The Art of Finding Personal Equilibrium
Every person searching for knowledge asks the same question at some point in life: How do I balance the essential elements in my life to find true happiness? In my years of writing and speaking, I have met countless people trying to form the habits that will bring them balance. Many times, they compartmentalize the various dimensions of their life. Rather than try to solve whatever area is most problematic in the current moment, I propose looking at five dimensions -financial, social, internal, physical and spiritual affairs - when approaching the decisions in life.
What make this approach so seductive is that it helps us develop an awareness that is the key to remaining in equilibrium and achieving tranquility. Life is full of details and complexity. When we need to think about each of these decisions independently, we become overwhelmed. Once we give in to the weight of these decisions, we surrender the opportunity for learning and advancement. Asking the right questions will lead to a holistic logical answer.
Simple decisions like whether to pay for a taxi or ask a friend to give us a lift to the airport can be approached from the perspective of a single dimension. From a financial perspective, it would be cheaper to ride with your friend. From a social perspective, you might then owe your friend a favor. It might pose an inconvenience on your friend, which could damage your relationship. From an internal perspective, we may feel stressed if our friend runs late and our concern with missing our plane impacts our equilibrium. Decisions, then, are nothing more than trade-offs between priorities.
All of these decisions that we face on a daily basis can be a bit disorienting. Most of the time our decisions are the result of learned behavior. If we go to the store and arrive home realizing that we forgot to purchase an essential item, we learn from that experience. Next time we bring a list, and we begin to for a habit to ensure that we don't suffer as we did when we forgot the item. In our minds, we process the priorities in our life the same way. Not with a physical list, but with a mental list of what is important in our lives. So our decisions are nothing more than conscious or unconscious trade-offs between our priorities. When we gain a benefit in one area, we are likely sacrificing in another area.
Which Way Do I Go?
Self-awareness is the first step in bringing balance between the five dimensions. Taking the opportunity to align physical, logical and emotional needs will bring equilibrium and meaning to our lives. The philosopher David Hume famously said, “reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions” . As we become more self-aware, our mind creates equations to calculate the costs and benefits of our decisions as they relate to our priorities. Looking deeply at each dimension will raise this mindfulness.
The essence of financial equilibrium lies deeply in personal goals.
Do not make too much of the pursuit of money. Making money is often at the top of our consciousness, becoming our primary focus, but it must be balanced with spiritual, social, and internal dimensions. When we are young, and starting out in a career, we see our needs as paying rent, repaying student loans, and having reasonable, discretionary, income. Our financial security is based on our needs. As we become more prosperous, our needs expand. We suffer from scope creep, or tunnel visual, as you will. By redefining "sufficient", we are always chasing the shiny object, yet never become satisfied. The solution, then, is to build self-awareness of your short-term, and long-term goals. As always, a balance between dimensions is realized when these goals also fulfill spiritual, and social criterion in the way of philanthropy and charity.
Next, social equilibrium gives meaning to our lives. Our need to connect with the people we love keeps us from emotional isolation. Loneliness can lead to anger, hostility, and hopelessness. In such a state, we cannot hope to achieve equilibrium. On the other hand, a person driven compulsively by the need for social acceptance will find little satisfaction in his, or her relationships. The abundance of friendships will leave insufficient time for the cultivation of individual relationships. What you need is balance.
We reach internal equilibrium when we feel positively toward past, present and future. To do this, try to recapture some of the innocence of youth. Young children know no envy or hatred. Their default emotions are love and happiness. Their intentions are not fraught with anger or jealousies; they seek only to laugh and play. Internal equilibrium is achieved when we remove the obstacles that adulthood has thrown in the way of this childlike innocence. These hurdles take the form of ignorance, lack of self-awareness, and overlook what is important.
The key to physical equilibrium is understanding what benefits and harms the body. Making informed decisions about food and exercise, listening to our bodies' changes; will bring the balance we seek. Like the other dimensions, physical equilibrium is a natural state.
Confusing the basics, like living to eat, rather than eating to live, can throw this balance into a tailspin. Also, like the other dimensions, equilibrium in this area is not independent of the other dimensions. When pride, greed, and materialism infiltrate our financial, social, internal and spiritual dimensions, they will wreak havoc with our physical balance.
If social equilibrium gives our lives meaning, spiritual equilibrium gives it value. Without spiritual balance we are worthless and weak with limited intellect. Those unable to achieve this level of mindfulness often have inflated perceptions of their own importance. Intermediaries also represent obstacles to spiritual equilibrium. Removing the hurdles that prevent us from connecting to God will realign the balance and enable us to gain control over our spiritual lives.
If you want to gain control of your life and share it with others in a meaningful way, begin by eliminating the forces working against you. Forget about keeping up with the Joneses; forget about unhealthy relationships. Remember to love and play. Remember to eat right and exercise. No one is looking over your shoulder but you and your Creator. Remind yourself each time you are looking for five fingers.