We hear the term “life balance” a lot – but what does it really mean? And how do we find and maintain it?
I think there are two answers to these questions. The first has to do with looking at the various roles and responsibilities in our lives; and accurately and honestly assessing how we’re establishing our priorities and directing our energy. The second, I believe, has to do with recognizing and managing our internal conflicts.
I like to think that we’re never truly “balanced” – but that at any given time we’re either moving toward balance or moving away from it. Moving toward balance means taking the time daily to take stock of our tasks, sorting out what’s most important, and working our way through the list – while continuously and effectively monitoring and adjusting the energy and time we’re devoting to each one. If we feel reasonable healthy on all levels, its probably safe to say we’re moving toward balance.
(It also helps to do this mindfully: we see and assess things more accurately and effectively if we’re really “present” in all of our actions and interactions. It’s easy to engage mindlessly in doing the things we need to do, and in being the people we need to be – but successfully “checking everything off the list” doesn’t necessarily mean we’re moving toward balance. When we act in a rote and mindless manner we become disengaged from our emotional and spiritual selves. And we can’t experience a move toward true balance without those.)
I started thinking about internal conflicts as I was driving home today through a very nice neighborhood that smelled like money. My first reaction was one of excitement, motivation, and possibility: I thought about how I could have all the things I want to have if I just continue to work hard to be successful. My second reaction was one of guilt, however, as I became acutely aware of the birth lottery that’s unfairly landed me in the top one percent of all the wealth on this earth.
This got me thinking about how easy it would be to live my life out of balance if I didn’t also acknowledge and deal with these internal conflicts in a healthy way. I could, for example, try not to think about the rest of the world while I’m striving for my own success: changing the channel when one of those commercials comes on and telling myself there’s nothing I can do. Or I could just as easily go the opposite way: adopting the attitude that it’s wrong to give into the human drive toward success; living in squalor with the belief that money is the root of all evil.
Or I could think about it logically: I could decide that I don’t have to live way beyond my means if that’s not where my values lie; but also that I can’t do anyone else any good if I don’t have the resources to do so. (I’m not saying that this is the correct or only way to approach this conflict; but I am saying that I have a choice.)
Of course this is only one example of the many conflicts we all have residing within us – but the point is that we can strive to identify and reconcile them in healthy ways; helping to maintain a sense of balance. And we can do this while engaging purposefully and flexibly with the many roles and responsibilities of our lives.