26 Dec A balancing act: Shifting your focus
Balance: one word that can sum up so much.
Striking a balance in life, finding your balance and learning to balance all rely on finding the point where you feel just right.
Life is very often described as a balancing act. The Oxford dictionary definition is:
An action or activity that requires a delicate balance between different situations or requirements.
Think about that. It is impossible to give care and attention to more than one thing at a time because you can only actually focus on one thing. Trying to give attention to more than one thing means that you give one thing attention then go to the next and back and forth on repeat. As such, balance is not a constant state, it is a continuous series of adjustments to achieve what looks like balance but is actually rapid changes in focus to achieve stability.
Finding a physical balance
Imagine you are standing on one foot. To balance your body, you will be making hundreds of tiny adjustments using feedback from your nervous system in your eyes, ears and a multitude of muscles. You hardly notice all the extra work and compromise. But try standing on one leg with your eyes closed and you will become aware of all the little adjustments and how much difference one change can make.
It is the same when you learn a new skill that requires you to balance, such as riding a bike. You start off, usually at a young age, learning with a tricycle – one wheel at the front and two at the back to make it stable. You start by keeping your feet on the ground, propelling yourself forward, but eventually the pedals hit your legs, so you work out that you put your feet on the pedals to turn them. It’s hard going at first but when you get the hang of it you move forwards quite speedily.
Then it’s time to progress to the next level, a bicycle. To feel safer your parents will probably attach stabilisers to the bike to make it easier for you.
The feeling of being off balance is scary at first and you feel out of control but the stabilisers are there to steady you. This safety measure allows you to learn and move forward while feeling safe.
Next, it’s time to remove the safety net and take the stabilisers off, even if you still need a little help and wobble a lot! Practise makes perfect (as they say – although there’s no such thing as perfect) and suddenly you have balance and you’re off! It feels awesome and you feel proud of yourself. You have learned to keep your balance on a bike and you will never lose it.
“There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life.”
Alain de Botton
Setting balanced goals
As well as the physical and mental ideas of balance, there is also the need to seek out a balance in life so that you feel like you are moving forwards.
When we set goals at Back on Track Teens, we think about balancing ‘go getter goals’ with ‘give me a break goals’. Mixing serious goals with fun goals to support focus with being able to let go and have a laugh.
To achieve that you need to set goals in a range of areas and aspects of your life. These could be career, business, finance, relationships, hobbies, leisure time, self-development, health and anything else you can think of. Balance is about developing harmony between the different areas of our life, and the roles that we get to play.
If your goals are balanced, you should be healthy enough to wake up with the energy required to propel you through the day. If you keep fit, it helps to keep your body supple and, in turn, helps you to get rid of the stress that builds up during the day at school or work. If you have career goals, they keep you moving towards your financial goals. While, in turn, your financial goals will allow you to enjoy the rewards in life.
You can’t enjoy the rewards in life if you don’t know what they would be for you. You also might not enjoy the rewards if you have no-one to share them with, so relationship goals are just as important. And, of course, you can’t enjoy any of those if you are not fit and healthy enough to take part in these activities.
“Great art is always a balancing act. But all art has both – an emotional content and an intellectual content.”
George L. Carlson
Balance is not just about running between poles to keep all the plates spinning, it’s about creating a harmonious set of outcomes where each supports the other to expand who you are, what you do and who you get to share it all with.
There is no such thing as a life balance as people intend it. Each area that is important to you will demand your attention. While you focus your attention on something you’ll realise at some point that you have neglected other aspects. On this realisation you’ll give that aspect your attention, and then another thing will be neglected in a repeating pattern.
The message to remember is: That it is totally OK. There’s nothing wrong with being out of balance, and why not enjoy it for a bit? Just don’t choose to live an unbalanced life because that’s when problems arise. Set goals, look after yourself and understand what you need.
Balance isn’t just about balancing the things we do, it is also about our attitudes and emotions. That means having certainty, security and routine in your life, and planning different things to do, in different places with different people.
Have good self-discipline, follow through on promises and plans, show integrity but also find time to let go and be spontaneous sometimes too.
“Maintain a state of balance between physical acts and inner serenity, like a lute whose strings are finely tuned.”
Choose the life you want to lead
What tips do you have on keeping your life in balance? Or have you struggled to feel in control? Share your thoughts and experiences with Back on Track Teens via:
Know that it is OK to want more, to push for that and, with a little bit of adjustment, you will find your balance again to help get you where you want to be.