What comes to mind when you think of “balance?” A set of scales with a pair of weights at equilibrium? A tightrope walker strutting down a nearly-invisible wire? A juggler keeping multiple objects in constant motion?
Well, I don’t know about you, but I can’t juggle.
I can’t tightrope walk.
And I certainly can’t give equal weight to every aspect of my life.
I’m all for having a more balanced life, but I think some of the associations that we have with the word “balance” can cause us to take the wrong approach. Telling ourselves to have more balance makes us feel like we have to devote equal amounts of time to everything. I often hear people say that they’re “juggling” a lot of different things at once. The problem with juggling is that if you make one wrong move than everything falls.
I remember hearing Leslie Householder say in one of her podcasts that she doesn’t like the word “balance.” Instead, she prefers the word “harmony.”
“Harmony” makes me think of playing a beautiful song on the piano. By contrast, “balance” would be like trying to play every note on the piano an equal number of times. Not only would such a song not sound very good, but there would be little joy in playing it. But with “harmony,” you choose a melody to follow. You do what feels right to complement that melody, and the product is satisfying and glorious. You only need to focus on one or two notes at a time, and if you play a “wrong” note then you just keep going.
One of my favorite books is Essentialism by Greg McKeown. McKeown points out that when we try to balance all good things, “we have the unfulfilling experience of making a millimeter of progress in a million directions.” But by harmonizing with our life-mission and choosing only a few things to focus on, “we have the satisfying experience of making significant progress in the things that matter most.”
It has been almost a year since my last blog post. I could make a lot of excuses about how busy I’ve been in work, school, and family life. However, I think the real reason I’ve been hesitant to blog for so long is because I feared it would knock my life out of “balance.”
I put so much thought and energy into writing and developing my blog posts that I knew a return to blogging would require a commitment of several hours a week, which would mean less time for everything else in life. However, by trying to keep my life “balanced,” I’ve been neglecting to keep my life in “harmony.”
Blogging brings harmony to my life because it helps me remember the insights I receive, it helps me better understand those insights, and it expands my powers of thinking and reasoning. Blogging helps me feel purpose and satisfaction, gives me hope that I can help others discover more joy in their lives, and raises my confidence because I know it is something God wants me to do. Essentially, blogging puts me in harmony with my life-mission.
Does blogging create imbalance in my life? Perhaps in the short term. In another podcast, Leslie Householder says that sometimes when she’s working on a really important project, some things fall by the wayside. For a while, the dishes and laundry might not get done. But rather than beating herself up over this, she mindfully chooses to think of her priorities in terms of “seasons.” Thus, when her house is in chaos, she and her family refer to it as, “A temporary season of imbalance.” She’s not discouraged by such seasons because she knows she’s in harmony with what needs to be done to achieve her goals.
In other words, as long as we’re in harmony, we can optimistically embrace temporary imbalance.
When I tell myself to work on “harmony” rather than balance, this helps me remember that Christ is the melody I’m trying to follow. The times when I feel my life is “out of balance” are the times when I’ve stopped listening to the melody, and so my notes are creating dissonance instead of harmony. When God tells us to have more balance, He’s talking about the kind of balance that comes from making Christ the center.
To find harmonious balance, it’s okay to focus on only a small number of things. And those things can keep changing from time to time. But you’ll need to go on your own journey to find out what those things are for you. Though I will say, sometimes the journey is as simple as choosing your favorite melody.