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

Let 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?

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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

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

      1. 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…

    1. 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?

    2. This blog is really interesting- I’ve been musing on what balance means for a few weeks now because I find that this phrase keeps coming up everywhere around me. So I googled “What does it mean to have balance?” and this post came up! So thank you!
      The obvious meaning is to have work rest play, love etc. working together in a measured way as you described, but I felt that there was more to the term than this.
      I really liked your way of explaining it by asking what does balance “feel” like: I struggled with it for a bit and then I decided to consider what “imbalance” feels like- To me it felt chaotic, disorganised, frantic and lacking harmony, and so that helped me to understand that “balance” would feel like the opposite of these things (to me anyway!) That was a great technique to help me understand the term-so thanks once again! 🙂

  2. 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.

    1. I have found that Balance is the ability to neglect all things equally, If we look at it that way it is truly attainable.

      1. 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 😀

  3. “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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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!)

    1. 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?

    2. 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.

    3. 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

  6. “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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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!”

        1. 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.

        2. 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!

        3. 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.

        4. Yep! The sunny days are awesome ’cause everyone in town is outside and smiling.

    1. 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.

  9. I’ll be playing close attention to the comments…I was hoping for more answers in the post itself! 🙂

  10. 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.

    1. 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. 🙂

  11. 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?

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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…

    2. 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?).

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. “Close your eyes and breath in, that’s the scent of freedom.” – Matisyahu

  18. 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.

    1. 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.


  19. The two things that help me most with balance are walking & lying down.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

    1. 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.

  23. My yoga teacher, Diane Long, always says “Lose your balance! Find a new balance!”.

  24. 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.

    1. 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.

  25. 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!

  26. 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!

    1. 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.

    2. Nature is fractal. Its no coincidence phi is everywhere and is called the divine number.

    3. 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….

  27. 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.

  28. 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. 😉

  29. 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.

    1. Gydle, You make very good points here.

      Where in Europe are you now?

    2. 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.

      1. 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.)

  30. 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.

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. 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…

  34. 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.

  35. 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.

    1. 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.

  36. 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.

  37. 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!

  38. 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.

  39. I do my best to be “present” or “in the moment” as much of the time as possible. I find that if I am right here right now with whatever it is that I am doing, there is no worry about what is to come later or regret for what has past. Living in the now brings not only the brain but the mind and body into better balance. I know that sounds “new age”, but it certainly works for me. Since I have been living my life in this way my stress has pretty much dissappeared even though many circumstances have not.

  40. Balance for me means:
    – working out every morning
    – time to write (creative writing / journaling)
    – engagement for my mind (this is mostly accomplished through school – I’m working on a PhD)
    – supplementary engagement for my mind (learning a foreign language to balance the mathematics… see above)
    – a 2-3 hour chunk a week that I can curl up with a fun book
    -schoolwork during the school year but I work at a summer camp in the summer
    The “play” piece for me is the language learning and reading and summer camp.

    I feel well-balanced but that’s only because I’m single, introverted, and have no kids.

    Speaking of which – the introvert thing is the hardest one to balance. I am very introverted and have to balance “with people” time with “curl up in a cupboard and be alone” time!

  41. To me, balance implies that everything has equal importance. You have to keep spinning all the plates or something will crash to the floor. I prefer to think of my life as harmonic, a constantly changing combination of priorities that must work together. I may add something new and drop an old priority. Or this week my daughter is sick, so I focus more on her than on work. Or I have an opportunity to attend a great class, so I spend a week away from home. I take care of all the basics for each thing, and let anything that can wait slide until I can take care of it comfortably. In this way, I acknowledge the NOW and what is important at the time without beating myself up for not going full on all the time.

    Also I have learned to say NO to those things that are not necessary and not important. It gives me more time to spend on the things that support my mental, physical, spiritual and material goals. And I’m perfectly happy most days, so it must be working! 🙂

  42. Being imbalanced by stress is a big concern these days. Stress is a natural part of life for any living thing on earth and is actually necessary for all life, but chronic negative stress is harmful to our health.

    Some reminders can help you keep life in perspective:
    – Don’t focus on negative thoughts, and balance the negative by often thinking about the positive aspects of your life.
    – Be an optimist.
    – Pursue achievable goals.
    – Keep an open mind.
    – Treat difficulties as challenges and life as an adventure. Every obstacle in life is one of its challenges.

    Another big part of controlling our reaction to stress is realizing which things in our life we can control. This is a big part of independent critical thinking and the making of informed decisions. It requires the patience to see things through and know when we do not have enough information to make a decision or act. It also enhances our ability to know when we have been deceived or to realize when there may be a real potential for deception. For example, when someone (or institution, group, etc) attempts to make you act based upon limited or unknown information, you should be naturally wary, and act (or not act) accordingly. Otherwise you could obviously be manipulated, and even trapped in a pattern of manipulation.

    For more information: https://www.nu-gen.net/emotional-health/

  43. Coming from a daoist background, balance (yin/yang) is pretty fundamental…but not something that can be summarized. Yin transforms to yang and vice versa, so in life, what means balance to a person will also constantly change. I suppose awareness is the first key. Know when you need to change.

    I’ve been playing a game with my kids–you know the one “hat would you do if you won the lottery”? Well this is “what if we won the lottery of desire” and didn’t want for more than we had. We’re trying to shift the balance of our desire to fundamentals like dinner time together as a family in our (small, messy) nice house that we’re fortunate to own…and reading good books together…being able to play all kinds of crazy games since my body is feeling awesome now that I’ve been Primal for 3 months…

    Thanks again Mark and everyone for the ideas and feedback.

    1. “what would you do…” not “hat would you do”…oops. Typing out of balance!! 🙂

  44. I love your writing and many of the posts above mine. Seems as though we all have our own definitions of balance, and quite rightly so! For me, I have found that surrendering to change whilst in pursuit of a general well-being, life-loving, happy and healthy state is key. I tend to make seismic shifts, then get “balanced”, then get ready for another huge shift, and so on… More than anything, I’ve found it useful to be in the moment, even (or especially) when I find myself in the 10-minute scenarios of life! Much Love!

  45. The problem with balance is that a lot of people equate as an excuse for mediocrity. They want to work, but not too hard, exercise but not overtrain, eat properly but not be obsessed, have personal time but not be considered lazy or frivolous etc etc.

    The real trick is to commit to whatever you are doing at the time 100%. Buddhists talk about living in the moment when their focus is their current task that being performing heart surgery or making breakfast, they don’t multi task or let their minds wander off until that task is complete.

    Balance in life is the same, if you work do it properly get the job done and know it is done well then clear it from you diary and your mind. If you exercise give it 100% for the duration of the session then don’t worry about till the next session. If you are spending time with the family concentrate on them, not your phone or other distractions.

    The balance comes from prioritising the elements in your life and according each the relative amount of time, not from doing everything half baked. If you cut out the trivial you free up so much time for the really important things.

  46. I think “balance” has been codified these days as “work-life balance”. In other words, everything shoudl be equal. Unfortunately, trying to bring that to reality causes more stress than not trying.

    Reality is the various pulls of our life: Health, family, work, play, all have different levels of urgency at different times. It’s more of an ebb and flow.

    True balance is achieved when we have cleared enough “noise” from our lives that we are able to accomodate the various ebbs and flows without stressing out. That means simplifying. Something most find very difficult.

  47. Excellent post Mark,

    The plate analogy was succinct and once again a very insightful counter intuitive approach to balance.

    Thank You,


  48. For me ‘balance’ is not something that I aspire to find, it is not the end product. Balance for me is a verb and not a noun. Balance is something that I do on a daily basis. The tight rope walker does not have balance, yet he is constantly balancing.

  49. To me the whole concept of balance is the wrong way to look at things. This implies that one must put one more thing on top of an already tottering pile.

    No. The question is: how much time do you simply sit and think? I mean do nothing else but sit and think. No reading, no knitting, no TV, no music, no texting. Just thinking. And not with the kids, or the dog, or with the wife/husband chattering on about the day.

    If you never do that, I think there is trouble in your life. To talk about balance is just trying to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. IMHO

  50. Balance in this day and age is more difficult than fitness, diet or anything else.

    We simply don’t have enough time after work now to maintain balance as well as we should and it is something, much like fitness that we should actively strive for and manage.

    I am off home to get some balance back!

  51. After going through much sickness and death in my family over the past 8 years, I’ve finally come to a place in my life where balance for me means just living life more simply. My children are grown, soon I’ll be living alone for the first time in my life. For the past 40 years I’ve raised children and even one of my children’s children (which seems to be becoming more common in this day and age unfortunately). As my grandson gets ready to move onto college, I’m looking at this time as a new chapter in my life. I want to learn how to take time for the things I truly love in life. Music, reading (and I don’t mean catching a read while I’m doing ten other things – I mean sitting on my patio with my birds and my little dog and reading a book) New Chapter – and this blog has become an important part of “how to treat myself better.” Thanks Mark!

  52. Its a matter of getting your priorities straight. Even a right brained thinker needs to organize his work in order to find a balance and piece of mind.

  53. One thing that I have noticed is that, as I am able to slow life down, I seem to have more time to do things. A weird little paradox. But, for instance, after last week’s challenge to turn off electronical gadgets in the evenings, I have so much more time to do things in the evenings, and yet I feel so much calmer. The phone calls, emails and status updates can wait till the next day. Reading to my daughter shouldn’t! That’s the kind of balance I’m looking for. There have been several days recently that my laptop has stayed in its case, and the phone is off before dinner time. And you know what? I am not missing a thing! Maybe my friends are just really boring, but nothing happens in my time away from the technology that I’m even a little interested in!

  54. For me 90% of the time if I’m feeling out of balance its one of three things sleeep, diet or exercise. I’m ignoring one or more of those. If its not one of those three things its time to get into the wilderness!

  55. This article was so timely Mark. I have been Primal for almost 6 months now. Being super curious how things were turning out for me on the inside I asked my doctor to order some blood tests so we could have a looksee. Turns out my LDH is still high. I’m eating Primal and exercise Primal so what gives? I’ve been under so much stress in the last 3 years that all I can come up with is my adrenals are pumping cortisol into my system and if I don’t get some balance the plaque will become stickier and stickier. Not a good situation. So, the fundamental shift must happen. My stressors are family related. I’m moving towards a mental paradigm shift. the whole belief = behavior concept. And, I’m learning to breathe with my diaphragm (the way it was intended) instead of my chest muscles (stress breathing). The proof is in the pudding so to speak. Looking forward to another round of blood tests around the end of 2012 and see what the changes have wrought. Thanks for the post Mark and the great comments everyone!

  56. I believe that perfect balance is impossible to ever achieve as nothing in life is perfect; however, the closer you are to a balanced lifestyle, the happier you are likely to be. When I’m feeling that my life isn’t going as I want it to, I do a simple exercise. Make a circle, divide it into the following categories: work/finances, social, emotional, spiritual, family, and physical. Put a percentage in each piece to represent how much of your life is represented in each category. Obviously if your spending 80% of your time at work, then all the other categories will suffer. For me, my physical and spiritual categories were too low when I did this a few months ago so that is where my current focus lies. The Primal Blueprint has actually added a great deal of balance in several categories. I usually do this exercise when I just can’t figure out my next step in life and it always gives me an answer. You will never have every category perfectly balance because if you do, you have simply stopped living. Just my two cents worth!

  57. Perhaps, in a “primal” sense, balance is the state we live in when not in fight or flight mode. Unfortunately, to survive in the modern world, one is a stressed state more often than not. Hence, people feel balance when they can drop/turn off those stressors. As in many things primal, less always seems to be more!

  58. Balance for me is doing just what you suggest. Just strip away the “stuff” and simplify as best I can. One of Bruce Lee’s concepts of Jeet Kune Do is to strip away techniques that do not work for you and keep the ones that do. Each person needs to find his or her OWN balance.


  59. I have come to believe that that elusive “balance” is nothing more than being willing to listen when your mind and body direct you. You know when you need to make changes. The difficult part is accepting it.