Balance was my “one word” last year. As a matter of fact, “balance” is often what comes to my head when anyone tells me to think of a word. My mom has been preaching this idea of balance to me all of my life. “It’s all about balance, Amanda,” I can distinctly hear her say. It’s funny that I even like that word at all after having it drilled in my head since I was four years old. Especially in my teen years, I would always roll my eyes and huff, which meant that I knew she was right I just didn’t want to hear it.
In this lifelong journey to find balance I have teeter tottered quite a bit along the way. I think we all have. In fact, I’ve come to realize that balance isn’t really an end goal, its more of a way of thinking, and it’s more innate than we realize. There are times when we have more and less balance in our lives and, as with most things, preventative care and maintenance are essential in keeping it going strong.
Finding balance is not a simple task. It’s not something you can pick up at the store. It’s not something you can test out of. There’s no formal certification process that says “Hey, You’ve got balance.” And if there was such a thing, it would pretty much expire the next time life shows up with more stuff.
I work on balance everyday of my life. Really, every minute of my life. I have learned that it’s not the same for everyone, because everyone is not the same. What works for me may not work for you. This is something I grapple with in the era of social media. There’s a “how to” for everything. (Yes, I sense the irony of this post) We have millions of examples of what works for everyone else and it can become overwhelming to know where to start. But the real “how to” has nothing to do with everyone else’s life and everything to do with finding out what works best for you based on your own needs and your past experiences. I’ve had to take ownership of this concept and stop trying to live everyone else’s life and start focusing on what I need to do in my personal life in the current moment. It’s been a tough, but needed, life lesson.
What does balance mean to you?
“Balance” may have a universal meaning, but what it truly looks like in our lives is much more unique. Not one of us is the same. We all live out different experiences and our level of stress and chaos can vary from day to day. Not only does balance differ from person to person, our individual needs also ebb and flow on a regular basis. This makes achieving “balance” a super personal experience.
It is important to become aware of our needs and desires when it comes to finding balance – it’s essential, really. Balance is about evaluating all of our physical, emotional, and interpersonal needs and then coming up with a plan to attend to every aspect as much as possible.
How many times do we compare ourselves to others when it comes to finding a sense of balance? I did it just this morning. I have this cousin who always seems to have such peace in her life. She makes life look effortless and seems to balance everything really well. Truth be told, I have always been a little jealous of her, especially in the times when my life was twist turned upside down.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for healthy role models. It’s good to see others achieve our desired results. But we do need to be careful to honor and attend to our own individuality. I am nothing like my cousin. She is much older than me. We differ significantly in our thoughts, ideas, and life experiences. Sometimes I let myself imagine what it would be like to be my cousin. While it might have it’s peaceful moments, I have to admit, I’d be bored out of my mind in the long run.
This is why it is super important for us to personally define what balance looks like in our own crazy, chaotic, and messed up lives. What aspects of your life are you looking to change and how are you looking to change them? What areas of your life can’t necessarily be rearranged right now and what parts can? Do you really even need to rearrange anything? Maybe the balance that you are looking for comes from an inward sense of peace that is promoted through meditation and prayer. Maybe balance, for you, is setting boundaries and saying “No”. Take some time today to really reflect on what balance means in your life. A good way to think about this is to ask yourself what it would be like if you woke up tomorrow and your life felt completely… balanced. What would that look like? What would that feel like? What would you brain be saying? What would you be doing differently?
This can clue you into what defines your personal sense of balance.
You’ve actually been there and done that…
As humans we tend to always focus on things that need to be done better, things that we could be doing differently. Heck, you are probably reading this article because you are looking to change something about the way you live your life. I believe that this self-reflection is a hidden strength and challenges us to reach further and promotes healthy growth.
If we are not careful, we can miss out on the areas of our life that we are actually doing pretty well. You see, there have to be times that you have felt balance in your life. I believe that we are biologically inclined to attend to our basic needs every so often but we usually don’t take the time to recognize it. It’s often subconscious or so habitual that we wouldn’t identify it as anything revolutionary. But if you take the time to recognize the ways that you have already learned to take care of yourself, you will start to see things that you can build upon. A few upgrades and a little remodeling is much easier than starting completely over with all new construction. This is the easiest,yet most difficult, concept to master when it comes to finding balance.
I bet, if you really tried, you could think of a few times in your life that you felt moderately at peace. Even if just for a glimmer of a second, there must be instances where you felt whole, instances where you truly felt a little balanced. I challenge you to think back on as many situations like this that you can remember. I know that there are at least three. Write those down.
Reflect on your past peace
Reflection is an interesting concept. In modern day psychology the process of “reflecting” is meant to be rejuvenating, healing, and a promotion of growth and wellness. But I think we’ve missed the mark a little if we aren’t intentional in how we go about doing this reflection. We reflect all of the time. I’m sure that is a huge reason that you decided to read this article. At some point you must have reflected on the fact that you’re life is a bit chaotic right now and you decided that you need to find more balance. That is great. It got you here. But reflection has to go a little deeper in order to truly do its job.
We have to start thinking about the things that have gone right in our lives. The times that we experienced joy, healing, success… balance. It can be dangerously easy to get ourselves stuck in over-processing the negatives and trying to figure out the reasons we need help. When we get stuck on the “whys” its easy to lose focus on the “whats” and the actual “hows”.
Going back to those three things that you wrote down, now let’s take a minute to reflect on them through this lens. We gain a lot of wisdom from our past experiences- not just from our failures, but also from the times that we succeeded. What was going on in those times that you felt balanced? Was there something that you specifically did? What was your brain doing during those times- were there any thoughts that were particularly helpful? Basically, this type of reflection is looking back and asking yourself, “How did I do that?”
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
If something worked, try it again. It’s actually that simple. This sounds silly doesn’t it? You were probably thinking this article would tell you to make time for a massage, or better structure your time management. You can definitely do those things and I’m sure they will help. But this is exactly what I was saying about the “how to” culture that we live in. There is no cookie cutter prescriptive “how to” when it comes to balance. It has to be your own- and, as a fascinating biological species, we each have a unique innate programming that is equipped to help us successfully navigate our lives. We know how to do it. We just sometimes forget to listen to it. We get so overexposed to everyone else’s “how tos” that we miss out on what we already know. (and what already works).
This is what I work on everyday. I don’t go around trying to find different ways to force myself into balance. Instead, when I feel the chaos coming on, I take a few mindful moments to stop and smell my own roses. I am the person who knows me best. There is no better expert on my life. It’s the same for you.
Looking back on those times when you felt at peace, you may or may not be able to entirely recreate that experience. Most likely your conditions are completely different and you aren’t in the same place in your life. That’s okay, things change. Its not about the content it’s about the concept. What parts of these past experiences can translate into your current life? How can you adapt and refresh your way of thinking? If you can pull any bit from the times when you were balanced it will help you start to reignite that feeling.
Now write down the ways that you will honor your past experiences of balance by incorporating them into your current life.
Again, its not about the content, its about the concept.