Like so many principles discovered in my life, the latest reminder came during one of my morning runs in nature. If you have ever physically stretched beyond your existing level of fitness, be it because of exercise, work or an unplanned activity; you would have experienced a side-stitch. Pain felt on either side of your tummy, more commonly reported on the right side. Symptoms may range from cramping or a dull ache to a pulling sensation or a sharp, stabbing pain. Researchers have labelled it the clumsy name of ETAP, which stands for exercise-related transient abdominal pain. Although there are a few theories as to the cause of this, one specifically seems to be related to our breathing… too shallow breathing, and seemingly not exhaling sufficiently…

My theory is linked to the topic of my article. I believe the moment we subconsciously experience too much strain in the activity we are busy with, the body seems to be telling us that we are doing something wrong, in this example sending the message with a painful side-stitch. In my experience, when I start getting short of breath, subconsciously I believe I need to take in more air and keep it in the lungs for longer periods to compensate for the lack of oxygen. The body needs to keep the balance between oxygen entering and carbon dioxide exiting the body and tell us to let go of the air.  Even with breathing, there is a need for balance!

Most of you will have seen the circle used in personal mastery courses to explain a balanced lifestyle covering all aspects of our lives: physical -, spiritual -, emotional -, social -, career and financial health.  As human beings real sustainable joyful living has to do with finding a healthy balance in and between each of these areas. The natural response to an imbalance in any area of our lives is to compensate in one of the others. I am not referring to a situation where a big change took place in a person’s life and a deliberate decision is made to focus attention on a specific area for a good reason. Our lives will never be in complete balance. There will always be acceptable reasons to shift our attention between the different areas to maintain healthy living. After an operation, the doctor might instruct you to refrain from physical exercise, to allow the body to recover, and not injure yourself further. A new business, new relationship, an addition to the family, a tragic loss… all of these situations might validate deliberate focus in a specific area to re-establish equilibrium.

Admitting that something is wrong, and making the required adjustments is the only way to go. If we subconsciously or intentionally focus more attention on an area to escape the pressure or pain in another area we might increase the imbalance, and therefore the pain in the long run. An imbalance at, and choosing (sometimes subconsciously) to focus on another area – always causes another challenge… Pay attention to the sting in the side; it tells us something is out of balance.

Unfortunately, many athletes have learned to keep on running with the stitch in the side – ignoring the pain. Tension in my marriage could lead to spending more time in the gym, or at the office – leading to a leaner body, or higher levels of output and success in projects. With the boss and teammates complimenting me, even improved work relationships… Keeping the air in the lungs.

Balanced leadership is finding the sweet spot to being hands-on, and empowering staff members to make decisions and learn through their mistakes. Knowing when to be strong and courageous amid danger, and when to show you’re human – also making mistakes, also afraid sometimes and also NOT having a solution… Breath in… and breath out!

In our personal lives balanced living is the secret to a joyful life.

  1. Enjoy an ice cream, on a hot day, a cold beer, a glass of fizzy cooldrink… with regular long brisk walks early mornings, or with the sunset…
  2. Enjoy a glass of good red wine in front of the fireplace, or a pancake with cinnamon sugar… but combine it with quality time with your family, with the TV off…
  3. Discipline your children in love, but ensure that you do it after the heat of emotion has subsided – with the main message unmistakenly – I LOVE YOU!
  4. Sleep in – rise early.
  5. Work hard – rest well
  6. Study – read fiction
  7. Watch TV – Play games….
  8. Stay up to date with what’s happening in the world – Look for the beauty of life!
  9. Give constructive criticism – Compliment sincerely!

Breath in fully, and let it all out!

Until next time.
Stefan Lessing