I used to be so sure of everything.
If I got good grades, I’d go to a good college. If I went to a good college, I’d get a good job. If I got a good job, my life would be great.
If I wrote a good book, I’d find a good agent. If I found a good agent, I’d get a great publishing contract. If I got a great publishing contract, I’d make a living as a novelist.
If I networked enough, I’d meet a lot of people. If I met a lot of people, I’d be able to market my work to them. If I marketed my work to enough people, they’d tell other people. My career would be made.
If I truly found love, I’d get married. If I got married, everything else would fall into place. If times got rough, love would conquer all.
And the biggest myth of all?
The Balance Paradigm: If I could just find the sweet spot, I’d be able to: work, write, get enough exercise, sleep, eat well, stay in touch with friends, be supportive to people I care about, be a good mom, find fulfillment — and it’d all flow beautifully.
Well . . . with apologies to my Buddhist and Taoist friends . . . I now think the Balance myth is unproductive bullshit. You know that yin-yang symbol? It’s a snapshot; it’s not static. It CAN’T be.
Balance, for more than a moment, is impossible for any living creature. Do you hear me, people? It. Doesn’t. Exist. Tell me when you last met a person — other than the Dalai Lama — who achieved that perfect midpoint on the seesaw of his or her life.
Everything is in flux. So all the ifs we tell ourselves about trying to wrangle the numerous areas of our lives into some kind of blissful constant center is useless and emotionally exhausting.
Why do we do it?
The reason the Balance Paradigm continues to play such a large role in our collective mindset is that to admit it doesn’t exist is to admit that there’s never really going to be a time of rest – at least not until we die. This doesn’t exclude our ability to be satisfied or calm during certain moments in our lives, it just means that we have to give up the idea of “doing it all.” Because doing everything we want to do — all the time in perfect balance — is about as possible as perfectly singing the Queen of the Night’s aria from the Magic Flute with our mouths full of crackers.
So what can we strive for – what new paradigm is more useful – if we can’t manage to balance absolutely everything in our lives all at once in a perfect harmony?
Here are some ideas:
The Contentment Can Happen for Large Swaths of Life Paradigm
The Change Needn’t be Feared Paradigm (AKA The Stasis is Death Paradigm)
The You Can’t Do It All But You Can Do A Lot Paradigm
The Life Evolves and So Can You Paradigm
What do you think?
1. Can people really find balance in their lives?
2. Is balance really the goal or has it caused us to shoot for a goal that, by its very impossibility, makes us miserable?