On balance: perfection or process?
I've been noticing something fascinating happening for a while when I read articles about lifestyle: mainly those which promise to teach us how to create a more balanced life. What's interesting is that I can find myself getting MORE stressed. Surely that's not right?
So I began to question 'why?'
And what I realised is that 'creating balance' is something else we feel we have to do. As if it isn't enough to work, run a home, look after the family, produce wonderfully nutritious food, exercise, read, keep up with messages and social media, and even meditate.
Apparently, I'm supposed to do all of this in perfect balance. With my 'to do' list ticked off with military precision at the end of each day. Who lives like that?!
Then I got thinking, what if I don't achieve it 'all'? Am I supposed to start feeling guilty about that?
Why balance may not work
When I think about creating balance in my life, the challenge appears to be: how to dedicate equal time for what I have to do in a day (or a week or a month), as well as what I want to do.
But with fresh eyes, it strikes me as a ridiculous notion (not to mention a vast pressure) to strive to find equal amounts of time for work, family, hobbies, rest and exercise? By attempting to 'balance things out,' surely I'm immediately putting myself into a no-win situation, as well as a race against the clock. This way of living reduces life to a mathematical equation, and I've always been terrible with numbers.
Balance doesn't have to mean equal ratios of activity
I've been making the mistake of thinking that balance exists 'out there' rather than where it truly resides: within.
Am I right in thinking this is the same for some (or all?) of you reading this article?
If so, let's take another look at balance.
Balance can be the approach we bring to the things we do, whatever they may be, meaning that it comes from our inner state of mind rather than the external activities we're involved in.
Think for a moment of what you are striving for when you picture a 'balanced' life. How does that look to you? What are you doing with your time?
Unfortunately, it's likely to be the picture of balance that we are clinging onto that causes the anxiety in the first place.
Take a moment (as I have recently done) and please question where this picture comes from, and who has put it there? Is it what you want? Or is it something you have learned from TV or magazines that have tried to give you an idea of what a balanced life looks like?
If the picture you hold is ‘yours', then great, but if not it might be time to re-look at, or even let it go. Free yourself from the burden of living up to whatever expectations you've set for yourself and stop striving for life to be a certain way. Life doesn't have to be any particular way.
Bringing inner balance to outer activity
If we're stressed, then any action that is aimed to help us achieve balance can become even more stress-inducing. If we're angry or resentful about having to cook a meal or walk the dog, then what could be a creative experience in the kitchen or a beautiful walk in nature can be overshadowed by our thoughts or desire to be elsewhere.
We can also associate balance with sitting in meditative poses and freeing ourselves of all stress and negative thoughts. Again, this is an unnecessary goal to give ourselves.
Balance, therefore, isn't about reaching a point where we are calm all of the time. It's not careful diary management that results in a streamlined, easy to navigate social calendar and a simultaneously sparking house.
It's a process.
It's more about being OK with the flow of life and accepting things as they are. It's about committing to the moment and focusing on what's in front of you. Like walking the dog or cooking that meal – none of these events are stressful in or of themselves, they are only made stressful by the thoughts we attach to the doing of them.
And so with that in mind, I'm not going to end this article by giving you 'Ten top tips' or provide you with a list of things you need to do to create a balanced life, that would be incongruous.
Instead, I'd like to invite you to give yourself over to the flow of life, open your options regarding balance and see what emerges. Your body, your thoughts and your levels of contentment will inform you if you're in balance.
Not the clock or a neatly completed ‘to do list’.