A balanced life is something I like to strive for.
Balance between work and personal, between my digital life and my offline life and these days between trying to maintain being an informed citizen who is paying attention in these very challenging political times and turning it all off so I can breathe without that pit of anxiety lodged in my stomach that the sky is about to fall in.
But it’s not easy. It might even border on exhaustion at times.
One of my exercises in physical therapy is to stand on the balance board. My physical therapist times me. We’re up to ninety seconds, but I am reminded as I watch the seconds pass on the timer in that way one watches when water will start to boil, that balance is not a destination. It requires discipline and concentration. If I stop thinking about maintaining my balance for even a half second the board leans too much in one direction or the other.
The real truth is a balanced life is a myth.
The struggle to maintain something even close to that ressembles a seesaw more than anything. At any given moment one aspect is pulling you more in one direction than at another whether it is your business or your personal life, a growing addiction to online social networks or a desire to be in the company of human beings you can reach out and touch, a news alert that draws you into the latest craziness in the White House or a glass of wine and an episode of Billions to make you forget it all.
According to Adam Grant, “People who set boundaries between work and life have higher well being than those who don’t.” On the one hand I couldn’t agree more. Knowing what your boundaries are and recognizing when you’ve allowed them to be pushed, between work and life or anywhere else helps one to maintain a sense of balance. But boundaries are easy to cross, in which we case we are back on the seesaw.
My NYU students laugh when I tell them what an underrated skill breathing is, but without it a balanced life is impossible. You can’t focus when you can’t find your center.
The first time I was given the balance board exercise I wasn’t really sure what it had to do with helping my toe to bend again post surgery, but I understand now that it’s to help me strengthen my core. That requires being conscious enough to stay in my body and out of my head and agile enough to right myself when I forget.
A perfectly balanced life is not the end game
It’s a practice that requires being aware enough so things don’t lean too much in one direction or another and to do something about it when you see it happening. That might mean setting the timer before you log onto Facebook, scheduling playtime into your calendar so it’s not forgotten or turning off those Twitter alerts that tell you when Trump has misspelled another word in one of his tweets. With a little discipline a balanced life may be possible – for at least a few minutes in a row.