Counter-Balance Your Life.

All of us talk about wanting to achieve balance in our lives, but putting this notion into practice is often more of a challenge than we think. The stresses and strains that we feel to juggle all of our responsibilities has us pulled from work, to family, to exercise, to proper dieting, to church and beyond. Here is a life strategy that works well for me. I call it Counter-Balancing.

It begins when I realize or remember that balance is a myth. That’s right, a myth. When I feel out of sync in my own life, I look out and misperceive other people as having achieved balance. The problem with this misperception is that what I perceive in other people that I define as balance looks to me like they are static. 

 This is the root of the myth—that people who appear balanced are static. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. What appears to be a balanced, fluid life is really a well honed series of micro-corrections or what I call counter-balancing. Professional athletes demonstrate counter-balancing in their sports.

If you were to come to one of my winter training institutes, which always happen to be near a Montana ski area, you would notice some amazing demonstrations of expert skiers as you are rode the chair lift. What is most impressive about these advanced athletes is how smooth and graceful they are. They seem effortless in their ability to navigate through changes in the environment and terrain. They go from ice, to moguls, to powder to steep slopes. 

What is not apparent to the untrained eye is how dynamic and fluid they really are. The illusion is that they are just standing on their skis and gliding along. In reality, they are constantly moving and counter-balancing—but on a minute scale that is indiscernible to the untrained eye. It appears that they drop down into a crouch and turn. However, what is actually happening is that they are constantly moving. A slight change in the angle of their ankle inside their ski boot is offset by the movement in their hip and hand as they plant their pole. The same example could be described with golfers who are perfecting their swing. 

What I would say when I used to coach ski racers is that movement is balance and balance is movement. The same is true in the larger areas of our lives as well. When we feel stuck or off balance, like when we are spending too much time at work and not enough time with family or our exercise programs, what we need most is a counter-balance—something to offset our imbalance.

The challenge for us is that when we recognize that we are off balance, we seek to correct our situation by subtracting the very thing that is causing our imbalance. If it is work we say we need to work less. The problem with this type of thinking is that nature abhors a vacuum.  What I mean is that the imbalance is always serving a larger function in our lives—it is there for a purpose even as we deny this to be the case. It is like how some of us over-eat when we are stressed.

One of the people that is a model for applying this technique of counter-balancing in his life is a friend and fellow national-speaker from the Minnesota Institute of Public Health, Roger Svensen. As he trains public health practitioners, Roger will talk about how he thinks about adding things to his life to create balance. For example, 20 years ago when he was making diet changes in order to lose weight, he found it was critical to add exercise to his day in order to reinforce his healthy eating. (Now if we can design a counter-balance to his Scandinavian lutefisk-eating habits he would be in picture-perfect health!).

The successful technique of counter-balancing is to consciously add those things to our lives to bring us back toward health, rather than focusing on doing less of the thing that is pulling us off balance. Remember that we will expand those things that we focus on—even if we don’t want them in our lives anymore. So in order to add balance to our financial lives we need to increase our savings, investments and debt pay down. In order to increase intimacy in our lives we need to increase quality attending and listening to our partners and children. In order to feel more control of our schedule at work we can increase our focus on the projects that produce the greatest results from our efforts.

 All of us experience imbalance. What is important is recognizing when we are there and adding things to our day that can move us back toward our center of healthy living. The trick is to stay focused and correct these imbalances and restore our energy by counterbalancing to be more in line with our life’s purpose and mission. 

STRATEGIES: Counter-Balance Your Life

  1. Reflect upon times when you have felt out of balance. What were your thoughts at the time to justify your imbalance?
  2. All of us will be out of balance during certain times. What are these times and how will you counter-balance to get back to your healthy center of living?
  3. What role does monitoring your energy level play in counter-balancing your life? Have you noticed that when you are experiencing low level energy that you are actually out of balance?  How can you remind yourself to monitor your energy as a signal for needing balance?
  4.  Pay attention to people you admire for maintaining balance in their lives. Notice how they are actually making a series of micro-corrections to maintain their balance. They say “yes” to certain spending or eating as a way of saying “no” to others. They say “yes” to surrounding themselves with supportive relationships as a way of making less room for those people who take away energy.
  5. Observe how athletes, famous investors, good parents and everyone else who you perceive to be models of maintaining balance in their lives talk about what they are choosing to add to their lives to create this balance.
  6. Write this on a sticky note and put it on your bathroom mirror. Off—balance, counter-balance, Off-balance, Counter-balance, Off-balance then Counter-balance. Then practice this truth in your life. This is how it really works.
  7. Catch yourself thinking that balance is a passive result. It is something that you must actively cultivate and practice. Enjoy.

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