Why Balance Keeps You Stuck

One of the biggest struggles I hear from writers is that they can’t find balance in their lives. They fight to fit their real-world life with their creative life and day after day, time after time, their efforts are thwarted. They may find success for an hour or even a few days or several weeks, even, but inevitably something comes along to throw them off center.

The frustration that ensues is agonizing. Many people, in fact, feel like they have failed in one way or another because they can’t balance their lives. It is no wonder “finding balance” is one of the top struggles I hear about—not just from writers, actually, but across the board. Moms. Entrepreneuers. Students. Businessmen.

For years my blog tagline read “Balancing Writing and Life” not knowing then as I know now that balance—in this sense—is a myth.  I wrote posts about how I was managing to fit my writing into my busy life. During this time, my kids were too young to be left alone, I was mothering my mother, volunteering, dealing with a novel that had to be written (even though I had no clue how to write it well), and starting up my freelance editing business.

In order to get things done, I was getting up at four o’clock in the morning to do my writing. Making school lunches while listening to a business podcast. Recording new story ideas onto my phone any time I was driving a car. Catching up with social media ten minutes here, five minutes there. Cooking dinner while helping kids with homework. Collapsing into bed after scribbling out another list of to-dos for the next day.

I thought I was balancing things. I was getting things done, sure, but I was beyond exhausted and stressed. I used to get so upset if I couldn’t answer emails or reply to comments on my blog within three hours. I was so busy throughout the day, my writing habitat became my dumping ground and over time--there was no writing habitat. Just a laptop that I propped anywhere I could.

My time management skills grew so inconsistent and scattered that I stopped making deadlines and goals. Aside from writing at four o’clock each morning (and getting my kids to where they needed to be), I had no structure or set plan to my days. Holding me together was my absolute need to write fiction every morning. I told myself if I could end the day having written some fiction and sitting down to dinner with my family, then that was good enough.

That’s not balance. That’s desperation.

I was kidding myself. Finding balance was like finding a chameleon. You might find it for a small while till it changes on you.

Here’s what I know: Balance is on par with control. You’re searching for something you will never have. In order to have balance you have to have total control over the elements you are measuring.

This is why balance in our lives is a myth. We are killing ourselves trying to obtain something that does not exist.

If balance is a myth, then does that mean we’re stuck with chaos and virtual insanity?

No.

You aren’t stuck.

You just have to retrain yourself.

Instead of looking at your life as individual pieces that need to be shifted and modified according to a pre-determined result, look at your life as parts that will flow when they are ready.

Instead of balance, seek harmony.

I began to use harmony as a word to describe the essence of my daily grind because it conveys a sense of flow and flexibility. Beauty. You are off the hook with control if you’re living a harmonious life. You are given more freedom and room to adjust in a harmonious life. With harmony, you sense that you have more options as well.

I feel that the word balance makes us feel we must conduct our days in a certain way and if it doesn’t work, we have failed, we aren’t good enough, we have let ourselves down.

The word harmony is much more forgiving. You still want your life to move beautifully and smoothly, of course, but you don’t feel that you’re stuck doing things a certain way.

There’s a lot of psychology behind the word balance and that might be where some people get stuck. I do know of someone who likes to use the word balance, but admits that she looks at it like a see-saw – you have to make adjustments to keep things in order.

Her viewpoint speaks to my very resistance toward the word—that balance (as we know it) can’t work in our real-world lives.

Our vision of balance (equal, even, enough time & energy for everything with no stress) is not realistic--and yet that is what we strive for again and again.

The sooner we release our expectations, the sooner we’ll be able to find a word that conveys a kinder treatment of ourselves.

I designed a workbook for writers to help you assess two of the key grounding writing forces in a writer's journey: Habitat and Time.

You can download it >>>HERE<<< 

When you are able to find your optimal habitat and time, then you have found the way toward harmony, and it can only flow smoother from there as long as you stay true to your natural writing forces.

This assessment is a combo workbook and journal that you can put to use today to help you write successfully with confidence, joy, and rumbling creativity.

Have a Writerly Day!

12 thoughts on “Why Balance Keeps You Stuck”

  1. I love the idea of finding harmony in our lives rather than striking a balance, Kate. Thank you for suggesting that word! I mean, just look at that verb comparison: “finding” rather than “striking”… Finding harmony feels so much more, well, harmonious for our daily lives.

    In the workplace, we talk a lot about “work-life balance”. There are folks who don’t like that term, though, because it connotes giving up one for a bit of the other, in the sense that we’re trying to find a way to even (balance) the scales between them. I don’t think balance as a concept is inherently bad, but I think – like with so many other things – we’ve become a little bit obsessed by its importance. Instead, focusing on your idea of harmony, we can learn to let go and relax into a life that’s all-encompassing rather than sacrificial.

    Thanks, as always, for the thoughtful post!

    • Hey Mayumi — agreed. Balance in and of itself isn’t bad at all, but it has become a bit of a buzzword. Oh yes, the old work-life balance — I don’t see how that can exist either. I agree with those who think that it means having to give up one for the other at times. There is never an evening out, ever. Just stress.

      I’m happy you like the word harmony. It’s a peaceful word. 🙂

    • Hey Jill! Yes, peace. Exactly. The wonderful aspect to peace is that as long as we’re open to seeing it everywhere, then we can always tap into it whenever we need to. I think a lot of that has to do with having inner peace first. If we have that, we’re unstoppable.

  2. Harmony is a much better descriptor than balance. In the physical world, balance carries a connotation of something that is static and never changing. Having life flow and feeling better about things is a much more harmonious way to live. And it looks different for everyone. Well spoken!

    • Hey there–somehow your comment ended up in spam, but I rescued it! Life has shifted definitively, in a more positive direction, with this vocab change. It’s pretty amazing how one word can affect us. A lot of that though is what we do to language. We tend to put words to work in strange, unsuitable ways.

  3. I think my idea of “balance” has really evolved into the meaning you give to “harmony.” I liked the connotation you gave of balance as “equal, even, enough…” It’s easy to think of life like a giant scale, and if we’re not spending 8 hours a day with our families, the same as we spend in our jobs or businesses, we feel we’ve let them down and become unbalanced. But quality of time is not measured in minutes. And there will be seasons when one thing takes precedence. Life is more like the ebb and flow of rhythmic ocean waves.

    • Hey Lila! Yes, it’s impossible for us to equal our time among all of our responsibilities and we end up feeling so much guilt. And the word “balance” only worsens the situation. I agree with you about seasons and how certain things take precedence–I have a tough time at the beginning of the school year. Such a huge adjustment for everyone and balls get dropped everywhere! In fact, I’m still looking for a couple of those balls from last year… 😉

      Thank you for commenting!

  4. Kate, thank you for the download, I have taken advantage of it! 🙂 And yes, I much prefer the word ‘harmony’ to balance. Excellent post! I’m still searching for my harmony, lol. 🙂

    • Excellent, Debbie. I hope you enjoy the workbook. 🙂 I tend to think the harmony is already there. We just have to be open to it, aware of it. Generally, that means tuning into how we work best under various circumstances. I honestly think that we can’t get out of our own way sometimes!! 🙂

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