Why I Stopped Playing the Perfect Balance Game

Recently I was standing in Mountain Pose about to flow into Tree Pose. However, my tree was similar to the one in A Charlie Brown Christmas – not the prettiest.

practicing balance

I struggled to find balance and keep myself upright. ‘Ugh,’ I thought, ‘I can’t even get Tree Pose right today.’

At that exact moment, my yoga teacher said, “Remember, we are not doing yoga, we are practicing yoga.”

This was a light bulb moment for me. Even in a balance pose, we are practicing balance. It’s a lifelong process of learning, not a pose we cram our body into.

Imperfect Balance

Achieving balance has been a lifelong goal of mine. I attend lectures, read books and articles, and talk with my therapist about my life of imperfect balance. I told myself that if I could ever reach perfect balance in life, then I would guarantee happiness.

I sat through one lecture in law school where the speaker told us the list of goals she gave herself to complete by the time she was 30. She wanted to be married, have 3 kids, and be a partner at a law firm. She achieved all of these things through her process of perfect balance.  

I was in awe and then stopped listening. Her objectives and solutions were very specific. Her list of goals did not resonate with me. Her process of setting up car pools, calendars, and the perfect significant other didn’t ring completely true. Later, I realized this was because she didn’t share any of her struggles, only her triumphs. 

While she lectured at us, I began to wonder how perfect her life could possibly be realistically. Did nothing ever change? No kid of hers got sick? No male colleague was promoted before she was promoted? She and her husband never fought over who would make dinner? Did she ever do anything spontaneous, fun, or outside of her schedule?

Realistically, perfect balance is not sustainable. Things in life do change. We have triumphs, but we also have challenges. Perfection is a zero-sum game, and I’m not playing anymore. 

Practicing Balance

What I’ve decided to do instead, is practice balance. If we’re not supposed to cram our body into a posture during yoga, then we’re definitely not supposed to cram our lives into another person’s list of achievements. Kids and dogs, even husbands, will get sick. Co-workers will irritate us and sometimes try to sabotage our efforts. Dinner turns into a hodgepodge of leftovers or a cheese sandwich. 

Today when I am feeling angry or frustrated because everything is not going as I planned, I take a deep breath and ask myself, “What does the practice of balance look like here?” It will not be perfect. However, I can address my needs, I can find a moment of centering, and I can find a realistic step toward balance. 

Check In, Not Out

When we are overwhelmed, it is easy to check out and give up. Since we can’t achieve perfect, we don’t even want to try. 

In these moments of feeling overwhelmed, it’s important to check in rather than checking out. Remind yourself that perfect balance isn’t the end goal. Practicing a life of balance is the journey you are on. In the end, practicing makes permanent, not perfect. 

Practicing balance is a process. On this day, at this moment, what the practice of balance looks like will be different from tomorrow’s practice. It will look different from yesterday’s practice. Practicing balance means being aware of what we can and cannot do – in that moment. 

The Practice of Balance

Feeling overwhelmed comes from our idea of how life should work rather than how it’s actually going. When we are inundated with a to-do list, it’s time to take a deep breath and lean into our practice.

Write down three S.M.A.R.T. goals that you can work towards that day. A S.M.A.R.T goal is one that is small, measurable, attainable, relevant, and has a timeline. 

Prioritize your list. Maybe your highest priority is the goal that has to happen that day. Maybe your priority is the one you most feel like you can do at that moment. Perhaps your priority is the one that you’ve been avoiding. 

Take one step toward your first goal of balance. It doesn’t have to be a leap, jump, or big achievement. A small step forward when you are feeling overwhelmed is huge. ds