The Art of Balance
What I dream of is an art of balance
According to Webster, balance is a state of equilibrium in weight or value. Lately, we're told we need to achieve life balance. We want to be there for our family, our friends, at work, in the community and for ourselves. It's implied that we want to be there in equal amounts. Otherwise, we're not in balance, right?
I often wonder what sort of balance we might strive for. The issues I ponder are simple: high performers who make major contributions to their world tend to be exquisitely focused in one area of excellence. We wouldn't tell them to get more balanced, would we? Consider your most brilliant teacher, mentor or team leader, or your favorite author, inventor or celeb. Do they seem like well-rounded individuals who spend time working out, on personal development, relationship nurturing, fun activities, family activities, socially conscious contributions AND work? Or, do they focus on one or two things and spend a little time on the rest? For that matter, who could do all that in equal amounts, or who would want to?
When I think fondly of one of my mentors, I recall that he spent an awful lot of time working. His students, I believe, were like his children. Extraordinarily well-rounded intellectually, he didn't seem to care much about some of the things a well-rounded person might be concerned with, but he appeared to be quite happy. I conclude that what worked for him would not work for me, and what works for me might not work for you. We each have to figure out for ourselves how much and what sort of balance we want in our lives. One size never really fits all, does it?
We try to reconcile the ideal notion that we can achieve a sense of equilibrium in life, with the demands of life. In reality, there are a variety of different pulls on us from many directions.
Mihali Csikszentmihali (for pronunciation, think, chicks send me high), author of "Finding Flow," has talked about approaching life as a work of art, something we can continually recreate. Life doesn't have to be like a jigsaw puzzle where each piece fits only in one place. He suggests that we plan things much as a painter might plan a painting. We can consciously try to create something, not simply react to external events. I know da Vinci didn't leave Mona Lisa's smile ambiguous because he was summoned to an emergency meeting.
There are some useful ways to approach the quest for balance.
Prioritize the things important to you. Decide what's important. Satisfaction with our lives varies across a number of domains the way an artist's palette contains a variety of colors. We want physical and spiritual or emotional well-being, and satisfaction with work, leisure-time pursuits, family, friends and intimacy. You decide how satisfied you are with each area. You also decide how important each area is to you, personally. After surviving cancer, one's physical well-being may be much more important than it was before. After a promotion at work, the satisfaction with work may increase, but emphasis on another, perhaps neglected domain, like family, might become more valued. Once you've decided which colors you want on your palette and the relative importance of each, you can start to plan your masterpiece.
Plan the elements of life with art in mind. You know how you plan the family vacation, or your work week, or a party? You can also plan your workout time, your quality time with family, or your bubble bath time. Like the artist, you decide what goes where and how much of this or that to include. Your life is dynamic. Next month might not look at all like this month. The Mona Lisa doesn't bear much resemblance to The Last Supper. It's all about your life, not anyone else's. After all, a da Vinci isn't a Monet, but each is amazing. Each day, week or month you plan may not seem like much, but consider that you have a whole lifetime to create your masterpiece.
Focus mindfully on what you're doing at any given time. If it's family time, spend the time with family. Don't spend the family time on your cell phone or lap-top multi-tasking. Put 100% on what you're doing or who you're with. Then, when it's time to shift, put 100% into the next endeavor. At the risk of losing my lunch dates, I have to say it's always interesting to me when a friend has to take a call during my lunch with them. I find that most things can wait an hour until I finish lunch. You might find that each experience is enhanced the more attention you can shine on it. It's like looking at a masterpiece-often you must shift your perspective to fully appreciate the whole.
According to Webster, balance can also be a harmonious proportion of elements in a design. Give it a try. Consider the elements you want in your life. Decide on your priorities. Plan your activities. When you act, really try to mindfully focus on the moment. If you can plan the moments you want to be in, and be in the moments you plan, you're starting to get the art of balance.
Want balance? Send me an e-mail at email@example.com to sign up for a FREE 4-session teleclass beginning mid-January.
Finding Flow by M. Csikszentmihali
For some help focusing mindfully try Wherever You Go There You Are by J. Kabat-Zinn
Compare the art of balance in
Bach's Prelude No. 1 in C Major
with that of
Chopin's Prelude No. 4 in E minor