Balance is a popular term these days – whether the topic is diet, checkbook, or the juggling act between work and life. The single word “balance” paints a picture that everything in our lives can exist in a perfect state all the time. Everything is in its place with everything working smoothly together.

The reality is it’s not as easy as it sounds. I’m not even sure balance is what we should be striving for. After all a balanced diet is a great step toward better health, but diet alone doesn’t guarantee anything if we don’t move off the couch.

We’re all in a constant state of motion so the idea of things staying in a balanced state doesn’t seem realistic. When we think everything is in order and we start feeling comfortable, those are often the times we’re actually underperforming – and even bored.

I’d rather look at balance as a process. Think about riding a bicycle. We’re only able to stay steady when we’re moving forward.

We’re always working to balance the most important things in our lives – family, farms, jobs, community projects and more. But life doesn’t slow down so we can organize everything perfectly. Instead we keep moving forward, sometimes hitting a speedbump or needing to swerve and refocus along the way. Sometimes it takes help from friends or family to guide us back to the path, or even to pick us up after a fall.

For those of us in agriculture – and dairy in particular – a balanced checkbook is a difficult goal to achieve these days. Being responsible stewards of our farms and businesses is critical. But we must also remember that net worth and self-worth are two different values. One is determined by the bank and the other is determined by our Creator.

In the end the checks and balances aren’t ours to keep. When we accept that our self-worth and net worth are not connected, it’s easier to manage. That makes even the most difficult decisions on the farm become possible.

Letting go of guilt and worry frees the mind to better focus on things we can manage. It allows us to be more open to enjoying the blessings all around us. That’s balance at its best.

Shelly Mayer is the executive director of Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin; email to contact her. Visit for more information.