Balance in Life is Out – Why We Should be Aiming for Harmony Instead
Have you ever been stressed AF and thought “hmm, maybe I need more balance in my life?”
When people say they want balance what they actually mean is they want to feel less stress and more peace. They want their life to be rich from their hobbies, career, relationships, family, and anything else that feels important to them.
However, this can lead us into a tailspin filled with more stress as we try to solve whatever we think is imbalancedin our lives.
In a technical sense, balance means creating equilibrium by weighing two things against one another.
This creates three unspoken assumptions when it comes to creating balance in your life:
1) everything can and should be equal all the time
2) balance will give way to a lasting sense of ease and peace and
3) your priorities, physical and mental energy levels, and overall capacity are the same every day.
In reality, perfect balance in this way doesn’t exist. If you think about balance as weighing two things against one another on a balance scale, perfect equilibrium is a delicate spot. It can very easily teeter to one side or the other.
When we strive for this kind of balance, it becomes really difficult to keep things at constant equilibrium and it can make us feel like we are chronically imbalanced.
Enter the new kid on the block: harmony
Harmony means the way you’re showing up in your life is aligned with your priorities, the energy that you have, and your immediate needs. Let’s talk more about each of these.
Your life is aligned with your priorities
We start to feel overwhelmed and burned out when we spend most of our time doing things that don’t align with our priorities. Our priorities are the areas of life that feel important to us to spend our time and energy on.
For example, one person may value being active and eating nutritious food, so physical health is an area of priority. Someone else may feel like their work betters the lives of their clients, so their career is an area of priority. Both of these priorities might even belong to the same person.
Other common priorities include romantic relationships, friendships, family, mental health, finances, passions and hobbies, finances, and spirituality.
Your life is aligned with your immediate needs
There are times when we “hustle” in one area of our life at the expense of other areas because there are urgent or time-sensitive needs to tend to. Maybe there’s a professional or personal project you’re working on, or you just made a big life change that needs more of your attention. Balance says that’s wrong because it’s well, out of balance. Harmony honors that different times of our lives have more immediate needs and there’s nothing wrong with shifting priorities (more on that below).
Your life is aligned with your energy
Each day we have a different level of physical and mental energy to give (this is especially true if you struggle with mental health issues or chronic health issues). When you bring awareness to these ebbs and flows and are more discerning about how you spend your time and energy, your life is more harmonious.
Harmony vs. Balance
If balance is like splitting a pie into two even halves, harmony is like slicing that pie into however many pieces you want at whatever size you want. For example, if “work-life balance” is 50/50, harmony is hobbies 20%, relationships and connection 30%, exercise and nutrition 15%, and work 35%.
The cool thing about harmony is that it doesn’t assume that each day looks the same. If you spend the entire day with your best friend, that day might turn into a day of 100% relationships and connection. That’s still harmony because it aligned with your priorities and immediate needs. But it’s not balanced in the greater sense.
Another example of harmony is in nature – think about a big oak tree during spring, summer, autumn, and winter. In the spring the tree is budding and regrowing, in summer its bright green leaves are creating energy, in autumn its conserving resources and its leaves are dying, and in winter its barren and without leaves.
If you looked at this tree over a week period in the dead of winter, would it look balanced? No, because it was only ever barren – you didn’t see evidence of buds or leaves. But if you think about how the tree cycles across all seasons, it’s a harmonious phenomenon.
Our priorities fluctuate like this throughout the seasons of our lives. Harmony is the idea that different seasons require different things from us and it asks us to surrender.
How to live more harmoniously
Assess your priorities
Think about what areas feel like a priority in this season of life. What would an ideal day or week of focusing on those priority areas look like for you? When you think about your typical day or week right now, how closely does it align with that? Often we end up prioritizing what we think we should prioritize instead of what we actually want to prioritize (and then wonder why we are so burned out!)
Do this regularly when you feel things shifting and ask yourself what harmony would look like given what’s on your plate, what your energy looks like, and what’s important to you in this season.
Pay attention to your energy levels
A fast track to chronic overwhelm is by expecting yourself to perform at the same level of productivity every day. This is especially true if you are someone who menstruates because our hormones cycle monthly and with that, so does energy, cognitive function, and motivation.
Begin to honor your energy levels and ask yourself what your mind and body need from you. When you base decisions off of the answer to that question, life feels less like you’re fighting against the current and more like you’re being carried down the river effortlessly.
Stop expecting perfection
Things will become unharmonious or unbalanced at times – it’s a fact of life. It doesn’t mean that anything is wrong, nor does it mean that anything needs to be fixed. Notice it, ride out the wave, and see how you can recenter yourself (using the two tips above!)
Regulate your stress
Women often get into the trap of looking for balance because they are chronically stressed and frazzled. An easy thing to do is blame it on your life being unbalanced, but this mindset leads to even more stress as you attempt to find equilibrium.
Balance and harmony are two ways to think about finding more peace and fulfillment in life, but I find that harmony does a better job of accounting for how messy life can be. A system that requires perfect balance isn’t one that yields lasting results in the long term.