Let’s first take a look at what balance is not. As it appears in the yin-yang symbol, equilibrium is not static but fluid, changing in response to your personal environment. Balance does not mean pursuing activities with a measured reserve – rather, being passionate about what you are doing when you are doing it. The intensity is not muted and bland, but your passion may be pointed in another direction at another time. And it certainly cannot be a pretense as in a “balancing act” – it must be authentic in order to reach its goal.
Here are five areas you can consider in your quest for balance and stability:
Between work and play. With Internet and wi-fi connections available 24/7 and throughout much of the globe, work and play have become intertwined. Perhaps you might consider periodically unplugging and going “off the grid?” With a firm separation between your two worlds, you can concentrate better on committing yourself to career goals when at work and allow yourself to enjoy your free time completely when you’re at play.
Between curiosity and proficiency. Working hard to become competent at an activity, talent or skill is important, both for the expertise itself and also for the self-esteem it creates. When we achieve flow, we’re performing at our highest ability and personal best. At the same time, developing new interests helps us stay involved in the changing world around us. We are told that curiosity killed the cat, but also that the cat has nine lives. So go for it and introduce yourself to a novel or unfamiliar activity.
Between serenity and stress. In the midst of a 24-hour news cycle full of tensions from around the country and the globe, the ability to ground oneself often depends on a sense of serenity. Some find it in the beauty of nature, others in music or art, still others in the endorphins released by exercise. On the other hand, there are times we seek the excitement and energy of setting challenges for ourselves. Setting the stage for a certain degree of stress can become the motivator for positive growth.
Between self-care and caregiving. Nurturing and taking care of others is a natural response by many women – the result of hormones and hard wiring of the brain as well as centuries of socialization. The push and pull between mothering and letting go can become especially challenging when adult children return home as “boomerang kids.” Sometimes it’s difficult to move into the role of self-care, even knowing that it’s the right choice – we may even need to give ourselves permission to take better care of ourselves. Once we do, we recognize that it’s a win-win for the whole family.
Between old friends and new. You likely heard growing up about new friends being silver while old ones are gold. And there’s wisdom in that ditty. Both are precious metals but their worth is different. Old friends know us intimately and have weathered good times and bad with us. Having shown their support and loyalty, they can still be honest about our frailties. But we also gain by our willingness to engage in new relationships, finding fresh perspectives – just as Betty White, who just celebrated her 94th birthday, has done.
Finding the means to achieve balance is certainly not identical for everyone, but trying out some of these strategies can give you a head start about how to create your own.