Magenta Blues is all about intentional balance, inspiring ordinary joy in everyday moments, and nurturing resilience. For those times in life when stress, sorrow or disappointment are present, or everything seems overwhelming, the stories and ideas at Magenta Blues seek to provide comfort and connection in managing through those feelings.
He says the best way out is always through.
And I agree to that, or in so far
As that I can see no way out but through—
Robert Frost (from “A Servant of Servants”)
In managing through, I have come to learn the importance of balance. And the stabilizing power that anchors provide in maintaining balance.
Balance is not always easy to achieve, we are not all wired for balance, and so for many of us it takes effort, and often, it takes new knowledge. Work-life balance has been something I have been striving for, failing, succeeding and failing at again, in a sort of two steps forward, one step backwards fashion, for many years now. In recent times, I have found some lasting success with the use of a psychological anchor that helps keep me focused. Sharing some of my experiences and strategies for finding balance is a big part of why I started Magenta Blues.
That psychological anchor is the word Magenta. Magenta represents balance in its fundamental meaning. It is the colour we see when blue/violet light and red light are reflected together. In the early studies of light and colour, one of the first scholars to represent colours in a circle was Goethe, creating magenta as the link between red and violet – the two spectrum ends of the rainbow. My connection with magenta first came in a whimsical conversation with one of my Sister’s about the colour of beet juice. But as I learned more about magenta and came to think of it as the blend of the two opposite ends of the rainbow spectrum, it took on a new meaning for me. And in my own struggle for work-life balance, I have learned that paradoxically, the answer lies in blending the two, instead of looking at work and non-work as two separate aspects of my life.
My first experience with the concept of a psychological anchor was back when I was in High School, not that I referred to it this way back then. What do I mean by a psychological anchor? Firstly, let me say, I am not referring to the cognitive bias of anchoring, which describes the common human tendency to place higher value on the first piece of information obtained when making decisions. Rather, my use of the term ‘psychological anchor’ refers to the use of a conceptual anchor as a tool for reminding you to be intentional in your thinking, your behaviours, and your response to challenges.
I went to High School in the suburbs of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. At the all-girls school I attended, a ‘coordinator’ was assigned to each year level. The teacher assigned as a year level coordinator had some additional pastoral care responsibilities, and was a first point of call for students if they needed something ‘extra’, in terms of emotional or spiritual support. (I went to a great school!) I recall our Year 11 Coordinator, who had teenage daughters of her own, telling us a story of how she would drive by a certain landmark on her way to work each morning (it was the clock tower on Beach Road in Black Rock just outside of Melbourne), and as she passed that point, she’d turn her mind from her own family and her own children, to her work colleagues and her students. And in the evening, when she drove home, at that same landmark, she’d turn off thinking about work and the school, and turn her mind and her attention back to her family and her own girls.
What a simple, and beautiful, discipline for supporting work-life balance practices.
More than a decade later, in 2001, I was reminded of psychological anchors at a company sponsored personal development program. I was definitely not practicing good work-life balance strategies at the time. Attending this course was a great wake-up call for me. Afterward, I put some new strategies in place, but in all honesty, they were rather short lived, and I once again let my life tip out of balance. I was over committed, working too many hours, not taking care of myself and focusing on my work like it was all that mattered. It was several years later, after moving from one city to another, some more years of growing and learning, and some significant life events, that I re-evaluated my need for an anchor of sorts; and I felt I needed my own ‘landmark’ to signify the conscious shift in my mind from work to the non-work aspects of my life.
There are three key areas that having a psychological anchor helps me with. Moment to moment responses, bigger life decisions, and last, but certainly not least, choices about how I will spend my days.
Simply by having an anchor, I am better able to disrupt my thinking to consciously remind myself to be intentional in my response to daily situations and in my decision making. I might be feeling irritated, anxious and worried, tired or grumpy, or perhaps full of beans, happy and over excited – but having a slight moment, before I act or respond (to anything), to silently consider the word ‘magenta’, allows me to remind myself that I am a seeker of balance and can choose it in that moment. In the mental uttering of the word magenta, I can take a breath, and move forward in a way that is congruent with my desire to be balanced.
This might seem ‘hokey’, but the truth is, with practice, it has become almost second nature. For someone who is naturally extroverted, driven, and prone to be a control freak, not reacting in an unbalanced fashion ‘in the moment’ has taken some practice, but I have made great strides.
When it comes to bigger life decisions – Will I move to a new city? Will I look for a new job? The concept of magenta and what it means to me has also been very valuable. And in these types of instances, it is not just about balance, but additionally, the way the word sounds. And the way magenta sounds conjures up other words like magic, majesty and imagination. These words, that are somewhat mystical and visionary in their meaning, have helped to keep me grounded to my intuition and the invisible forces at play, as I make the big decisions. Let’s face it, sometimes the best decisions are those that feel right, versus too much over analysis of what ‘should’ be done. Magenta as my anchor, is a constant reminder to me of this.
When it comes to how I will spend my days, my greatest indulgence, but at the same time, my greatest habit for resilience, is making time, almost every day, for day dreaming. I call it my ‘magenta time’. When I was a teenager, the rule in our house for my Sisters and I was that all homework had to be complete before you could watch television. The older of my two younger Sisters is quite close in age to me, and being only one year behind me in school, we always had similar homework loads. Being more organized than I am, she would always complete her homework before dinner and then be able to enjoy watching television after dinner if she chose to. I, on the other hand, didn’t really do anything in particular before dinner, and then had to complete my homework later (missing out on TV). My Mother always claimed that I was the kind of kid that needed some ‘lie on the floor time’. When I first started working, I forgot about that, and it probably took me at least ten years to re-discover this essential part of myself and to build in time to daydream (on a daily basis). Magenta time.
While these techniques are simple and age-old, there is something in affixing the concept of an anchor to them. This has helped me find the discipline to resist my own driven personality and the unrelenting nature of corporate responsibility. Let’s face it, for some of us, the sense of satisfaction from achieving excellence and results through our work is at times truly intoxicating and irresistible. And this is where it can be so easy to go too far, and spend all of our energy and time at work, leaving no time for other aspects of our lives, not even rest and relaxation! These days, ‘magenta time’, is essentially resilience building and resilience maintenance time for me.
In sharing this, I hope to inspire you to choose an anchor, perhaps a word, a color, a place, or something else. But some word, or concept, a landmark along your daily commute, as you establish, or re-establish, a foundation for your life balance. Perhaps you are maintaining disciplined practices already, perhaps you’re developing some new strategies, or like me, somewhere between the two. Wherever you are on your work-life balance journey, I encourage you to find your anchor point as a means of keeping deliberate, conscious focus and choosing balance, as you manage through your days.