Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
24 May

What Does It Mean to Have “Balance” in Your Life?

balanceLet me step outside the usual Primal fare today and play with an idea we’re all familiar with on some level. Balance: it’s perhaps the most ubiquitous self-help buzz word, and it seems like the perfect, compliant prescription for a manic paced world. I mean, who can argue with finding more balance in life?

The way it’s usually presented focuses us on organizing, strategizing, and maximizing. These all seem like worthwhile endeavors (and sure, there’s often a lot to be gained from them), but could “balance” as it’s interpreted this way limit our scope of personal vision and possible change? It doesn’t challenge us to ask the kind of weighty questions that shift our lives fundamentally. Think of it this way. We likely don’t resolve on New Year’s Eve to “achieve” more balance in the coming year and then find ourselves weighing a hundred pounds lighter, starting a new career, or taking on a new phase in our lives. If we do, it’s likely because we chucked the resolution for something much more ambitious.

It also doesn’t demand that we ask whether we’ve taken on too much in the first place. Add another responsibility to your already busy schedule, shift some resources here, make a few adjustments there, and voilà, balance! Or do all of your responsibilities (and thus, your entire life) suffer as a result?

My sense is that at its best, “balance” in the conventional sense can give us a short term strategy for managing our lives as they are. At its worst, it can lull us into fully accepting a precipitous cycle of frenetic living – and can keep us from truly thriving. But let’s take a closer look and see what we can uncover.

First, what is usually meant by balance, anyway? Then, should we really be striving for it after all?

When I see the word balance on a yoga/health/fitness/natural-living magazine cover, I always imagine one of those plate spinners – the performers who enthrall crowds by tending to any number of plates they spin on long sticks. The idea of course is to spend just enough time and attention on each plate to keep it moving but not so much to lose track of another and see it shatter on the floor. Meanwhile, the person at the center of this game is darting back and forth with keen, jittery attention. It’s always struck me as a manic and exhausting exercise. While it may be entertaining to watch, is it any way to live?

It seems like many people approach balance this way – as an act, a feat, a trick they cultivate. We’re supposed to take pride in how rapidly and deftly we attend to the given game in front of us – no matter how many plates there are; work, parenting, fitness, marriage, volunteer work, school, hobbies – the list goes on and on. If we just spin them fast enough, we should be able to keep any number of them going.

Balance in this way is about controlling, rationing, and conserving one’s time and attention. As rational as it seems, it also feels a little exacting. The concept – and the plate game – would’ve entirely eluded Grok. I think there’s a fine line between monitoring the relative parity of one’s life and parsing it out. We can miss much of the big picture – and miss or reject real opportunities for healthy change – when we’re frantically moving from one plate to next. Call it balance if you will. I’ll call it a game that can’t reasonably go on forever. The plates, eventually, always come crashing down if you add one plate too many.

Maybe there’s a different take to be found here. Let me modestly suggest this: the equilibrium shouldn’t be in the plates. Forget the plates, in fact. Forget the spinning. Let go of the perpetual vigilance. Loosen your emotional grip. Just observe the whole metaphor – and mindset – shatter on the floor. (Truth be told, there’s something therapeutic about it.) Maybe the crux of genuine equanimity isn’t to be found in maneuvering. Rather, perhaps we should let the parts go and home in on the real center.

First, a caveat… Sure, there are times in life that call for juggling. You have a particularly busy month at work. You’re working around a family member’s illness or absence. You have a baby. I remember life when the kids were both little. Especially right after we had our second and were learning to function with two, we had what we called the “ten minute plan,” in which we set the agenda for what had to be done in the next ten minutes. After that we had absolutely no idea. It was too much to consider. Life was lived according to a succession of ten minute plans. As we got a better handle on things, we didn’t add time to the “plan.” We gradually let go of it. We rescinded enough control that things began happening organically again. Sure, there were times when we had to resurrect the ten-minute model, and we were glad we were schooled in it. It made life easier to be able to efficiently slip into that mode as necessary, but we always looked forward to slipping out of it as soon as possible. In other words, it was a strategy to use but not a way to live.

On the flip side of the coin, if you find yourself continually gravitating toward – longing for a sense of balance, I’d suggest stepping outside of the concept for a while. Put away the calendar. Drop the magazine questionnaires. Go for a long walk. What would it take for *you* to feel balanced? Forget how the responsibilities line up. Just suspend them for a while. (Trust me, they won’t go away.) Imagine feeling a genuine sense of equilibrium in your life. Maybe you’ve found it – made it happen. Maybe you feel it sometimes. Maybe you used to feel it. Maybe it’s never felt in your grasp. Can you put yourself in that place? How has the scenery changed?

For all the choice we have in the modern age, we deal with some pretty hefty challenges. We navigate circumstances and weigh options that never figured in during our ancestors’ day. We wrestle with the co-existing freedom and responsibility of forging our own paths toward how we envision thriving. The answers might not always be clear. What do we want out of life? Can we find these by adding plates and “balancing” our daily agendas? Or, alternatively, do we need to shift the center altogether?

Thanks for reading my musings on this much bandied about word and concept, everybody. You tell me: What does balance mean for you in your wellness endeavors? Have you been able to achieve your goals by balancing your life, or have you felt called to make more seismic shifts?

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I think if one’s hormones are in balance than the rest will follow.

    Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on May 24th, 2012
    • Hah! That is so true. Especially for women. :-)

      Alison Golden - PaleoNonPaleo wrote on May 24th, 2012
      • Bit of a timely topic, was just sitting here earlier and we had (another) earthquake, my place has had 2 years out of balance from these bloody things. Roll on no more 5. whatevers…

        Sarah wrote on May 24th, 2012
    • This is so very true, Bon. I’d like Mark to give us his input on how to come out of a stress-and-poor-diet-induced hormone hurricane. I bet many of his readers are struggling with this issue. If we can’t get hormones regulated through the Primal Blueprint alone, where do we go from there?

      Grokwatcher wrote on May 24th, 2012
      • Word.

        StoneCutter wrote on May 24th, 2012
  2. Life is so artificial now that it’s like a stress game.

    Groktimus Primal wrote on May 24th, 2012
  3. This is a great post. I predict lots of responses!!!

    I, myself, feel unbalanced due to too many responsibilities and overwork. But I keep going round in circles about how to solve it, and so I don’t solve it. I actually think that it is society that is sick, and individuals find it hard because of this. Some of you on this site will have figured ways to avoid the sick society, and I admire you guys.

    Violet wrote on May 24th, 2012
    • I have found that Balance is the ability to neglect all things equally, If we look at it that way it is truly attainable.

      CALVIN wrote on May 25th, 2012
      • That is so true!! Neglect everything equally, not too much, but enough to make you happy and give yourself time. It’s what I do :D

        Wafaa wrote on May 26th, 2012
  4. “Balance” is used too often in the same vague sense as “energy”. I like the metaphor of keeping plates spinning-that’s what attempting “balance” often feels like to me. I think it’s stressful and often overwhelming. It seems to make more sense to me to try to prioritize my life around the principles I live by, and learn to let go of the spinning plates that aren’t important.

    Matt Meeks wrote on May 24th, 2012
  5. To me, achieving more “balance”, when super busy, has meant to make sure you take a break once in awhile. To get away from the frantic schedule. To just chill out. I think that’s what some might be trying to achieve by organization. Basically to allot time for relaxation.

    But there is something to say for unplanned relaxation, a more organic schedule. Especially when there are those that find the “extra” time they have found because of organization goes to more activities and their planned relaxation falls by the wayside.

    Aaron wrote on May 24th, 2012
  6. I don’t strive for “balance.” I guess I strive for “foundation”–the combination of sleep, food, movement, and love that energizes me enough to be a productive and positively contributing mom, wife, worker, and community member. This foundation of health-creating habits is what got me through my mom’s illness and death, and it’s what enables me to keep chipping away at everything that needs doing. Yes, I am probably too busy and I’m sure I don’t have all the fun and freedom I’d like to, but this is what my life is like for now. I can get through it and I can create results so long as I pay attention to the fundamentals. (I think this is where a lot of women in my age group trip themselves up–not enough sleep, not the right food. Then, of course, they feel out of balance!)

    Sarah wrote on May 24th, 2012
    • I love this idea of striving for a solid foundation, rather than trying to achieve balance.

      Balance, to me, is like the picture of the tight-rope walker, or Mark’s metaphor of the spinning plates all balanced on their sticks – and what this means is the risk of falling (walker or plate); that is, to be out of balance. I try to be balanced, but don’t quite manage.

      But you can’t fall off a strong foundation, can you?

      Violet wrote on May 24th, 2012
    • LOVE this

      Steve wrote on May 25th, 2012
    • Foundation. Sleep/food/movement. HYFR.

      KWM wrote on May 25th, 2012
      • Agreed. Drake would agree too.

        Ro wrote on May 26th, 2012
    • Your foundation concept is a winner, definitely. A lot of the emergencies in my life have turned out to be artificial, but sleep, nutrition, and movement are never over-rated.

      Love. This.

      Joy Beer wrote on May 25th, 2012
    • Wonderfully put! I find if I don’t do the same as you I just don’t gel well with the world. My husband sometimes laughs (kindly) at my sleep schedule, but I know it is sooooo important.I guess for me balance is all down to sleep, if I get that right I seem to naturally flow towards better choices in food, exercise and life/love

      Simone wrote on May 27th, 2012
  7. “Balance” is a good word for analogy’s sake but I wonder, however, if it fails to properly describe anything that is actually achievable in symbiotic processes. Do we mean balance as a noun or a verb or both? A properly executed balancing act should look effortless.

    Goyo wrote on May 24th, 2012
  8. I continually pare down my life. It goes in fits and starts – calm then overload then a ratcheting it back once again. Slowly over years, I’m getting to a place that feels comfortable. I’m getting more skilled with finding balance. But perhaps achieving balance is an illusion – what we strive for (perfection) can’t be attained in which case the struggle becomes more about doing our best and picking up the broken pieces of plate and trying again.

    Alison Golden - PaleoNonPaleo wrote on May 24th, 2012
  9. I was, for much of my early life, plagued by anxiety attacks. Like, afraid to leave my bed anxiety attacks. Balance, for what it’s worth, was something I worked hard with my husband to comprehend set the stage for.

    We worked our butts off for a few years, paying off our debt and saving for a move to a community where our values are inherent in the community. Plentiful local, organic produce and pastured animals, ocean, lakes, mountains nearby and trails intersecting the town, and a thriving arts scene.

    Since we feel less pressure to conform to ways of life that feel unnatural to us, balance has presented itself on it’s own terms. When we need rest, we rest. When we need to recharge we commune with nature wherever feels best that day. When we need to feel productive there is ample opportunity.

    Heck, I was told that I couldn’t have kids. Six months after moving 1800 miles from the area we were raised in I was preggers and now have the immidiate balancing act of two preschoolers to fill my days.

    I guess my point is that balance is such an individual thing. The most important thing, I think, is to realize what really matters to you and to stick to it. We are Bikram yoga addicts, and one of our favorite Bikram quotes is this:

    “What is the most important thing in your life? It’s your life, you idiot!”

    yoolieboolie wrote on May 24th, 2012
    • So where did you move to? Sounds nice.

      Aaron wrote on May 24th, 2012
      • The Pacific Northwest :-)

        yoolieboolie wrote on May 24th, 2012
        • That would’ve been my guess. We’re in the South and considering a move there. Just concerned about leaving a nearly constantly sunny climate for a darker one and the effect that might have on my mood.

          Grokwatcher wrote on May 24th, 2012
        • That was my guess, too!

          Paul wrote on May 24th, 2012
        • My guess was Miami Nice :-)

          WildGrok wrote on May 24th, 2012
        • We did the same thing, left Atlanta for Portland for many of the same reasons. I guessed PNW before I read your reply, you described it perfectly!

          jt97206 wrote on May 24th, 2012
        • The Pacific Northwest is not always gray and rainy :-). You just have to seize sunny days when they arrive and not wait for sun and a weekend to coincide.

          Tim wrote on May 25th, 2012
        • Yep! The sunny days are awesome ’cause everyone in town is outside and smiling.

          yoolieboolie wrote on May 25th, 2012
    • I feel the exact same way the old you did and strive for the same things the new you did! I am so happy for you.

      Ro wrote on May 26th, 2012
  10. I’ll be playing close attention to the comments…I was hoping for more answers in the post itself! :)

    Ham-Bone wrote on May 24th, 2012
  11. I think work and life need to be balanced, I don’t want to be 80 on my death bed and say, “good thing I paid all those bills”. I just want to enjoy nature and friends and family and provide for my tribe.

    Michael wrote on May 24th, 2012
    • AGREED! I want to get out there and live life. I am sick of sitting at a desk being a slave. I try to look at it positively…but all I see is a means to “pay the bills”. Balance for me is more like keeping my sanity and doings things that I love when I am not at work. Like cooking, eating, and moving Primally. :)

      Primal Pants wrote on May 24th, 2012
  12. On a slightly related note (read: not really relate at all), I have long been wondering about some of the pratfalls of living in a ketogenic state while one is in ketosis. I haven’t been able to get much feed back on it so I thought that this blog forum could help me out…I’m curious to know if and how one could become insulin resistant while utilitzing ketones as fuel? This is something I’ve seen on another blog but it doesn’t make sense to me on the outset. Anyone’s thoughts?

    bigmyc wrote on May 24th, 2012
  13. The only way I have felt any sort of balance in this busy world is to voluntarily let a few plates drop. Too much is too much; that’s all there is to it. Do what you HAVE to do, then take a deep breath and leave the rest behind you. If, after a time, you find the desire to pick some stuff up again, then consider your options carefully, so as not to get overwhelmed again. It is an ongoing process.

    Linda wrote on May 24th, 2012
  14. I’m not sure if I understood the article, but if your life is like running from plate to plate, you need to prioritize. Pretty much everything that we put in our life can be taken out (although the costs of removing some things are unthinkable).

    We have to decide what is most important and what has a time limit (where thereafter, we can move onto the next thing). We also need to “clean out” our lives on a fairly frequent and regular basis, and take out what doesn’t work for us anymore so something new can come in. Instead of spinning plates, they should be more like potted plants.

    toaster for sale wrote on May 24th, 2012
  15. I think the plates represent responsibility (marriage, kids, job, mortgage, etc) and the plate spinner started spinning those plates by his/her own accord. If you want more time for personal balance, don’t pick up so many plates. Plus, the plates can give back. My relationship to my wife and kids is something so positive that I am willing to keep spinning even if it means I give up some other things. My job provides income that allows me to support my family and buy grass fed beef. Also, if I quit spinning those plates, major dis-equilibrium will result and be painful on multiple levels. So, while I’d love to have gone for a walk last night and buffed up my chi, my 13 year old needed help with polynomials and you know what? It was kinda cool.

    “When you change how you look at things, the things you look at change” -Heizenberg

    If there is a lesson here it think it is: make sure the plates you spin are worth the effort. I try not to pick up frivolous plates.

    Sorry to beat that analogy to death.

    Ted wrote on May 24th, 2012
    • Well plated, Ted.

      Paul wrote on May 24th, 2012
    • Agreed, Ted.

      Along with balance, I also think of life as having seasons. I have 3 young kids and work full-time so I’m going all the time. But, I recognize that it won’t be like this forever. And there will be a season (I’m sure sooner than I’m willing to admit!) that the kids will be independent and I will have more time for myself again. But while I’m in this season I know the effort is worth it and spending time with my kids is, like you said, “kinda cool”!

      That said, I really wish I didn’t work full-time! I would absolutely love being a stay-at-home mom. However, the choices my husband and I made before the kids come along put us in this position and we didn’t realize how much our perspectives would change with children. Moving from two full-time salaries to one is a major change and not one that we’re ready to make overnight. But, we recognize that as our goal and are trying to make choices that will lead us there sooner rather than later.

      So, I guess for me, right now, balance is having a goal, but being patient with the process and living in the present.

      Meesha wrote on May 24th, 2012
      • Meesha, It took three years of planning and rearranging our priorities, but I did get home to be with my kids, right when we welcomed Number 3. I remember that feeling of realizing that we were paying the price for choices we’d made long before we’d had children. Still, the goal was attainable and we worked for it. That was 14 years ago. It was so worth it…and so doable…

        Erin wrote on June 2nd, 2012
    • I really like your reply.

      To me the balance comes in making sure I am taking care of my responsibilities but also doing the things I love (sometimes those are one in the same). Sometimes I can’t be selfish but that is okay.

      No one forced me to pick up each of my “plates”. I think it makes a lot of sense to examine what we are balancing and get rid of the ones that are not worth it (like too much TV, wasting time can be one of those plates, right?).

      spayne wrote on May 24th, 2012
  16. For me a sense of calm and balance was discovered when I learned to question my “should” thoughts. Meditation made me realize how often I lived by the whip of a nasty old should that wasn’t even true. Shame and guilt and busyness started falling away when I zeroed in on my core truths and started laughing at all the programmed shoulds.

    rose wrote on May 24th, 2012
    • +1

      StoneCutter wrote on May 24th, 2012
  17. I like the idea of making sure the plates you pick up are worth the effort. Balance is also a dynamic concept–like the guy on the slackline in the photo above, you can’t stand still and you must constantly make small adjustments to stay balanced. To me, it’s on ongoing process that changes daily. Sadly, too much of my time is spent chasing money, but I’m trying to change that.

    Nicky wrote on May 24th, 2012
  18. “Close your eyes and breath in, that’s the scent of freedom.” – Matisyahu

    alexander wrote on May 24th, 2012
  19. Interesting article…especially for me nowadays. I’m enjoying my Paleo adventure as my body transforms into a healthier vessel. I’ve always been “fit” and exercised. Even won a bodybuilding contest once. I eventually left that behind years ago as I learned how unhealthy “bodybuilding” sometimes can really be – especially around the wrong crowd! Anyway…now at 43 and reaching bodyfat levels of when I won that contest I find myself also questioning other “conventional” topics. Balance is be one term that would come up. But what does it really mean? For me, I wonder. For example, what do we really need to experience happiness? We’re always going to be subjected to the unexpected and unpleasant – a death, friends moving away (or me), etc. But do we really need a large home? The fastest car? A portfolio others drool over? At this point in my life I’d rather enjoy a quiet walk on the beach, a rugged trip up the side of a mountain followed by the view and inspiration from it. I’d even prefer a nice relaxing lunch/early dinner and a drink or two with soothing sounds of music in the background with the people I love. I’d just prefer to be outdoors and taking in all nature has to offer. To me, this is balance. We need food, shelter, safety and relationships. We work to help attain these but somewhere along the way work becomes the focus. It’s not necessarily because we enjoy work! How many of us can walk away from work for any period of time? Part of our struggle with this is our own fault – debt, keeping up with the Jones, competition, etc. Part of it is the artificial world we now live in. Work shifts all around the clock, stuck at a desk all day, lights everywhere at all times of the day, the cost of goods and services and an extremely complex job market now that we’re global, just to name a few. We’d love to get away but many of us can’t without a serious blow to our standard of living. I know I’m much happier and feel a greater sense of balance the more I get to sit at a beach in my flip flops and shorts, taking in the rays and enjoying the sights and sounds of nature while sharing the experience with my loved ones.

    Tony wrote on May 24th, 2012
    • Thank you for posting. My thoughts exactly. My wife and I were in the lucky position to give up our stressful jobs for a few months recently and then we discovered this website. It’s changed our lives forever. I see former colleagues living lives of unhappiness chasing goods they really don’t need. I was one of those lost souls for a long time but no more. Thanks in large part to Mark and the community here.

      Oliver

      Oliver Kelly wrote on May 25th, 2012
  20. The two things that help me most with balance are walking & lying down.

    Bud wrote on May 24th, 2012
  21. Just being out of college, without a 9-5 career and no significant other or children ‘tying me down’, I feel quite balanced day in and day out. Writing lists, exercise, and always always making time for friends is what makes me feel level headed at the end of the day. And on a more literal note- I’ve picked up slack lining since you said its a side hobby of yours and have gotten pretty good at it! Such a great leisure activity.

    katie wrote on May 24th, 2012
    • Why hello…

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on May 24th, 2012
  22. You die. And then all the plate spinning really becomes even more meaningless. Nobody will remember you for how stressed out you were. The world needs joyful people, not overworked crankypants who can’t be bothered.

    Knifegill wrote on May 24th, 2012
  23. One of my worst habits is trying to do things in advance constantly. Sometimes I’ll double up on my daily work so I’ll have a free day created. Then I won’t use the free day, but rather keep pushing to stay ahead of things. There’s this constant feeling of pressure when I work, which there shouldn’t be because 1. I am ahead and 2. I work for myself.

    That’s definitely a case of being out what I would consider being in balance. I think what Mark is saying is that balance isn’t checking off items on a daily list or a list of things in our life.

    Think about life looking back a year or two years from what you just lived. I’ll bet that small tedium that seemed so vital, is almost impossible to remember. The thing I try to recommend to myself is remember those exact things that I placed too much importance in but couldn’t easily remember. Don’t give them nearly as much weight the next time.

    Where we can maybe get ourselves in trouble is not evaluating our past approach.

    Cheryl Boswell wrote on May 24th, 2012
    • I’m with you there! A balanced life to me, means not being a workaholic, or doing too much of one thing, but rather also being able to reap (enjoy) what we sow.

      How-To-Be-Happy-Again wrote on May 26th, 2012
  24. My yoga teacher, Diane Long, always says “Lose your balance! Find a new balance!”.

    Anne wrote on May 24th, 2012
    • That’s wonderful.

      Weatherwax wrote on May 24th, 2012
  25. Balance implies a static point, there is no such thing in the universe as the Taoist recognise; everything changes all the time.

    I’ve found it more useful to consider moving with the flow (wu wei) and working with (li) not against; this for me generates a sense of ‘balance’. A stillness within motion.

    It takes a great deal of mindfulness.

    Kelda wrote on May 24th, 2012
    • Yep, that’s how I think of balance too. It’s more about swimming with the current than standing firm. As a natural contrarian, I am not that great at going with the flow. But I try.

      Weatherwax wrote on May 24th, 2012
  26. My balance cam when I was born again– until then I was unhappy, unhinged, and stressed. Since then I have increasingly become joyous, more friendly, and care deeply about others more than myself. Interesting thing is when you care about others you forget your own problems and concerns and the byproduct is a much more content life.

    As for even more balance I have fallen in love with Mark’s Daily Apple and while I am a preacher of God’s word, I also preach to everyone I know about MDA! Go MARK!

    Pastor Dave wrote on May 24th, 2012
  27. I hate the whole concept of “balance”…real life isn’t balanced, it’s more of a wild roller coaster ride! I go with what I feel like doing…sometimes I work non-stop for weeks on end, sometimes i walk out of my office in the middle of the day and just look at the gorgeous tulips along Park Avenue. Most of the time I eat a primal diet, sometimes I go face down in bowl of homemade ice cream! It’s all good and oh so short….do what makes you happy and IGNORE everything Madison Avenue trys to sell you!

    Ida Palma wrote on May 24th, 2012
    • I agree whole heartedly. The idea of balance seems mostly “new age” CW.

      Life is about passion and rest. Grok lived a ‘balanced’ life overall. Sometimes he had to sprint hard or move something really heavy, other times he just chilled. Some times I get super involved in something I need to do or am passionate about and have a big stress response. Other times I go with the flow and am content to simply be. Trying to force things too much never seems to work for me.

      Phineas Gage wrote on May 24th, 2012
    • Nature is fractal. Its no coincidence phi is everywhere and is called the divine number.

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on May 24th, 2012
    • Yes, but you can be balanced throughout that roller coaster that is life…I think that’s the idea. Like surfing, the exhileration comes not from getting thrown into the turbulant and heavy water onto a gritty, broken shelled ridden beach head (unless you’re a masochist) but from the ability and sensation that one gets from riding the wave….

      bigmyc wrote on May 24th, 2012
  28. Balance is always a tricky subject- sometimes people spend so much time try to prioritize, categorize, and “balance” themselves that they stress themselves out even more. I don’t think balance means having every single day rigorously scheduled with work, family time, fitness, food, sleep, etc… I think it means going with the flow, and making healthy choices that lead towards a better lifestyle. Everyone has their bad days, where they miss a workout, eat too much junk food, or let themselves stress too much- the point is to get back on “track” and take care of yourself, long term.

    ALook Training wrote on May 24th, 2012
  29. Forget “balance,” strive for peace and harmony in your life. That’s what people really want. I don’t know anyone who really wants to juggle a dozen or more tasks in a day/week/month – whatever. Sure, we all have things we must do, but take care of yourself first, else you will eventually run out of fuel with which to take care of the other things.

    Find pleasure in the things you do for yourself each day. I’m good with a cup of coffee, a ball toss with the dogs, and a walk around the neighborhood. Simple pleasures bring me a sense of peace.

    If I want to work on balance, I’ll climb on a beam or stand one-legged for a while. ;)

    Jenn R. wrote on May 24th, 2012
    • Jenn, you are so right!

      mila wrote on May 24th, 2012
  30. I just got back from a trip to the US – to an Ivy league university. I think one of the biggest problems in the US now is the pressure we are putting on young people to “do it all” in order to get into a good school and, by implication, be successful in life.

    There is so much pressure for (particularly upper middle-class) kids to be perfect students, athletes, volunteers, all around little civic and academic geniuses in order to “succeed”. Parents and kids alike get sucked into this competitive vacuum and weekends are gone, time with nothing to do is gone, heck, the kids don’t even know what it is they want to do because they’re so busy being shuttled from one activity to another, to “round out” their resumés. Parents’ lives rotate around their kids’ activities and commitments. This starts in kindergarten, or even earlier. To me this is a very basic balance problem in our society.

    We had an opportunity to move to Europe and I pushed for it, because I found myself getting sucked in to this “success”-centered child-centered nightmare. It was all about how my kids were stacking up compared to others, whether they were perfect enough to make it. I am SO glad we left.

    Things aren’t necessarily better here, but it’s WAY less frantic. There’s an assumption that family time is a priority, and no pressure to play competitive sports or take up an instrument just to round out your college resume.

    At some point the craziness in the US is going to have to calm down. Our young people deserve better.

    Gydle wrote on May 24th, 2012
    • Gydle, You make very good points here.

      Where in Europe are you now?

      Violet wrote on May 24th, 2012
    • Agree completely. The only other point I would add is that people need to realize that you actually cannot have it all, despite what all the self-help books try to tell you. Solution?

      1. Pick what matters to you
      2. Get rid of the rest

      Will it mean having less money and “success”? Maybe. Is it worth it? It depends. I think the Paleo community, having questioned all dietary values, is in a good position to question other values that have been handed down to them, like the child-centered culture we have here in the US.

      Megan wrote on May 24th, 2012
      • To me, it’s not the child-centred per se (I think children are really important, and children and family should be central), but the *success-centred* aspect that Gydle wrote about, also called the ‘hot housing’ approach to child-rearing. (The pressure/’success’ paradigm also significantly affects adults, whether they have kids or not.)

        Violet wrote on May 24th, 2012
  31. It’s not a trap to assign importance to work. The trap is not assigning the same degree of importance to play or some productive downtime, like meditation. It doesn’t have to consume the same amount of time, but it should be done regularly and all about what elevates your spirit.

    Ted wrote on May 24th, 2012
  32. I treat balance as a verb, not a noun.

    You never achieve balance, as another commentor said, that’s a static point. Instead, I balance, fluid and moving, minute-to-minute, day-to-day. What I need to balance today is not what I’ll need tomorrow, or even an hour from now.

    Rozska wrote on May 24th, 2012
  33. Speaking of balance, last week you asked for ideas for this site and I have one that would add balance to your site. How about pictures of you AND the wife in the banner? She’s amazing, gorgeous, the perfect representation of the Primal Blueprint woman, and paragon of anti-aging from a female perspective (as you are for the males). I understand there may be privacy she wishes to maintain and that’s why she keeps a low profile. I respect that. Just wanted to throw it out there, she’s the epitome of balancing being over-40 in an unbalanced culture obsessed with the under-40 population.

    Paula wrote on May 24th, 2012
  34. Balance is important to me. I skip out on work on a nice day to go home and do yard work or sit on the porch swing. Life is too busy all of the time and I’m done living that way. Might get fired, but…

    Jura wrote on May 24th, 2012
  35. I used to hate the idea of “balance”. It sounded boring, stifling, routine. I wanted excitement, high points, things to look forward to. Then I got entangled with a bipolar woman with boundary issues who insisted on being my best friend. Going through the up and down cycles with her for a couple years completely burned me out on drama, and forced me to acknowledge that, in a way, I had gone looking for it. Ending this toxic relationship was an incredible relief, and I wallowed in the tranquility of day after day sameness that followed.

    So for me, now, I see that life is always in balance, like a pendulum, or an oscillation between actions and equal and opposite reactions. Without high highs, there are no low lows. And it turns out that without lows, I don’t need highs. Eliminating those wider swings allows me to live in a narrow band of stability and contentment. It’s not the least bit stifling.

    em wrote on May 24th, 2012
  36. This is a very powerful post!

    The line about letting all the plates crash to the floor really spoke to me because that’s what I did a few weeks ago – I quit my job and went back to being a sahm! My life was in perfect balance – working, and also helping my husband run his business, raising three boys, taking care of the home and meals, taking care of myself, etc. – when I realized that trying to do everything at once was not working for anyone! It was the best thing I ever did. The kids have even commented on how I’m much calmer and happier now.

    Carla wrote on May 24th, 2012
    • good on you, Carla! So many people, and I was one of them, are not willing to give up income/status/gadgets/etc. to find peace and happiness. I’m so happy this is working for you.

      mila wrote on May 24th, 2012
  37. I, like yoolieboolie, changed where I lived. After being told to change my life (weight loss, stress, etc) or be dead in 5 years my husband and I tried to figure out what we were going to do and how we were going to do it.

    To stay in NYC meant to keep our present jobs and that meant no change in our lives. Knowing that I had a small veteran’s pension and that there were places all over the world where that money would actually count as an income I started the search. I found Arica Chile (a small coastal town in the Atacama desert in northern Chile) and we began our preparations–paying off debts and saving for our new lives. A person whom I contacted that lived here told me that Arica is called lazy-town. It sounded ideal.

    Our first year here neither of us did anything except make friends, explore our new area, and begin learning the language and customs. We have slowly but surely built small businesses and work about 4 hours/day on each one.

    With so little stress and so much time to swim, hike, jog, and just generally enjoy our lives neither of us have any desire to return to well-paying careers or the hustle and bustle of the big city.

    Yes, we do stress money from time-to-time–but who doesn’t?–but that is about all. We live very simple, humble lives with no frills. We lack the latest gadgets and fashionable wardrobes.

    I have, however, regained my health. I’ve lost over 100 pounds and tons of stress. I’ve gotten my life back–the “less than 5 years to live” sentence was given 10 years ago and I am grateful for every single day.

    Others have said it perfectly: It isn’t balance that we should be seeking but rather a good foundation on which to build. I now have a rock-solid foundation and I can certainly build on if I wish but I can guarantee you that I won’t overload again and I’ll never return to my old way of life.

    mila wrote on May 24th, 2012
  38. After a brutal HIT session my sense of balance is zero…….

    Pete wrote on May 24th, 2012
  39. Balance is developing all areas of life from our heart in a proportional manner.

    It is the blossoming of the individual’s health, career, social contribution, relationships, knowledge, spirituality and the connection with the Divine Infinite power that lies within us.

    Balance is ONE with LIFE!

    Paul Alexander wrote on May 24th, 2012
  40. I know this might sound a bit “catch all” but learning about fueling the body in a Paleo/Primal way has had a PROFOUND balancing affect on my life in so many ways! THAT has been the ticket for me. I was so0o0o0o0o anxious before, and I blame most of it if not ALL on my “healthy whole grain” diet. Constantly running and working out to “burn off” what I’ve consumed. Almost running from my demons. Bad way to live.

    It sounds funny, but at times I’ll pretend to be living 10,000 years ago during my walks, sprints, or workouts. Imagining traveling to the creek for water/food (our creek is real and runs through town). Sprinting for or from an animal. Climbing a tree to retrieve food or ESCAPE from a beast. I find this fun “mind play” a way to add some reality to life’s stresses. Try it sometime.

    craig almaguer wrote on May 24th, 2012

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