It felt heavy. Burdensome. Too many things which I was supposed to be enjoying began to feel like chores. I thought that balance would lead to happiness. Yet, I had lost my happy place. I couldn’t understand it. My life was balanced. Then I realised that I had misunderstood what being balanced meant.
The Balance Fallacy
I now don’t like it when people talk about finding balance. I like the concept, but not how it is generally envisaged. Balance is seen as the point where you are not prepared to sacrifice a bit of one thing for more of another. This interpretation assumes “equal” measures can be exchanged. Unfortunately it is seldom an equal trade-off. A little more of one thing, can mean a lot less of another.
Balance is perceived as trying to have it all. Like it is an all-you-can-eat buffet. It assumes we can and would want to have a bit of everything. Piling the plate of life up to excess, while a buffet is great from time to time, if it is done frequently, you begin to feel sick. Buffets are are not fulfilling and sustainable in the long term. Over time the selection on the plate is narrowed down to a few favourites. So it should be in life.
A different type of balance
Having nothing, is balanced, but probably unfulfilling. Having it all, is also balanced, but crushing, so it to is unfulfilling.
A better version is deciding to do less, deciding to be more purposeful and specific in what to do, at any one time…not all the time. It can and should change. It is not trying to have too much. It is not a trade-off. It is about making sure there is space between the activity. This allows for a more fulfilling version of being balanced. A better rhythm. More peaceful.
Making Space Place
It can be hard to hear the quiet voice of happiness in the volume of busy.
I had to shift from the one form of balance, to a better form. I had to cancel a lot of regular activity I had scheduled in. I had to say no. I had to stop doing a lot of what I was doing. I had to take a break. Stopping should not to be confused with not doing. The distinction is the intention.
Starting is easy, so why was there such a reluctance to stop? – I knew it could (almost) always be started again, with renewed and fresh enthusiasm. Perhaps I was worried it would be perceived as a lack of perseverance, a lack of drive, a lack of ability, as a failure. I fought back this fear.
“I cultivate empty space as a way of life for the creative process.” – Josh Waitzkin
Once I stopped, I waited to see what filled the empty space. I resisted a lot of what tried to fill it at first. I observed what persisted, then tested that persistence against the direction I want my life to take, at the moment.
Future focused to the present
I’m naturally inclined to be future focused. Others may be more naturally inclined to focus on the present. Neither is better, what is better is to recognise your bias and then make a conscious effort with intent to explore the other.
For present focussed – Take a few moments to ask questions such as, what if I did this? Where will I be in 2 years’ time? Where could I be?
For future focussed – Go for a walk, with no specific goal or purpose other than to wander. Observe people, see what they are doing.
On a recent trip to Switzerland we went swimming in one of the many beautiful and pristine lakes, once done swimming, I was ready to leave, I had to force myself to be in the moment. I did not want to see it as a task to complete and then move on. I chose to enjoy the serenity. Relaxing is hard for me. I had to make a conscious effort, with intent, to not fight being in the present. At first it was uncomfortable, then I relaxed into it. Relaxation is nothing in itself, like darkness is the absence of light, it is the absence of tension and resistance.
In time, without the noise of being busy. The overwhelming decisions I needed to make became easier, there was a clearing of the fog of the perceived excessive permutations and possibilities I faced. In the empty space, my options became clearer, more specific. I didn’t want it all, I wanted balance.