Did you know Merriam-Webster has nine definitions for the word balance? So when people tell me they want balance in their lives, I guess I better start asking what they mean.
Babies and the elderly share a need for one of those definitions, physical equilibrium. Babies develop it so they can walk. Seniors work to maintain it so they don’t fall.
For us who aren’t wobbly and worried about taking a fall, we seek another definition of balance, emotional steadiness. In my life that equals feelings of contentment, comfort, security, and happiness. While I know balance alone isn’t the answer, a lack of it creates big problems. My stress levels rise and an uncomfortable restlessness takes root.
Over the years I’ve led hundreds of workshops for those seeking balance in their lives. Today I’m thinking about what works for me. I attribute my own sense of well-being to the following five key strategies, some applied more consistently and skillfully than others.
Feeling steady requires that I know whether I am on the right track. In order to affirm that I am, there first needs to be a track. Goals represent my track. When they are clear, realistic, and important; they give me energy and direction. They define my vision for a balanced life. Without them I quickly feel adrift, reacting to the demands of the moment.
While goals provide the direction, boundaries keep me focused on them. People and situations pull at me. If I let them, they knock me out of balance. Boundaries are the criteria I use to decide if I should say yes or no to demands on my attention and time. I’ve found boundaries to be easy to create and hard to enforce. I think of this as my work in progress strategy.
I feel balanced when all is right in the world around me. My health, relationships, home, car, and equipment must be in good shape. This means that I spend some of my time and energy on maintenance. While I don’t always want to spend time in this way, working to prevent and remedy problems is critical for my sense of well-being.
Work is my means to pay for the things I need. It also provides an outlet for my talents. Since it’s such a large part of my life, balance is inextricably linked to doing satisfying work. Whenever I’ve felt out of balance, it’s no coincidence that it usually occurred when I’ve been in a job or on a project that I didn’t like. Doing satisfying work will always be at the top of my priority list until I can no longer work.
My last strategy concerns money. I don’t feel balanced when living on the financial edge. So here’s how I find emotional stability in potentially stormy financial seas. First, I spend below my means. I’m a consultant. My income varies from month to month. Wondering if I will have enough to pay the bills is a quick way to lose my balance. Equilibrium is restored when I know my spending will not exceed what I’m confident I can generate. Second, our emergency fund brings a great sense of calm. Furnaces, roofs, and appliances all fail. Jobs and clients can suddenly disappear. It’s nice to know I can deal with most of what comes my way because I’ve set aside money for that purpose.
How about you?
This is how I maintain balance. What works for you? I invite you to add your comments below. I’d also be interested if you think balance is overrated. I believe most seek it. I might be wrong. If so, tell me why.
Image credit: Yogendra174