IS BALANCE ALWAYS WORTH STRIVING FOR?
But in spite of all of the obvious benefits of balance, do we ever stop to consider the potential benefits of the opposite? Might there be some merit in occasionally allowing unbalance into our lives? Is striving to always stay within the narrow bounds of perpetual balance a realistic or even desirable aspiration for a life well lived? Moreover, how does a continuous state of calm and contentment tie in with the drive necessary to grow and move forward in life?
So much vitality and joy in life comes from expanding our skills and knowledge; breaking through the limits of our current abilities we can discover ourselves anew. Through the process of mastering something we could not do before or learning to think in ways we could not think before, we contribute to creating our ever-evolving sense of self. Much like loving and being loved, the pleasure inherent in growth and self-development is an innate driver of human activity. One we are born with and one powerful enough to act as the fuel for our life if we invest time. and effort into cultivating it.
Growing requires that we step out with the realms of what we are used to doing and attempt to do something we haven’t done before. And doing something new, when we are uncertain of the outcome, when we don’t already have the skills required to complete it, is necessarily disruptive. The most valuable things in life require us to stretch beyond the realms of our current abilities to attempt something we do not yet have the expertise to do. From starting a family to starting a new creative project to growing into a new role within a relationship. These attempts will necessarily be disruptive and are likely to lead to a temporary state of unbalance.
Attempting to grow into skills we do not yet possess can be frustrating and frightening. Above all, it can feel undeniably unbalancing, as we attempt to navigate uncharted territory without a roadmap of how best to reach our destination. If we only view balanced states as desirable ones, we might be more inclined to withdraw from disruptive experiences as an attempt to preserve balance. And if we cannot achieve something while staying balanced do we begin to trade-off whether it is worth pursuing it at all?
Strong feelings of anger, fear, anxiety and confusion are so often the accompaniment to outgrowing our current skill set and current ways of thinking. And while these unbalancing emotions might feel more intense than we or others are comfortable with, intense feelings are the fuel of vitality. It is this very unbalance in our thoughts, values or lifestyle that compels us to think a little deeper, reevaluate or learn something new.
Strength of character comes from learning to negotiate challenges and the intense emotions associated with them. Learning to persist in spite of intense emotions and learning to tolerate temporary states of unbalance are important skills for building resilience.
Maybe then, the remedy for falling out of balance is simply a shift in perspective: to feel more than we can manage might not be a flaw requiring correction through balance-restoring activities. An occasional falling out of balance might be the very sign that we are living life on the very edge of our potential.
Mastering modern life, with all its challenges, tensions and contradictions, is more likely to result from expanding our circle of comfort to include the ability to tolerate ever greater feelings of discomfort. And when we ultimately find our way back to balance, a little wiser and a little more resilient, we discover ourselves a little better equipped to cope with the next stretch.
Falling in and out of balance might be the very process of growing into a new and larger self. Ultimately, a life well lived might be less about cultivating a perpetual state of balance and more about learning to meander, with ever greater confidence, the inevitable oscillations between phases of calm, contented balance that signal integration and the disruptive, overwhelming states of unbalance that signal growth. By denying our inherent tendency to fall out of balance we might inadvertently be agreeing to show up as only one small part of ourselves. To, on occasion, embrace unbalance is to embrace our whole selves and to accept that even strong negative emotions are a vital part of not only growth and progress but indeed of our humanity.
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