How often do we hear “live a balanced life” or “find balance”? Frequently the best advice or wisdom seems to relate to achieving balance. Like we can just stay balanced once we find it. Once you get there everything else will allow you to stay balanced and in harmony.
That would be nice, but we all know otherwise. We have all been balanced at one point or another. We all know some ways we could or should use to get back there. But it’s hard. It is hard because we think of balance as a state we can reach. We think that we will arrive at a point of balance and the same way we arrived there will keep us there.
Here is the truth: Balance is an action, not a state. It is constantly evaluating and adjusting what we need to stay balanced. It is active. It is ongoing.
Think about standing on one foot, and balancing your bodyweight. We are compensating as we sway, and using many different muscles in conjunction to remain erect and upright. As we lean to one side we are forced to shift our weight in the opposite direction and other muscles adapt and aim to realign us to the midpoint.
After continual practice, adjustments, and effort we may be able to remain balanced with greater ease. We will gain strength, stamina, and endurance to continue balancing on one foot the more we work at it.
We will never cease the need to work. We are balancing actively, even when we make it look easy. We developed ourselves and built the skill. It did not just happen.
We can be looking for the elusive “work-life balance” or to “eat a more balanced diet.” We can be working on a more “emotionally balanced” state of mind. Regardless of what kind of balance we are pursuing, or if we are pursuing them all, I illustrate the example of the physical aspect of balance to touch on a few points.
Mind and body provide balance when in unison. Whether in a physical act or in our lifestyle as a whole, our physical specimen and our consciousness are the roots of the balancing act. No matter what part of our lives needs to be brought into balance, we cannot go far without improving the relationship between our minds and bodies. Greater stability is found by incorporating our soul or spirit too.
We cannot get better at something without practicing over a long enough period of time. Maybe we fall or fail. Maybe it takes weeks, months, or years to strengthen ourselves or develop the skill of balancing without such tremendous strain. Time is going onwards regardless. We can use our time to aim for alignment and centering any particular realm of our lives. Or, we can remain heavily compensated in one direction without aiming to improve. Time to decide.
Maybe we need to quit all social media for a while. Maybe just one network in particular. Working on balancing any area of our lives demands the willingness to experiment and try alternatives. If we are on one foot and start to lean left, a small effort to move right might be what we need. Or, we might need to hurl ourselves towards the right side just to avoid falling. Balancing anything requires that we are not only able to make adjustments, but to feel their effectiveness. Did that work? Was that too much, or too little? Did starving myself for 3 days help my goal to eat healthier? I can change the variables and try again.
Balance is nothing more than an illusion without recognizing that it requires work and action. If making time to balance our lifestyle with a greater emphasis on health and fitness is our aim, then preparing for it is important. Understanding that attaining a balanced lifestyle does not mean a comfortable lifestyle. Not the elimination of comfort, but the allowance of discomfort. Comfortable is not balanced. We may find ourselves mastering the upright posture of balancing on one foot, but if we remain proficient in only that physical act we are no longer growing. We are comfortable and stable. We have, however, become willing to do less work. We need to build off the balance, not only stand at attention. Gradually shifting our center of gravity lower increases the demands, and the strength required. Balancing in a pistol squat is magnitudes more challenging (and rewarding), than standing on one foot.
There are so many ways we could be looking for a more balanced life. I write about this to address them all and philosophize about the concept as a whole. I do not pretend to be a master of balance. I am not. I did come to the realization that I am never going to be in a perfect balanced state forever. I did think about it and grow to understand that I will always be making adjustments, learning, and practicing the balancing act of life.
I also thought about it as another metaphor. The yin/yang balance of light and dark. Whichever direction I am trying to find a more balanced state, I need to understand the counter balance. The opposite. If I am working on the general goal of “being more productive” the opposite side is laziness or wasting time. Maybe I have been teetering on the edge of a balanced and productive life. Exerting, straining, and actually leaning past the optimum balance point. Maybe I can permit a brief bout of laziness for contrast. To allow a greater understanding of what the real equilibrium is.
As we grow, change and live our lives we are all going to have our triumphs and tribulations. We all have areas to improve. Looking for balance, happiness, or anything — we need to think deeply about it, and to look at it with an open mind. Maybe we are not as balanced as we would like because we have never addressed what that word means to us.
The truth about balance: it is challenging and we wish it were straightforward. It is fleeting, and we expect it to last.
This is the 52nd installment of Writing Wednesday. A full year!!! Writing 1000 words a week, no matter what. I am finally becoming a writer!
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Originally published at medium.com