What Does Balance Really Mean?
Albert Einstein once said, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.”
Right now, I’d like you to think of a balance or wobble board. The kind where you place your feet on opposite sides of the board while remaining balanced so that the edges of the board do not touch the ground. You must apply equal force on both sides in order to remain perfectly centered and stable. You must keep moving from side to side and sending energy throughout the whole body to maintain that balance. This is not only very hard to do but also impossible to maintain.
On a bicycle, if you stop moving forward, you become wobbly and most likely will fall. If you have been riding for a long time, there is greater chance that you take a wrong turn, come upon a detour, or get a flat tire. Or, you just flat out need to rest. This, to me, is more similar to life. We cannot ride forever. There are red lights, potholes, traffic and/or unexpected circumstances on any ride.
On the balance board, you will not get very far in your actual position but you will exert massive energy just to remain balanced on that board. And, you have gone nowhere. As you can see, to remain balanced permanently just is not going to happen. We must hit the ground at some point.
A surfer will sometimes catch a great wave and other times she will find herself sitting out and waiting for hours. What is certain, though, is she will have to fall back into the water every time to catch another wave. There is no constant wave. No continuous ride. Some of the rides are good. Some not so good. Some days there might not even be a ride.
We need to throw out the notion of life being perfectly balanced. Yes, we might get there at times. We might feel like today is a good day and everything is in sync, but that cannot last. The true nature of life will not allow for that. Unless, of course, you remain in a state of inertia, in which you are not moving at all and, in my opinion, then not really living at all.
Heraclitus, the Greek Philosopher, believed that life is flux and that change is the only constant. There are constant changes in our surroundings as well as changes within ourselves. For example, a bicyclist must heed the many obstacles she encounters on the road. If she fails to pay attention to traffic lights and cars, she has a high chance of crashing. There is no straight line free of obstacles; unless she is riding out in the country and, even then, day turns into night and she must then either stop riding or be more vigilant in the lack of visibility. Here, the rider is responding to her ever changing surroundings.
When Viktor Frankl found himself a prisoner at Auschwitz, he knew he could not change his surroundings, but he could change his thinking. Instead of avoiding his suffering, he chose how to cope with it by finding meaning in his existence and became a survivor. He says, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
If we are not changing, either from within or by responding to outside forces, we are not fully living.
Balance is more of a feeling.Your day feels too hectic and you would like more a sense of calm or structure. You feel like you have been eating unhealthy for far too long and you would like to instill a plan to eat better. Your body is in pain, out of shape, and not how you would like it to be. You want to feel more toned and energized. Because of this, you feel you need more time for the gym or a fitness class. These are all feelings. By wanting to achieve balance, we are wanting to give something to ourselves that we do not currently have: more structure, more excitement, more health, more sleep, more energy, more time for family, or whatever it is. And, once we have these things, then we will feel more balanced.
The truth is, life does not work by the once this happens then I can achieve this diagram.
There will always be something to throw us off. The very essence of life is the daily disturbances, surprises, and curveballs – whether good or bad—like a new job or a move, that dessert when we have been trying to eat healthy, the flu keeping us from our fitness schedule, another baby coming to join the family, etc.
Balance will always be a dance between giving more somewhere and less elsewhere.That is the very nature of balance. If we lean too far to one side, we fall. If we lean too far to the other side, we fall. Trying to lean to all sides all at once would be physically impossible and certain to end in bodily implosion.
How do we gauge more or less in our lives?
This is where you come in.
You are the biggest player in how you feel and what balance means to you. I like to think of feeling out of balance as more a state of being stuck. You want to be healthier, but you are stuck in what you have been doing already for so long. You want to start exercising, but you are stuck in the state of snoozing every morning or watching television the minute you get home. You want to feel happier, but you are stuck in the negative thoughts you have become so accustomed to. The nature of being stuck is to be physically unable to remove yourself from one spot. You.Can.Not.Move.
The key is to move. Without a move, without a change in direction, without a thought turned around, without the raise of a hand, without one step towards a place you have yet to go, you will always be stuck. This I can guarantee.
If you do not make a move, you will always be stuck.
Think of the bicycle and balance board again. If you ride straight into a wall on your bicycle, you physically cannot keep going forward. You must back up and turn. You must unstick yourself from the wall. There are other directions, and the wall is no longer one of them. If on the balance board you find one edge has touched the floor, the only way to move it off the floor again is to make a move. This is the only way.
You must unstick yourself.
You must make a move in another direction.
Using another quote from Einstein who said, “we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
If you feel out of balance, then you must make a change to feel more balanced. If you cannot change your surroundings, then you must change your thoughts, perceptions and your actions to feel more balanced. Whatever that balance looks like is up to you.
Know that balance itself is also always changing. Every day is a ride on the balance scale. Sometimes we must give more in one direction and sometimes we must give less.
If you are strapped for time, then say no to making commitments for the next few weeks. Focus on you. If you feel unhealthy and have been eating junk for quite some time now, then begin by making one meal for yourself and giving more to your own healthy eating cause. Start small because even a small step is a move. If you want to exercise, but in reality have no time for it, cut something out that is not as important. Go to bed an hour earlier so that you can wake up an hour earlier and get it done then. Begin your day with a new routine. If you have kids, get down on the floor with them and play. There are so many great ways to be physically active with kids.
When you say yes to one thing you are saying no to another. Yes to positive thoughts, no to negative ones. Yes to a more flexible schedule, no to a more rigid schedule. Yes to health, no to junk. Yes to playing more, no to web surfing, television, and social media.
It is all there right at your fingertips.
This does not mean that you will always be perfect. Far from that. What it means is that you will recognize what needs more of your energy and what needs less. You will notice when you have gone too far in one direction and when you need to get yourself back on track. You will know that to get out of feeling stuck again you need to keep moving away from what it is that could suck you back in. You will see it before it happens. By taking steps to unstick yourself and to find other new ways of doing things, you will find your own middle ground – a place that feels safe and happy.
Balance is an invisible home that you create for yourself.
Get on your bicycle and keep on riding. Mind the obstacles. Pause and change course when needed. This is balance.