The Power of Imbalance
I used to believe that achieving balance was my life’s goal. I pictured a balanced life as a kind of Utopia, a paradise of bliss and perfection. I believed that once I attained this Promised Land of Balance, I could kick off my shoes, find a reclining chair, and bask in the light of Balance’s Sunny Beaches.
In my mind, I had an image of what a Balanced Life would look and feel like. My balanced life would look organized, clean, planned out. Everything would be in order. In my balanced life I would feel unstressed, calm, settled, grounded, and in control. In my mind, I had a picture of waking up early before my kids, spending time in prayer, meditation, journal writing, exercising, cooking a nutritious breakfast and being on time for every appointment. Aaaah, perfect balance.
My life looked nothing like that. Raising four children, my days were filled with unplanned, unexpected, and often unsavory glitches. Inevitably someone would wake up in the night with the stomach flu and dreams of my “perfect” day would dissolve into mountains of laundry and frantic trips to the store for Pedialyte.
Thankfully I met a personal trainer who taught me the truth about the Power of Imbalance.
Imbalance Develops Strength
I am not a work-with-a-personal-trainer kind of girl, but my gym membership included six months of free personal training and I never let a coupon go to waste. This is how I met Shaun. He taught me a routine using free-weights, and just as I started to feel confident with the routine, he made me move from the flat floor to standing on a balance saucer. After teetering and falling into the mirror, I complained, “Nothing about this feels right. I feel completely out of control, completely off-balance. I was doing better on the floor.”
Shaun said, “It’s not supposed to feel comfortable. You are not supposed to feel balanced.”
Then Shaun taught me this importance lesson about balance.
“Stop focussing on how awkward and embarrassed you feel. Stop worrying that people are judging you. Instead, pay attention to what your leg muscles feel like. Feel how the muscles are correcting you, when you tilt too far to the right, your leg muscles fire up and grab your body and correct you back to center. It’s the imbalance that is making your leg muscles smarter and stronger. Being off-balance is what’s building your strength.”
Yes, this is another reminder that life is not about the destination. The growth is in the journey. And if the process feels like a struggle, then you are probably doing it right.
Balance Signals End of Growth
We talk so much about achieving balance because balance feels good. Being in balance feels comfortable, and don’t we all just want to feel comfortable? YES! But remember:
There is no growth in the comfort zone and no comfort in the growth zone.
Once I mastered my free-weight routine on the floor, I felt confident and in control, so naturally I wanted to stay there. But my growth had peaked out. I was no longer challenging my core muscles. Shaun taught me that life is not about achieving balance, life is about struggling to achieve balance.
Think about this: stand perfectly still with your feet aligned side by side. You feel balanced, but you also aren’t going anywhere? There is no moving forward while balanced. In order to take a step forward, you have to tip off balance, shift all weight onto one foot while the other foot moves forward, then shift all the weight back onto the other foot while the other moves. Progress in life comes only through transitory periods of imbalance.
If I am balanced, I am not moving forward. If I am balanced, I am not growing.
Balance is a Goal, but Not a Destination
So why are there a gazillion self-help books about achieving balance? Are they all wrong?
The answer is NO. They are right because we do want to work towards balance. Balance is our goal. However, balance is not our destination.
We often tend to think of balance as a destination and that once you get there, you stay forever, like arriving in Hawaii. I had friends who moved to Hawaii, and they loved it for a few months, then guess what happened? The beaches, the ocean, the scenery became the normal backdrop of ordinary daily routines. When they brought their kids to visit Utah, their youngest exploded with joy at the sight of pinecones and squirrels.
If Hawaii can become hum-drum, then balance can certainly become boring.
Here is the sad news about encountering balance: the moment we meet balance, it’s already time to move on. Why? Because it is not finding balance, but the struggle to find balance that moves us forward.
Myths of Balance
Do you hold on to any of these myths about achieving a balanced life?
Myth #1 Balance is a destination. Once I arrive, I can stay forever.
Myth #2 In order to be successful, I have to achieve a balanced life.
Myth #3 Balance means symmetry, an equal focus on all areas of my life.
If so, try on these truths.
Truth #1: Balance is a goal to work towards, but I don’t want to stay balanced. As a human, I seek growth, which require me to continually step forward out of balance.
Truth #2: To be successful, I must often struggle through transitory periods of imbalance.
Truth #3: Progress requires extra focus on in one or two areas that sometimes leave other areas a bit neglected. But that’s okay because at another time, those areas will get the attention.
Understanding the Power of Imbalance has helped me to embrace the discomfort of the struggle. While remodeling the kitchen, we may eat too much fast food and cold cereal, but that’s okay. Once the remodel work is done, I can refocus on cooking nutritious family meals. When my garden is thriving, my kitchen is usually a disaster because my counters are covered with squash, cucumbers and tomatoes and a lot of flies. During the winter my countertops stay clean, but I eat canned vegetables. There are times and seasons for everything. When life feels out-of-balance, take some advice from my trainer, Shaun. Stop worrying about how uncomfortable you feel and pay attention to where the growth is happening.