Balancing Act

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

When I was a young girl, Olga Korbut ruled the gymnastic's world. Of all her feats in the gym, the balance beam was my absolute favourite. How any human could make the moves she was able to make on that narrow, (and dangerously hard), plank of wood was beyond me! Absolutely terrifying and mesmerising at the same time!

Our high school's gymnastic's team was desperate enough to allow a complete newbie like me join for fun. While athletic, I'm not particularly graceful, flexible nor musical so I eshewed the floor routine and headed for Olga's dream machine - the balance beam. I didn't have any illusions about flips or half twist dismounts, I was hoping to walk the length with a gentle toe dip and not fall off. In the end, I learned how to do a forward and backward roll, a cartwheel and a fancy enough dismount that allowed me to compete in a local tournament. But mostly, I learned about balance.

We read and hear so much about the importance of balance in our lives - who has it, who doesn't, why we need it, where to get it. Some of what we read promotes external places to find balance - as if we can purchase it at a spa or coffee shop or find it in the latest issue of a woman's magazines. Many of us think balance is about weighing the various parts of our day and ensuring that leisure and work time equal up - then we fret because that never seems to work out! And we end up worrying about our personal balance - do I have it? Can I get it? What is it?

Here's what I've discovered about balance:

A year ago, I was training hard for a marathon - running 45-50 km a week. I was commuting 5 days a week by train and subway for 3 hours each day! I worked as a busy program manager with a large staff and hundreds of clients. I came home at night to cook healthy meals and spent my evenings teaching an online college course. I'm married, have children, 2 cats and a big house. It was a busy, busy time and I felt in balance.

Today, I'm home fulltime enjoying a hiatus between completing my coaching studies and the fast pace of fall to come. I run about 30 km a week for fun - no races planned this year. My daughter has recovered well enough from her illness to be independent - the cats are still around but not particularly needy. I go for walks, water the garden, swim in the pool, chat with the neighbours. My life is completely different than it was a year ago but, like last year, it's in balance.

Balance is not about the kinds of things we choose to do or even the proportion of time we spend doing them. To me, balance is the same in life as it is in the gymnasium. On the beam, you have to develop an internal sense of where the center is. Your physical center and the center of the beam. Then you make sure the two are lined up at all times. In life, you need to develop an internal sense of where your center is and align it to your actions. This is, ultimately, personal balance and it can be achieved under any circumstance - the spa visit is optional!

Being out of balance feels wrong and you often know it while you're in it even if you don't know why. Identifying your center: who you are, what you value, what your life purpose is, what thrills you, what scares you, where you're happiest, who you see in the mirror is the beginning of figuring out balance. If you don't know how to do this, I'd suggest hiring a Certified Life Coach (www.internationalcoachfederat for starters) to begin figuring it out.

Until you find your center, no amount of rearranging your daily life is going to fix your balance problem. You're going to keep falling off that beam over and over again. Once you know it though, it will be difficult to ever let yourself get out of balance again.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Finding your center... yes I agree that is the key. It doesn't matter then if you are going like a tornado or sitting calmly in an eddy. I think sometimes we have no choice but to go at a crazy pace and ADD things in to get the balance. My biggest problem in the far past was "all or nothing" behaviour where I would drop so many things in order to achieve one thing. Go go go... crash! But at my center I was a wreck. Emotional, afraid, worried all the time. Finding peace and trust made such a difference. emoticon
    3242 days ago
    I really liked you blog emoticon
    3242 days ago
    You are a great writer. I loved this blog. It made me think of yoga, which always seems to open me up and set things right again (physically, mentally and spiritually). Thanks for the story of your childhood and the very relevant reminder of how we need to be in adulthood.
    3242 days ago
    Great blog!! I "liked" it!!

    You're putting a lifetime of wisdom plus your recent training into action . . . because when you're ready to launch your new career, you'll be modelling what you're coaching others to achieve.

    I do so agree that balance is not something "purchaseable", and that it doesn't depend upon equal shares of work and leisure either . . . it's a centering of the self that carries us through the busy busy times and the more relaxed times. I'll be thinking about this over the next while: thank you!!
    3242 days ago
    wow, this was really good and much needed. I've been finding my "balance" and I think what you said it right on, in a way. When I woke up this morning, I didn't want to go to this class I had been planning to go to all week. It's a self-help class and I've gone to probably 4 already.. even yesterday it seemed that today might need to be a down day. So, I was feeling guilty about not going but I think you are right. I'm finding my own center and if I feel off balance going to the class, then that's probably off blanace for me! I have to check though, b/c sometimes I tell myself I don't want to do something but really I'm avoiding or running for some other reason.
    3242 days ago
    There are only 24 hours in a day. Most people try to cram as much into that day as they can but it's not enjoyable. Sounds like you've found a way to do what you want and a lot of pressure has been removed. Keep it up!

    3242 days ago
  • KELPIE57
    Yes, balance can be straining on one leg! lol
    3242 days ago
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