Balance is an Overrated Pipe Dream
By Kerul Kassel
Balance has been such a popular subject in
the last five years that it’s almost become passť. But that hasn’t
stopped many of us from continuing to pursue it.
The world has gotten smaller as it’s gone
more global, and the pressure to do more, faster, with fewer
resources hasn’t abated. Most people are juggling the demands of
two-income households while trying to keep current with all the
chores, tasks, details, and information necessary to make informed
and wise decisions, not to mention time for family, hobbies,
volunteer activities, exercise, socializing, self-improvement ...
the list seems endless! And overwhelming.
We seek balance because we’re stressed.
We gravitate toward balance when our activities are not closely
enough aligned with our values, or are too taxing to be healthy over
the long haul. But trying to find perfect balance is a
pipe dream and wasted effort.
There seems to be more pressure to be
successful – in the cultural sense – than ever before. While doing
the job of two or three people at work, we’re expected to be
exemplary parents, AND also have a life in which we actively enjoy
our avocations and hobbies, take superb care of our bodies, spirits
and minds. If you think balance needs to be a daily practice, think
again. While it’s a wonderful goal, it’s not realistic for most
folks. Balance becomes another to-do on an ever expanding and
What if the balance we’re looking for in
our lives was more like the balance that nutritionists suggest as a
diet? For instance, we don’t need to eat all the proper numbers of
servings from the five food groups each and every day, but if we get
a good balance over a month, that’s still quite healthy.
Translating that to the bigger picture,
that might mean that there are times when we need to work more than
usual, and other times when we can take more time off; times when we
focus more intently on our hobbies and passions, and other times
when they go a bit neglected because there are other current
important priorities. There may be times when we take really good
care of ourselves, and other times when that slips a bit; times
where we devote a lot of attention to our family, and other times
when there is less energy and daily time to focus on them. And
that’s OK – it is as it needs to be.
The aim of balance is to live a well-rounded life, and to renew and
refresh your productive and creative energies on a regular basis so
you can contribute to the best of your potential. Here are some
useful tips to help you achieve a realistic balance:
1) Get Mindless. The other side of work isn’t only family
time, it also includes activities that rejuvenate you, whether
that’s spa time or a simple hot bath, sports, meditation, fishing,
taking a walk, sitting in your yard and watching the birds in the
trees or the clouds in the sky. This “mindless” time is critical to
restoring your mental prowess, as well as your physical stamina. It
also creates space for spontaneous creativity and problem solving.
Don’t force it, though. The aim is to relax and enjoy fully.
2) Employ your calendar. Remember to schedule those
activities into your calendar for specific days and times. If you
need to contact others to set things up, schedule that into your
calendar, too. Seeing the activity in your calendar engenders more
of an emotional commitment to it, and it sets aside time for it,
automatically making it more of a priority.
3) Reduce family performance stress. Quality time with your
loved ones needn’t be complex or difficult to pull off. You don’t
need to schedule special activities or spend a bunch of money to
spend rewarding, memorable moments with your family and friends.
Unstructured time and spontaneous activities are often more fun and
are remembered longer. Some ideas include going for a bike ride,
sharing an interesting craft project, baking or cooking a meal,
going for a hike in a local park, or taking a car ride.
4) Be gentle with yourself. If you start a new habit that
soon gets pushed to the side in the onrush of regular life,
understand that it’s completely normal. You haven’t failed, you’re
just experiencing the same breakthrough bumps everyone else goes
through, too. It’s unrealistic to decide to take up a positive new
practice and always follow through on it forever more. We know
this, we just forget to be more compassionate with ourselves. Ask
yourself if the habit was worthwhile when you did it, and if it was,
work it back into your schedule. If it wasn’t, pick something new
to play with.
5) Make it sustainable. If it’s not already part of your
daily schedule, creating an expectation that you’ll practice
silence, or meditation, or journaling, or some other activity every
day just isn’t realistic. Once or twice a week, or even once or
twice each month may be enough for some balance activities, at least
to start with. After all, that’s 100-200 percent better than before
you started, and that’s great progress.
6) Make it yours. Don’t get caught up in trendy balance
activities if they don’t fit your tastes or preferences. Since
cultivating our best selves is one of the reasons we seek balance,
spend time doing the things you really love to do, no matter what
anyone else thinks of them. These are, after all, the pursuits that
will truly re-energize and gratify you.
Look for balance between your values and
your financial constraints versus a satisfying lifestyle, so that
you’re living a life that doesn’t wear you out too quickly; one that
satisfies and engages your potential over months and years rather
than daily or weekly. It’s a much more forgiving intention, more
reasonable and sustainable, allowing you to be productive and
effective while not overloading you with expectations that just add
If the pursuit of balance is putting you
off balance, remember that while it’s a worthy pursuit in
moderation, its purpose is to reduce your stress and overwhelm, not
add to it. Have fun with it, enjoy it and let it be as “do nothing”
as you’d like it, and need it, to be.
Read other articles and learn more
about Kerul Kassel.
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