Wisdom//

The Mythical Ridgeline: Balance vs Being

The want for balance in life is likely a signal that something is out of balance.

This question comes up a lot: How do we help our employees find balance?

Is the quest for balance the same as the quest for perfection or is it a mythical ridgeline that exhausts us on the pursuit? I think that’s exactly what they both are: mythical.

The want for balance in life is likely a signal that something is out of balance. In our modern way of living, the idea that balance is met from having equal parts of time spent at home, at work and with friends, has gone the way of the dodo (a silly bird that couldn’t get out of its own way). None of us can escape the 1440 minutes we have each day to live. The quality of how we engage with those moments is where balance is experienced.

The deeper quest to find moment-to-moment balance (or as in as many moments as you can) can only be revealed by increasing the skill of being present.

Being present is not all that hard, really, but it does take practice to become more aware of how you are experiencing any moment. This moment, for example. As you’re reading, become aware of your body posture and muscle tension. Is your head rested over your spine, or is it slightly protruding forward with a bit too much tension in your neck, jaw, shoulder and back muscles? What is your breathing like? Is it up in your chest, or more relaxed down in your abdomen? It’s wild how needless tension happens so subtlety. If you noticed that you were using more tension (out of balance) for this moment, you likely shifted your posture, relaxed a few muscle groups, and/or took a deeper breath to reset. The adjustments aren’t hard, really. You knew exactly what to do once you became more aware of your current physical state. The challenging part is becoming more aware of your body, your thoughts, your emotions and the unfolding and unpredictable moment around you.

Being present is a function of enhanced awareness. Awareness is a skill. Which means, just like any other skill, it can be trained and conditioned. Deep focus is the skill that precedes awareness. That might sound tricky, but it’s actually pretty simple. To become more present, we can become more aware of the thoughts and sensations that pull us away from the present moment, so that we can quickly and accurately bring our attention back to “this moment.” For example, when you’re at home with loved ones, are you present in those conversations; are you thinking about all the stuff that didn’t get done with work or all the changes that could take place if you don’t meet your performance expectations? As soon as you become aware that you’re only half-in the conversation (out of balance) you can do something to bring your attention back to what your family member is saying.

Balance in life is not about spending more time doing things, it’s more about being present with what you’re doing.

The idea is not to “do more” or “do less” to find balance. Rather, balance is found by “being” more. Being more present, more grounded, more authentic to your true-self, your best-self. Basically, “be here, now” more often, and let whatever you’re doing, to flow from there.

What can you do to increase your skill of being more aware? Invest in mindfulness training. It’s a simple and challenging training that’s been around for thousands of years and is on a radical uptick in our fast-paced-insta-gratification-multitasking world. Start by sitting or standing (finding physical balance). Set your alarm for 1-minute and for that 1-minute, just focus on following your inhale breath, then your exhale breath. That’s it. When your mind wanders (which it will) and you recognize that your mind has wandered, that’s the moment of awareness training. That’s it! It really is that simple. Then, bring your focus back to your breathing. Progressively work up to 2 minutes, then 4 minutes, then 8, then 16.

Keep carving your own path – finding more moments to be “all in.”

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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