Is a Balanced Life Actually Achievable?

 

Who doesn’t long for more energy to pursue the things that matter most?  Last week we talked about how our passion for living is affected by various experiences, and how to identify which keystone habit will maximize our capacity to accomplish more.

Yet with so many options available, it can feel overwhelming to manage every aspect of life smoothly and proportionally.  How well do you handle it all?  

  • Work and career obligations
  • Relationships / Family
  • Finances
  • Community activities
  • Health
  • Home maintenance
  • Recreation / Hobbies
  • Time for rest and recharging
  • Spirituality

 

What’s more, social media presents other people’s lives as neatly wrapped packages, with no strings or loose ends.  In comparison, our experience may seem ordinary, lacking, or out of balance.  

In truth, though, our everyday experience is the norm, not the exception.  We’re all tripping over the challenges of life, and the fact that there is more to do than can ever be done. 

 

So how do you choose what to focus on?  

 

How do you create a balanced life?

 

Maybe, just maybe, you stop trying so hard…

 

Why Balance Shouldn’t Be the Goal.

It’s important to acknowledge that a balanced life is an elusive goal.  No matter how hard we try, we never quite get there.  But we certainly experience the frustration of striving for it.    

Now I’m not advocating we ignore significant aspects of our lives, because that simply creates more stress.  It’s just that the attempt to reach some theoretical balance point moves our focus away from mindfully enjoying the present moment to cataloguing how everything measures up. 

A balanced life can be thought of as an important reference point, but it shouldn’t be considered a destination.  Just like a wheel needs to be in motion to keep it from falling over, our lives are designed to transition between many different states rather than freeze into a position of perfect equilibrium.  

Keeping any one of our many roles or commitments from taking over is essential.  Balance is a concept to be aware of—something to be checking ourselves against—but not a permanent state we can reasonably achieve and maintain long-term.  

 

When is Balance Not a Good Thing?

man losing balance on a rock

 

The truth is, we need to be out of balance in order to grow.

 

Feeling unbalanced is what prompts us to seek out better solutions, to try new things, and let go of limiting beliefs.  Although there’s a high-energy learning curve when we begin something new, over time our actions become effortless as we gain confidence and mastery.  

It’s also important to recognize we can’t be good at everything.  We’ll succeed at some aspects of our lives more than others.  So we can learn to outsource what other people can do faster or better.  This allows you to feed the parts of your life which hold importance for you—those things that make your heart sing.

 

Which resources do we try to balance?

Stack of rocks balanced in the sunlight

 

The pursuit of balance is a huge undertaking—there are so many facets to our lives that juggling them all seems like a hopeless, never-ending effort.

In reality, though, there are just four key resources we’re all trying to sort through:

 

Time: 

With only 24 hours in a day, what we can do is ultimately constrained by the daily container in which we try to hold it all.

 

Energy: 

Achieving everything we desire for our lives also depends on the inner resources which fuel our ability to connect, participate, and engage.

 

Money: 

It’s a reality that our economies and our life options revolve around currency—earning it, saving it, managing it, and spending it is a job unto itself.

 

Attention:

Though less obvious, where we choose to put our focus also makes a difference to our perception of balance.  Each of us has unique values and priorities which inform our sense of having, doing, and being enough.

 

Learning to stabilize the distribution of these four qualities is the goal of our lifetimes.  Getting quiet, asking questions, and creating the space to listen to your intuition will give you some semblance of staying afloat.  

 

But if you can’t ever really achieve Balance, then what do you shoot for?  

 

Consider Learning to Tilt.

Woman leaning on ropes near the sea

The concept of Tilting was coined by Brooke McAlary, based on her interpretation of a 2009 study that sought to uncover what happy women were doing differently in their lives.  Surprisingly, they weren’t striking an ideal balance of activities in their day-to-day living.  

Instead, they tilted towards areas of life that needed their attention, choosing opportunities and making commitments with mindful presence.  These women were deliberately throwing their lives out of balance by shifting their time, energy and focus to a select group of specific goals.  

 

Tilting rejects the idea that life has to be smartly balanced at all times in order to be a success.  The concept is based upon the premise that your time is valuable yet limited.  And there will be unavoidable choices about where to place your energy.  

Rather than an actionable methodology, tilting embodies an attitude of keeping your life in line with your values.  It recognizes that attempting to allocate your energy equally and to all things is stressful and unsatisfying.

 

So if you’re not aiming for balance, what should you be shooting for? 

 

Make Harmony Your Goal.

I’m not talking about some sort of musical perfection, but rather the quality of forming a pleasing and consistent whole.  The emphasis here is on the bigger picture of who you are, and what makes you feel complete.

Harmony allows you to make adaptable and changing decisions about what’s important to you.  It encourages you to prioritize certain areas, even at the expense of others, depending on your stage of life.  

Instead of checking off a list of requirements needed to accomplish the ideal daily balance, you can pause every once in a while to evaluate your life as a greater whole.

Reflect back over the past week, month, or quarter…  Let your gut feelings guide your assessment of how your time, energy, money, and attention have been spent.  

  • Did you achieve any level of balance over a more lengthy time period?
  • Have you found yourself tilting toward certain areas that need your focus?
  • Are you content with how the various aspects of your life create harmony within the bigger picture?

 

How Can You Support Your Goal of Harmony?

Woman meditating at sunrise

 

1.  One of the best ways to feel more balanced or in harmony with your life is by optimizing your energy reserves.  This enables you to maximize time spent in each activity, as well as sharpen your focus for getting things done.  If you haven’t already, consider finding the keystone habit that fuels your drive and passion.

 2.  Another way to support harmony is to move from the perception of lack to an attitude of gratitude.  In our busy lives, it’s become a badge of honor to complain about what we don’t have…not enough sleep, caffeine, or time to get even the basics done.  We can turn the tide by expressing thanks for the freedom to choose how we manage our resources and what goals we actively pursue.  

3.  Finally, you can sustain a sense of harmony through the regular practice of self-care.  Recognize that you own the responsibility to nurture yourself, rather than waiting for someone else to save you from an overpacked agenda.  Instead of perceiving self-care as work—another thing to check off your todo list—look upon it as a gift and a privilege to take care of yourself.  With every act of self-kindness, you create space for growth and connection.

 

How Do You Make a Deliberate Shift or Tilt?

Free Worksheet for Tilting towards Joy

Usually, tilting comes naturally…life presents circumstances and we respond, giving ourselves to the people and events which require our attention.  But sometimes we get bogged down by the busyness of life and must make a deliberate shift in our priorities.  

 

If you’re wondering how to accomplish that, download this free worksheet & follow the Small Step for this week:

 

1.  Make space in your calendar to slow down.  It’s hard to evaluate the balance (or lack thereof) in your life when you’re still caught up in it all.  Take this time to discover any areas in your life which have been neglected or need some attention.

 

2.  Seek clarity about what’s meaningful and important to you.  Pick the method that meshes with your personality and life situation:

  • Journaling
  • Meditation
  • Prayer
  • Therapy/Counseling
  • Talking with close friends
  • Time in Nature

 

3.  Once you’ve discovered where you want to tilt, ask yourself:

What’s the one thing that needs to shift so I can pursue what I want to do?

Maybe it’s a better sleep schedule, a regular night out with your spouse/friends, or letting go of a commitment that no longer fuels you.  

Look for places where you can let go of something, giving yourself the space and availability to move in your newly chosen direction.  

 

As you begin tilting toward the parts of your life that hold meaning, understand that other areas will naturally receive less attention.  Try not to compare your choices with other people’s, especially the carefully curated profiles depicted on social media.  Those experiences are filtered through a lens designed for publicity, and aren’t truly representative of reality.  

 

How I’m Tilting Recently…

This past year I’ve been tilting pretty heavily towards work and growing family commitments.  At first this felt exactly right—I was motivated and engaged with my schedule, feeding off the energy of the increased mental stimulation. 

But looking back over the last six months, in search of that elusive sense of balance, I realize I’ve had less time for recreation, travel/adventure, and spirituality.  So now I’m incorporating a tiny bit of each back into my life, even though I’m still tilted significantly towards work and family.  

On one of my recent solo-adventure afternoons, I came across a book which seemed to be written specifically for me—Oil for Your Lamp: Women Taking Care of Themselves.   As a result, I’ve created a goal to maintain harmony by integrating moments of exquisite self-care.  

Next week I plan to explore this topic in more detail, since it tends to be over-looked or minimized amidst the crazy pace of modern life.  

 

In the meantime, I encourage you to let go of the idea of achieving a perfectly balanced, idealized life.  Consider tilting towards something that you love—something deeply meaningful—with deliberate intention.  

Sometimes life requires you to willingly throw things out of balance.  

And therein lies the joy.  

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