  


[00:08:19] Kim Ades:
Okay. So I want to go back cause you said two very important things. But one thing you talked about is the guilt you feel about being focused. Focus, time and attention on your kids? 


[00:08:30] Curtis Christopherson:
Yep.  


[00:08:31] Kim Ades:
Okay. So what happens when you're with your kids? Do you feel distracted? Do you feel like you don't have enough time for them? Are you with them, and when you're with them, you're totally focused, but then you feel bad because you're not doing other things? Like, what's actually at play here?  


[00:08:46] Curtis Christopherson:
Well, I think it's more of– I've been an entrepreneur and a business owner since I was 20– 21 actually. And I have not, in my career, built up the business where, you know, I feel anyways that I can shut off or have the ability to hire people to provide me with the boundaries or support that I need.  


And so, you know, there are times where I guess I feel guilty. It's like, Hey, if I didn't have that responsibility as a business owner, would I act and behave differently? Would I– if I could, you know, put my phone down, put emails, put my phone on... You know, and it's not phone. Like, I use that as an analogy, but it's actually, focus time where your frame of mind is and having the ability to not have that stress that comes with business ownership. Would I be able to be more present with them?  


So, you know, when you ask the question about like, what is it like? I would say that there's many times that I'm a hundred percent present. I'm focused, the phone or distractions are a way I'm not thinking about anything else and I don't feel guilty about not looking at something. 


But it's more of like, am I going to wake up 10 years from now or 20 years from now and regret that I have a massive responsibility in my businesses? And I don't have the flexibility and freedom people think that business owners should provides flexibility and freedom, and I think sometimes the opposite, depending on the stage of the business. And yeah, sometimes I question if that's something that I I'm going to regret, so...  


[00:10:35] Kim Ades:
So, can you fast forward for me for a minute in your brain and look backwards? So, just pretend you're 10 years older, 20 years older, what would you regret? Like, if you were to just say "Hey, this is what exactly what I fear. If I continue on this trajectory, here's what I will regret". Can you name it? Or are you kind of saying "well, I'm not sure if I'll regret it".  


[00:11:03] Curtis Christopherson:
I think I'm not quite sure, because I think if I was certain and sure then I would make the changes accordingly. But if I could try to capture it, you know, looking forward, I don't have balance on a daily or weekly basis, I think I have more balance on a monthly and an annual basis. So, I allocate time, you know, if we go away for vacation and we're gone for three weeks, I've put things and parameters in place where I can be highly engaged and available and focused. And that's where I get a lot of value.  


But daily, sometimes days are, you know, I leave the house at six and I come home at, you know, usually I try to get home at five or six, but there are times that are nine or 10 because work demands or commitments or you name it. 


So I think it's more of... you know, parenting is a funny thing because there's no golden handbook, you don't understand it until you're in it. And I think you do the best with what you have, and I hope I'm making really smart choices and decisions. And I just don't want to look back on "Hey man, I made mistakes" or "I regret the fact that I wasn't available every day equally", that there was balance on a daily basis, not just a monthly and annual basis.

Some weeks and days are overwhelmingly busy and some aren't. So I think, providing that consistency– I believe that the household and children need a level of consistency and when it's not consistent, they can't predict that.  


[00:12:45] Kim Ades:
So, here's a question for you and then I'll give you some thoughts and feedback are your kids complaining that you're not present? Do they want more time with you?  


[00:12:56] Curtis Christopherson:
I think so. I think there's times, for sure there's times that they say that, for sure.  


[00:13:01] Kim Ades:
Okay, and how about your wife? Does she say "Hey Curtis, you should maybe calm down"?  


[00:13:09] Curtis Christopherson:
Yeah [laughs] the odd time. She's super supportive because she knows the responsibility I have. But I think there's times that for sure, she reminds me to... you know, she's a good reminder. How about that?  


[00:13:20] Kim Ades:
And she reminds you to what specifically?  


[00:13:22] Curtis Christopherson:
Take a break. Slow down.  


[00:13:25] Kim Ades:
Okay. Alright. So there's a couple of things that I want to share with you and they are equal and opposite thoughts, okay? And so, you use the word balance an awful lot and, you know, here's what I think about balance.  


You ever go to a park and you see two kids on a teeter-totter and they're in perfect balance. What happens when they're in perfect balance?  


[00:13:49] Curtis Christopherson:
Well, probably has to disrupted eventually, like they're not...  


[00:13:53] Kim Ades:
What's happening right now in this state of balance? 


[00:13:57] Curtis Christopherson:
Well, it's equal on both sides.  


[00:13:59] Kim Ades:
Yeah, but is there anything happening?  


[00:14:01] Curtis Christopherson:
No.  


[00:14:01] Kim Ades:
Nothing. Nothing happens, right? And so, this concept of going for balance isn't really the ideal, because especially someone like you, who seems to be not only full of energy, but has high drive and has lots of desires, I don't think balance is the ultimate goal. I think your goal is kind of to be super present wherever you are, which is very different from balance. 


Okay. So now the question becomes, how do you become super present wherever you are? And so a lack of presence comes from a few things. Sometimes it's wiring. We're sometimes wired to like, need all this input and attention. And you know, some of us just have that higher level of energy where we have to be moving and we have to be doing, we have to. Right? Some of us are wired that way.  


But at the same time, what I noticed is that a lot of leaders who feel like they can't get away from work. That feeling comes from a set of beliefs that says "I'm the only one who could do X, Y, and Z. I am needed to be there. I am irreplaceable. There are these things that I do that nobody else could do". And that is a function of a leader who has a set of beliefs that are getting in the way and aren't necessarily leveraging their resources completely. Okay?  


So from my perspective, you're not necessarily going for balance. You're the guy who needs that action, that activity, that coming and going, like, that's just who you are, that's just the way it's going to be. But at the same time, you don't have to be at the mercy of your business. And so the idea is that we want to increase your level of choice. So that if you want to be coming and going and you know, in it and engaged, it's up to you. It's not ever a function of you saying "well, I have no choice, it's my business. I can't rely on people. I'm just not there yet".  


So that's the issue that we want to address. Let's say hey, if you want to have a little bit more freedom, then let's look at how you are tapping into your resources, how you are leveraging your team, how you are keeping some areas of responsibility that perhaps you can delegate. 

Let's look at those things that you're holding onto for dear life, and let's look at how we can loosen your grip a little bit and assign some of those tasks and responsibilities to others, and perhaps look at some of the tasks and responsibilities that don't even need to be done. Right?

So we want to simplify, we want to eliminate, we want to delegate, we want to really look at your task list and say "let's loosen you up a little bit" in terms of what's on your plate. But at the same time, we want to give you choice so that Curtis can say "this is the stuff I want to do. This is the stuff that lights me up. This is the coming and going I want to do. But this is a choice I'm making".  


As opposed to "this is where I am stuck. I have no choice. I'm at the mercy of this business". right? 


[00:17:13] Curtis Christopherson:
Yeah, totally.  


[00:17:13] Kim Ades:
So there are two things going on. One is Curtis, I think you're the guy who needs that high level of action.  


[00:17:21] Curtis Christopherson:
Challenge. Yeah.  


[00:17:22] Kim Ades:
Okay, so I don't want to remove that from you because that would just kill you. You would just get bored, right? That's not a good thing for you.  


[00:17:29] Curtis Christopherson:
Yeah. 


[00:17:30] Kim Ades:
Did I nail that? 


[00:17:31] Curtis Christopherson:
Yeah.  


[00:17:32] Kim Ades:
But the other side of the coin is you probably don't need to have everything on your plate. And what I want to do is I want to elevate your leadership by saying leaders choose selectively what they're engaged with and what they're not engaged with. And so my guess is that there are a whole bunch of things that you're engaged with that you don't need to be engaged with, that there are other solutions for those things. And so you want to do both.  


So now the idea is to increase your consciousness about what you're doing when, and that you have choice about how to spend time with your kids. If you want to be present, it's up to you. Right? So at no point will you say "I have no choice".  


[00:18:17] Curtis Christopherson:
Yeah.  


[00:18:18] Kim Ades:
Right? Does that make sense to you? 


[00:18:20] Curtis Christopherson:
Yeah, for sure.  


[00:18:21] Kim Ades:
And it's surprising, right? Because I'm not giving you a hard time for being wired the way you are.  


[00:18:27] Curtis Christopherson:
Correct.  


[00:18:28] Kim Ades:
I'm saying we've got to leverage that, but you need to...  


[00:18:32] Curtis Christopherson:
Have a level of conscious awareness, yeah.  


[00:18:35] Kim Ades:
Exactly. And decide where you really want to spend your time, because I'm going to guess there are places where you're spending your time that are less than ideal, that aren't leveraging your strengths, that aren't necessary. 


[00:18:49] Curtis Christopherson:
Yeah. 


[00:18:49] Kim Ades:
Right? And then the question becomes when you're with your kids, how do you operate? Are you... Not only present, but are you enjoying your time with them? Do you get annoyed easily? But that's a whole other level, right? So we can talk about that another day. But hopefully that gave you some things to think about. 


[00:19:10] Curtis Christopherson:
Oh, that was great. Yeah. Thank you.  


[00:19:11] Kim Ades:
And hopefully it gave you an idea of that when we coach people, we don't want to kind of change who they are fundamentally. We want to understand who they are and truly leverage their character, their nature, their wiring, and bring the best of them to the table. And so for you, we want to bring the best of you to the table. All that energy, all that– what did you call it? That vibrating level. 


[00:19:38] Curtis Christopherson:
Yeah.  


[00:19:38] Kim Ades:
We want to make sure it's in place. We don't want to dissipate that. But at the same time, we want you to be able to really make conscious choices. I hope that was helpful.  


For those of you who are listening, think about your own nature and think about how you vibrate and what energy levels you have, and think about the things that you're doing that perhaps aren't so necessary. The places where you feel trapped, the places where you feel like "man, I can't get out of this", and start to ask yourself if that's actually true. What beliefs do you have that are keeping you stuck in the place of doing things that you feel like there is no one else who can do them.  


If you enjoyed this podcast, please like, and share. Also, we're always looking for podcast guests. If you'd like to be a guest on the podcast and you're willing to share a challenge, please reach out to me. 


My email address is Kim@frameofmindcoaching.com.  


And if you have a challenge that perhaps you'd like to share, but not on the podcast, please reach out to me as well. Again, my email address is Kim@frameofmindcoaching.com.  

Curtis, thank you so much for being on this podcast.  


[00:20:50] Curtis Christopherson:
Yeah, thank you very much.

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