The Balance Illusion

The Idea

Contributed by @philhagspiel |  Edited and curated by @philhagspiel

Balance only appears if we zoom out sufficiently far enough.

Taking Action

A tightrope artist must hold her balance — otherwise she will fall to her death. When we analyse her successful walk from beginning to end, we can say that “she was in balance.”

However, this holds true only as long as our perspective is sufficiently zoomed out. As we take a more granular look at how she “holds balance” at every second of the process, we will see that she is in fact out of balance at every single moment. She is constantly correcting, subtly moving her body from one side to another to compensate for being too far on either side. As long as she does not lean on side for too long, she will stay up on the rope (and alive).

When we contemplate balanced approaches to our own lives, the same pattern can be found. For instance, the idea of work-fun balance makes sense only if we zoom out sufficiently enough. At every second of the day, we are either fully focused on one or the other — entirely out of balance. It would obviously be ineffective to always focus on both at the same time. Similarly, “balancing out”, that is switching back and forth between, our jobs and personal lives too frequently per time interval (e.g. a day) would be undesirable.

The question of balance thus is not one of “doing both”, but of strongly focusing on one or the other and simply changing our focus appropriately over time. We feel “out of balance” when we have been focusing on something (physically, mentally or emotionally) for too long — not when we haven’t done things at the same time.

While a tightrope artist’s balance comes from switching her focus very frequently, our different balances in life might only be relevant over the course of a day, a week, a month or even a few years. The zoom-level with which we look at our lives and the timeframe within which we want to achieve “balance” is critical.

Temporarily being out of balance isn’t a bug, it’s the only way to achieve balance permanently. The challenge is not to never be out of balance — it’s to understand when to switch focus and be out of balance with the other thing.


A few further resources you might like if you find above idea interesting: