Balance is something that I spend a lot of time thinking about and, as my clients could attest, a lot of time talking about. When I set up my original website, I agonized over the domain name. I thought about what I wanted my website to communicate to people. I thought about my goals when I work with clients. And eventually, I came up with www.HealthyBalancedLife.com–which did a darn good summary of what I hope my clients achieve in therapy: whole person health, and the ability to live in balance.
Balance is an Aspirational Goal
But balance is an aspirational goal. It isn’t concrete and it isn’t permanent. We are in balance for a moment, an hour, a day, a month. Then life hits us and we’re out of balance again. I think that sometimes aspirational goals feel tricky or frustrating. It’s not unusual for clients to push back when I talk about balance. That’s true whether I’m talking about balancing work and health, family and friends, self-protection and ability to grow, self-love with self-criticism. I get rolled eyes, sighs, and statements like, “Does that even exist?”
Just think for a moment about your physical balance. Try to stand on one foot–no, really, get up from your keyboard or set down your phone and try to stand on one foot. So, how did that go? My guess is that, even for those of you whose balance is really strong, there were moments that you were out of your center. Even when you found your center, it wasn’t something that you could hold indefinitely.
The other balances in our lives: social, emotional, vocational, health–they are just as fleeting. So, when I explore balance with clients, I talk about that. I talk about the fact that achieving balance isn’t the same as running a race, or taking a test. There isn’t a finish line. Balance comes and goes. There are lots of different kinds of balance. We can have great work-family balance, but be struggling with the balance between taking care of ourselves and taking care of others.
Aspirational Goals Can Feel Frustrating
I’m guessing that there may be some eye-rolling going on right now. Why even talk about this, if it’s so elusive? Do we need additional challenges in our lives? Why put any energy into achieving balance, if we can lose it in a heartbeat? Indeed, as the character in one of my kids’ favorite books puts it, “Why? why? why? why? why? why? why? why? why? why? why?”
I know that we’re pretty well trained to focus on goals that have clear, measurable steps. We like outcomes that are well-defined and tangible. So, these aspirational goals like balance and health and happiness–they can feel intensely frustrating. It’s hard to understand why we would even seek something that doesn’t last.
I would suggest though, that the list of “things that don’t last” includes most of the good stuff in life. That we need to give ourselves permission to exist as creatures of change, and growth, and forward momentum. Even though it can be frustrating, not connecting to our aspirational goals probably means that we’re stagnating.
A Path to Self-Compassion
And here’s perhaps the most powerful reason to work toward balance (and those other elusive aspirational goals). When we allow ourselves to try and fail and try again–we’re building up our self-compassion muscles. Self-compassion is the powerful tool that both allows us to challenge ourselves with aspiration, and to be gentle when we don’t quite achieve what we’re after. Self-compassion means that we can hold the paradox of being “enough” and of seeking chances to grow.
Self-compassion exists in a powerful symbiosis with our aspirational goals. The more we allow ourselves to aspire toward balance, the more we exercise our self-compassion for the moments that we fail. The greater our capacity for self-compassion, the more likely we are to let ourselves seek those life-giving aspirations.
So here’s my challenge to you. The next time you notice yourself doing a mental eye roll at the suggestion of working toward a balance in your life, try extending a compassionate invitation to stretch, to grow, to aspire.
I can’t wait to hear how this goes for you.
This post was written as part of the Self-Discovery, Word by Word series, which was founded by Dr. Ashley Solomon of Nourishing the Soul. This month’s host is Myrite at Tasty Life and she’s chosen the word balance for the blogging community to reflect upon. Please check out this post to learn more!