I have written about balance, how we crave it, how to get closer to it. I have always admired my boyfriend for the balance he has in his life. I am always seeking more balance in mine. So, imagine my surprise when I started a new book today that says balance is a lie. Well, I stand corrected.
I started a book called “The ONE Thing” by Gary Keller and Jay Papsan and in the very first chapter it goes into very convincing detail about how “balance” is a lie. It makes total and complete sense. What is balance?
An even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.
Keep or put (something) in a steady position so that it does not fall: “a mug that she balanced on her knee”.
noun. scales – equilibrium – equipoise – poise – scale
verb. poise – weigh – equilibrate
When we speak of balance in life we are eluding to the balance of how we devote energies to things in life we consider important; work, family, health, friends, religion, politics, hobbies, etc. So, in it’s modified application, balance, as it pertains to life, would be, perhaps, “an even distribution of energy between activities in life to maintain equality”. Balance, then, in this sense would mean we would devote an equal amount of energy to everything in life we consider valuable. Is that practical? Is that even possible? So, you’re at work and you are given an assignment or project and you apply on a certain amount of energy to it so as to keep all else equal? How long will you keep your job with that mindset? Likewise, you are caring for your family, there are two soccer games, a Girl Scout meeting later and some help required on math homework. Do you just stop the car between the Girl Scout meeting and the soccer game because you’ve exhausted the allotted amount of energy on family for the day? Of course not. In life, things need to be done, some things before others, and we will have to apply enough energy to complete the task or activity to satisfaction. In other words, we prioritize tasks and activities and apply the appropriate amount of energy to get to the desired point of completion of each within a certain period of time. Make sense? This will require uneven amounts of energy to different activities, on a regular basis. So, we really don’t want balance, nor is it even desirable.
The trick is to know your limits; how much energy to apply to each facet of your life. This, again, is called prioritization and is a skill that takes a great deal of thought, planning and constant adjustment. The book suggests, convincingly, that we do not excel at much unless we devote a great deal of energy to it. If we devote equal amounts of energy to everything in life, we will achieve mediocrity in all we do. Think of those big assignments in school, or studying for final exams, a great deal of energy was applied and without it, a mediocre result was achieved. It was a temporary application of a great deal of energy, and once completed, the energy could be focused in another area. We have similar experiences with work. And with family. And friends. And everything else worthwhile in life.
I was in a yoga class yesterday and we assumed the “tree pose”, one of my favorites because, frankly, I’m quite good at it. In the tree pose, you stand on one foot and lift the other so that it is off the ground and, if you can, place the flat of your foot against the inner thigh of the supporting leg. Most would say you “balance” to maintain the position, but even that is untrue. Balance; put or kept in a steady position so as not to fall. Balance assumes no movement, think of a scale that is balanced, both sides are so equal that movement ceases. In a yoga pose, the tree pose especially, you are moving all over the place, even if you are capable of maintaining the position so well you appear motionless. In fact, there are probably very few muscles that aren’t moving, adjusting, correcting. This is true in dance, too, the dancers appear to be “balanced”, when in fact many fine muscles in the supporting legs and in the core of the body are moving, constantly, to maintain that position. That’s what my muscles did yesterday so I could maintain tree pose, they shifted and twitched and flexed and tightened. So, rather than balancing, my muscles were correcting my position, constantly, so it could be maintained.
In life, in order to accomplish what needs to be done, beyond mediocrity, we need to devote unequal amounts of energy to given activities. We need to make corrections, constantly, so we can shift our energies from one activity to another, to the satisfaction of that activity. We need to identify and apply priorities to our activities to know just how much correction, or energy, is required.
In “The ONE Thing”, the author quoted a passage from a James Patterson book “Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas”. In the passage the author suggests you should imagine life as a game where you are juggling five balls; work, family, health, friends and integrity. Work is a ball made of rubber and will bounce back if dropped. The remaining four balls are made of glass and will likely break if dropped. And, in life, hopefully, we learn this lesson before we have spent too much energy on work and not enough on the other, more fragile things in life.
Even in love we are never in balance, we are always adjusting and making corrections. In a relationship, there is always change. It is impossible to expect two people to progress, in the same direction, at the same rate. In new relationships, we begin thinking we have much in common. As time passes, we usually find that we have significant differences, if not incompatibilities. Perhaps there is fear, insecurity, distrust or hurt from past experiences as a catalyst, or different goals, or different timelines. This does not necessarily doom the relationship. Necessarily. If the parties involved are able, and willing, little adjustments, or corrections, can be made and things can continue to progress. Established relationships are no different, they’ve just made it through the neophyte phase. There will be changes, differences and even incompatibilities. Again, making adjustments or corrections will be the key to long-term success. It is not a matter of balance, but of corrections. No relationship, new or old, will ever be balanced; kept or put in a steady position so it does not fall. The key is making those adjustments, those corrections, to maintain the desired position – the happy relationship.
What applies to love applies to any other relationship; friendships, family, even relationships with your dog, or your horse. All will require adjustments and corrections as the relationship changes, for whatever reason.
Is this not true for driving? I had a blissful drive today, between Napa and Sacramento. Once on Interstate 80, especially when traffic is light, I like to think of my drive as “high speed therapy”. Let’s just say I like to push the limit a bit. I like to drive fast. And not get caught. And, like the tree pose, I am quite good at it. But, I did see two CHP officers as I was hurtling along at not quite twenty miles an hour over the posted limit. What did I do? I adjusted, I corrected. I applied a little less energy to my activity. In driving, we are constantly monitoring other cars, subtle changes in the road; curves, inclines, declines, bumps in the road, police officers, and for each of these, we will adjust many things, how much we accelerate, whether we need to apply the brakes, change lanes, turn or even swerve. All the while, though, we are trying to maintain a fairly constant rate of speed, whether faster or slower than the posted limit, which is the “balance” we are trying to maintain. I have a large digital speedometer on my dash and it is very easy to see (even from passing cars) what speed I am traveling at. I am not a fan of cruise control and without it, though I maintain an average speed, the actual speed fluctuates a great deal. It is not balance, not a steady rate, but a series of tiny adjustments or corrections based on a number of variables and activities.
So, in seeking a better balance in life, might I suggest you begin by making a correction? Balance is not attainable, but a series of adjustments to how you apply your time, your passion, your energy to those worthy interests in life is what will help you achieve that which you seek, that which you crave, that which you may find elusive. Make the correction.