In my pursuit of self-growth, I realised that what was keeping me out of balance were my own false beliefs about balance itself.
Let me share a few of my staunch 'beliefs' that, on introspection, fell flat on their face…
Balance happens instantly
I used to feel that balance is like a switch. When I find it, I have to just flip it on, and voila, my life would be set.
But I realised that balance is not a 'thing' that, if I looked for thoroughly, I would find somewhere [perhaps below the bed or in some country hidden behind mountains].
It was when I read what Cari Vollmer, personal growth expert and the founder of lifeontrack.com and inspireyourday.com, said that I finally got it. "Balance is a state of present moment consciousness.
It's something we can feel in our body, mind and in our spirit. We can create balance by tuning into our gut, our intuition and our feelings. We can listen to our soul and give it what it wants. Balance is something we create on the inside, not something we 'find' on the outside.
Balance isn't so much about what we do; it's about who we are being in each moment," Vollmer said. And it resonated within me. I realised, then, that balance is a change inside me, in the way I look at the world, and, myself.
Balance is a one-time event
Another thing about balance is that it's not something you 'fix' once and for all. American personal coach Nancy Hughes Verhoeven too used to think that she would figure out what balance meant for her, and then achieve it by prioritising her life.
But when she reached her 'ideal' place, she found that she had still not found her balance. That was because her initial definition of balance wasn't valid anymore—so much had changed. "That is when I came to understand that finding a balance in your life is not something that you can define once, but rather it is a journey and an ever-changing target, which requires continuous effort and adjustments," she said.
"No balance or equilibrium is static. Achieving balance is a process, not a one-time event. There will be times when work, family, church and friends, all become demanding and require attention. This is fine and natural," says Morgan Mclintic, executive vice president, LEWIS PR.
"Our balance will vary over time, often on a daily basis. The right balance for you today will probably be different for you tomorrow. The right balance for you when you are single will be different when you marry, or if you have children; when you start a new career versus when you are nearing retirement," says Jim Bird, CEO of worklifebalance.com.
Situations change, people change, and we change too—life is fluid and the sooner you grasp this, the easier it will be to get a handle on finding your sense of equilibrium.
Balance means being able to manage work and life
For a long time, life for me was divided into work and personal life. Then I came across an article by Morgan Mclintic that changed the way I saw things. He wrote that work/life balance is a mirage; it simply doesn't exist.
What exists is conflicting priorities. And instead of seeing them as 'work' or 'life', we should see them as mental, emotional, physical or spiritual. And this is what we need to balance. "Your professional career can easily encompass all four, even the spiritual. Spending time with family, going to the gym, seeing friends, meditating, even listening to your iPod, all hit different aspects of those needs," says Mclintic.
The series of little emotional, spiritual, mental and physical decisions we take everyday—when to work late, when to eat and what to eat, when to spend time with family, whether to work on the weekend, or decline that drink—determines the slant of our life; the balance of our lives hangs on decisions like these.
Balance = perfect
I used to look around and find people who are successful [read 'wealthy with enviable careers'] and feel, 'now that's what I call a perfect life!' I was shocked to know later that they had their fair share of issues too, but many of them were happy despite that.
According to Vollmer, there is no such thing as a perfect life. "Now, don't get me wrong," he says. "As a personal growth enthusiast, I do think you can create a life that works well and feels great. But that has nothing to do with perfection.
Balance is all about the NOW and has nothing to do with perfection," What I understood from this is that a balanced life doesn't mean a life sans problems; it means being in a state where you don't get bogged down by them.
Balance means equal
The easiest way to see through this myth is to look at the concept of work/life balance through Bird's perspective. "Trying to schedule an equal number of hours for each of your work and personal activities is usually unrewarding and unrealistic. Life is and should be more fluid than that," he says.
Balance is same for all
Lastly, I realised that one of my problems with finding balance was that I was comparing my life with someone else's. I was searching in my life what others had in theirs, and therefore not finding it.
But my set of worries and challenges are unlike those of others. Then how can my sense of balance be the same as theirs? When I realised this, I stopped comparing. As Bird says, "There is no perfect, one-size-fits-all balance that you should be striving for.
The best balance is different for each of us because we all have different priorities and different lives." Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a leading researcher on positive psychology put it best: "A joyful life is an individual creation that cannot be copied from a recipe."
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