One of the most universal bits of wisdom is that there should be a certain balance in our lives: We need a degree of material security as well as emotional and spiritual fulfilment, we need success both in the “outside”, public world and in our private lives, and we’d all agree that body, mind, soul, and spirit all deserve equal attention and fulfilment. Holistic medicine tells us that this is the key to well-being.
I used to struggle with this. My life tends to focus on one area at a time, rather than balancing everything nicely. For years, I felt like I was missing a crucial skill to keep things even, and spent a lot of energy trying to change. It took me a while to learn what balance is really about, and I have since come across a lot of other people – including my Coaching clients – who face similar challenges, and so I decided to give you my own take on the subject.
When life takes over
In the introduction to his book First Things First, Stephen Covey writes how his daughter once told him she felt like she was failing at the “7 Habits” and at keeping things in balance, because she’d just given birth and suddenly everything revolved around the baby. Covey told her that there are times in life when certain areas in life take over and there is nothing wrong with that. As a new parent, of course you will focus on your baby for a while. It’s natural and how it should be.
Where, then, does balance come in? The answer is: Weeks, months, or even years later. Babies grow up. Whatever situation we might find ourselves in, which may lead to us focusing on only one or two areas of our lives above all others, will eventually make way to new developments. As they say, nothing is as permanent as change. As life turns into a different direction, a new focus will command our attention.
But what about balance?
I remember a long-ago biology lesson in school, when we were taught about something called a “dynamic balance”. What this means is not a state where things are smooth and even at all times, but a dynamic situation with many swings, even extremes, in either direction. The “balance” happens in between those extremes, meaning that all in all, things cancel each other out.
In other words, instead of having a continuously even life, flowing steadily like a river, you can have an emphasis on different things at different times and swing up and down, and still be in balance overall. The highs and lows, the different areas, are in balance when you look at them as a whole. Does that makes sense?
In other words, there’s no need to frantically try to pay attention to everything at the same time. You do not fail at life if you’re studying for an exam and fail to go to the gym for a few weeks. There’s no harm in falling in love and spending less effort on your other relationships for a while – just as long as you eventually go back and catch up with whatever it is you left behind.
Peace of mind
The reason why this principle is so important to understand is that our lives have a lot of different aspects, and it can be very stressful trying to keep all balls in the air at the same time. Realising that there’s nothing wrong with putting down a few of them and juggling just one or two at a time, can be sanity-saving.
You can dedicate yourself to your family, or your creativity, or your health when you feel called to do so. Obviously, you need to keep up a basic level of functionality in other areas of your life, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking they all need equal attention. Life just doesn’t work that way, and there’s no need for you to force yourself into trying to fulfill a theoretical ideal.
With my own Coach, I take stock at regular intervals to see where I stand in different areas of my life. These are the times to make adjustments and maybe pay a little more attention to something I’ve let fall by the wayside for a while. I do the same thing with my own clients, and if you’d like to try it too, simply schedule a review in your calendar twice a year. If you keep track of things, you needn’t worry when life tilts “out of balance” – you’ll know you can always make a shift in the opposite direction at your next checkpoint.
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