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I have this fantasy of one day having a life where everything is in perfect balance.
I’m putting out quality work, exercising daily, nurturing all of my relationships, getting plenty of sleep, making smart financial decisions, maintaining a clean home, making green juices every morning and healthy meals every night, and leaving plenty of time for fun and relaxation. And eventually I imagine adding kids and pets into the equation (without disrupting the balance of everything else, of course).
Intellectually, I know this is unrealistic, but I can’t help that a small part of me still hopes this fantasy will come true.
Can you relate?
I’m reluctantly realizing that, as long as I stay attached to the myth of a perfectly balanced life, I’ll always be slightly critical of my current, imbalanced, messy life, judging it for what it *should* be.
So I’ve decided I need to take a good, hard look at this whole “balance” thing and shift my mindset around it once and for all. Otherwise, my longing for a perfectly balanced life will perpetually steal any contentment I could be feeling with my life just as it is.
Here are 4 hard truths that I’ve come to believe about balance:
1. BALANCE IS A SNEAKY FORM OF PERFECTIONISM
On the surface, seeking balance feels like a worthy aspiration. Even the word “balance” evokes a sense of peace, groundedness, and moderation. I mean, what’s healthier than wanting more balance in your life, right??
That’s all true … to a point.
But too many of us (myself included) imagine balance as being able to do it all, and do it with ease. It looks like being a master juggler who never gets flustered by so many moving pieces, and certainly never drops one.
Which means if any area of life is out of whack, it throws off the balance of everything else, and then we feel like we’re failing at this whole balance game.
And the truth is, some area of life is always out of whack, isn’t it? It’s like that whack-a-mole game — as soon as you get one area of your life sorted out, another one goes awry.
So the desire for a perfectly balanced life turns into yet another way to judge ourselves for not being good enough or having it all together.
Thinking of balance as a sneaky form of perfectionism is helping me see its sinister underbelly, which makes it altogether less appealing. Because I don’t need one more thing in my life to try and make me feel less than, thankyouverymuch.
2. YOU CAN HAVE IT ALL, BUT NOT ALL AT ONCE
The more I think about this idea of a balanced life, the more I realize I’ve been taking the short view of it, when I should’ve been taking the long view.
I’ve been wanting to have perfect balance in all areas of my life all at once. And that’s why the whole concept of a balanced life feels so daunting.
But when you’re trying to pay equal attention to all areas of your life simultaneously, you end up half-assing a lot of things, simply because your attention is constantly divided.
A healthier approach to balance might look like giving a lot of TLC to select aspects of your life — your health, your finances, your career, or your relationships — and letting other areas of your life go a bit on autopilot, temporarily, knowing that they’ll get their turn later.
When I zoom out and look at my life from a bit of a distance, I realize that I’ve actually given good quality attention and nurturing to all aspects of my life … just not necessarily all at the same time.
I’ve focused on improving all parts of my life, especially the parts that matter most to me, over the years. But to expect myself to give equal attention to all of these facets of my life simultaneously is flat-out unreasonable. Plus, I couldn’t have made as much progress in any one area of my life if my attention had been scattered.
Which leads me to…
3. BALANCE WILL (AND SHOULD) LOOK DIFFERENT IN DIFFERENT SEASONS OF YOUR LIFE
A balanced life as a 21-year-old college student looks very different from that of a 34-year-old working parent of 3, which is incredibly different from that of a 58-year-old with grown kids who’s starting to look into retirement possibilities.
That’s because balance has everything to do with your priorities. And as those priorities change throughout your life, your definition of balance will evolve with them.
Sometimes your priorities change as a natural side effect of getting older or transitioning into a new phase of life. But other times, life throws you a curveball that dramatically shifts your priorities without your consent.
For example, when I had a health crisis a few years back, my #1 priority became taking immaculate care of my body. Health had always been important to me to some extent, but for those 6-8 months, it was what I structured the rest of my life around.
To other people, my life must’ve looked incredibly imbalanced: I was spending the majority of my time making healthy home-cooked meals, researching and ordering natural supplements, going to holistic doctors, and getting plenty of rest to keep my stress low. My social life took a hit, and I had to cut down on how much work I could do in a week.
But for that phase of my life, it was exactly the balance I needed based on my priorities at the time.
And once my health improved, my priorities recalibrated, and so did my overall life balance.
4. YOUR VERSION OF BALANCE DOESN’T HAVE TO LOOK LIKE ANYONE ELSE’S
Not only does balance look different in various phases of your life, but it also looks incredibly different for every person.
The beautiful thing is, everyone gets to define balance for themselves.
For you, a balanced life might look like getting 8 hours of sleep a night, going to a yoga class each week, working on your side hustle on the weekends, and having a couple of social engagements per month.
For your husband, it might look like taking a long run most mornings, going to multiple networking events throughout the week, and getting home before 8pm every night.
For your sister, it might mean getting all of her kids to their respective activities on time, finding 5 minutes to meditate each day, and having dinner as a family at least once a week.
Your version of balance might not look balanced to anyone else, but who cares? As long as you feel like your life is organized according to the things that matter most to you, then it counts as a balanced life, even if no one else “gets” it.
And again, your definition of a balanced life can and will change over the years. Balance isn’t a “set-it-and-forget-it” kind of thing — it’s going to constantly require you to recalibrate and redefine it.
So tell me, has the desire for balance turned into a form of perfectionism for you? What’s your new, healthier definition of balance, at least for this season of your life? I’d love to hear any of your thoughts about balance, so I hope you’ll share with me in the comments!
Kristen (& Rachel)