The writer Thomas Merton has said that “Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.”
But balance looks different for each of us, so it’s weird to follow standardized advice in order to achieve a more balanced life.
This post offers a step-by-step process for creating a more balanced life taking into account your needs as an individual.
What is balance?
Here are three unique perspectives on balance that I personally have found interesting to consider.
1. Internal versus external balance
Internal balance is striking the middle ground between these aspects:
Mind: Challenging yourself intellectually, versus creating space for the mind to rest.
Heart: Giving love, versus receiving love.
Health: Eating properly and moving enough, versus resting and other forms of restorative self care.
External balance relates to work, social, family and fun.
Work: Setting and achieving goals, versus seeing the bigger picture and enjoying the journey.
Social: Satisfying social desires, versus taking time for solitude.
Family:Fulfilling responsibilities, versus creating healthy boundaries.
Fun: Making time for the stuff you enjoy, versus not overdoing it.
Try mentally ranking yourself on each of the categories. What aspect or aspects are out of harmony?
2. Balancing opposing qualities
Writer and meditation expert Giovanni Dienstmann says we should focus on balancing our personal qualities as a pathway to a more balanced life. He highlights that people who are:
- Patient are often passive.
- Active are often restless.
- Compassionate are often taken advantage of.
- Calm are often slow.
- Disciplined are often rigid.
- Spontaneous are often inadequate.
Think of your top 3 personal qualities. What are the opposing virtues, qualities, or attitudes that you need to cultivate to balance these?
3. Holding on versus letting go
The final perspective on balance is really short and simple. It is from poet Rumi, who said: “Life is a balance of holding on and letting go.”
Ask yourself: what do you need to hold onto? What do you need to let go of?
5 Steps to a more balanced life
Here are five steps you can use to help create a more balanced life.
Step 1 – Work on knowing yourself better
We have to to know ourselves in order to have a more balanced life.
Understand that it is quite hard to know yourself, so expect to put some work in!
Step 2 – Define how balance looks for you, based on what you value
The next thing you want to do is create a list of ‘how balance looks for me’ statements. The key is that these should flow directly from what your values are. (For an in-depth guide to defining your values using a value clarification exercise, read this).
Avoid other people’s notions of how balance looks. For example, ‘everything in moderation’, or spending the same number of hours on work as you do on personal activities. These things might not be desirable or realistic for you and therefore they are not helpful.
For me, balance looks like:
- Several hours of deep work every day.
- Having a few people I am close to, close in proximity.
- Spending some time meeting and talking to new people regularly.
- Weekly time spent learning and immersing myself in new subjects/ideas.
- Daily yoga practice.
- Plenty of walking.
- Daily rest time/solitude.
- Minimal late nights/alcohol consumption.
This lifestyle would be totally out of balance for some people – it would be too introverted. You have to figure out what’s right for you.
Another thing is to bear in mind when defining balance is that everything is changing all the time. The right balance for you today may not be the right balance for you tomorrow, or next week or next month. Our priorities change.
Step 3 – Enforcing boundaries
If values are our script, then enforcing boundaries is the key method for embodying balance in life. For many people, this is their major stumbling point. It involves being good at saying no (and for a minority of us, saying yes more).
Get good at saying no!
Step 4 – Tuning in
You have to stay conscious of how you are feeling and whether you are making meaningful progress towards your goals. (For a guide to setting goals, read this).
Step 5 – Readjusting
Adjust as necessary!
Bonus step – Acceptance
Why is acceptance a balance strategy?
Non acceptance of your emotions about your personal circumstances will not help you to create or know balance. It is a state of delusion!
Practice acceptance for better balance – and better everything else in life. For an in-depth guide on how to practice acceptance, read this.
So in summary, 3 weird ways of assessing your levels of balance:
- Looking at internal/external aspects.
- Assessing personal qualities.
- Seeing where you can hold on and let go.
The 5 steps to creating a more balanced life:
- Building your self-awareness.
- Creating balance statements based on what you value.
- Developing good boundaries.
- Tuning in and reflecting.
- Adjusting as necessary.