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Harmony is beautiful! Life balance is achievable!
Or so I always thought.
The ‘Wheel of Life” is a practical self assessment tool often used in coaching to help us determine which areas of our life are flourishing and which need more attention. The Wheel of Life suggests there are 8 common elements that need to be nurtured in order for us to feel content in life. There are many variations on the Wheel of Life, but most include health, family, personal growth, finances, career, relationships, social life and some combination of spiritual, mental and emotional well-being.
The significance and relative importance of each factor varies by individual, heavily influenced by how we have been nurtured as children. I used to think that finding the perfect balance of these elements was a journey with a final destination, a goal to be reached and maintained.
As if once I had that magic "life balance formula" figured out, I could just keep it going like a well-oiled machine of happiness.
Maybe if I really mastered the perfect mix, it would be a clear path to enlightenment, where unicorns slid down rainbows to wake me up to each blissful morning. I even had the idea to determine what this magic formula was for me, and then to write a book about how you too could calculate your ideal balance between the 10 elements.
Then I got distracted with moving my husband, 2 cats, 2 kids and a household of belongings halfway across the world from one continent to another. The time and motivation to develop formulas and write a book fell to the wayside. I felt frustrated that life felt so out of balance once again.
I couldn’t understand why some days everything seemed to flow beautifully and other days were such a struggle.
I became convinced it was my lack of ability to be consistent in nurturing each of these elements in life, and that I just needed to put more focus on it. Whenever I hit a streak of harmony where there was a really positive atmosphere at home, I felt like I'd finally "gotten it". And then I was inevitably frustrated and disappointed in myself when that harmony faded as quickly as it came, each and every time.
But in the midst of settling into my new home and guiding my kids and family through the transition, I realized something that felt pretty groundbreaking to me. I realized there was a pattern that not only I kept following, but also my friends and family near and far.
I became more open about sharing my own trials and tribulations, and this opened the doors for others to step away from their picture perfect social media lives and show me their vulnerable sides too.
Time and again, they failed to maintain any sort of consistency in balancing what was important to them, just like I did. We went through phases of feeling like life is beautiful and that perhaps we had finally figured out the key to health and happiness. We ate healthy, had fulfilling relationships, thriving careers, stable emotions.
Until things undoubtedly – every time – changed. And then we would suddenly find ourselves in phases of struggle and stress, feeling like everything was falling apart at once. “When it rains, it pours” had been a theme of many conversations.
And we all went through times where it wasn’t pouring, but we experienced ups and downs all in a day's work. So many of us failed to see that while life as a whole might have seemed out of balance, the whole didn't matter so much as the moments did. There were moments of happiness and harmony to cherish, moments of sadness or fear to feel and move past, and it was perfectly normal if they all happened on the same day.
What I learned from listening to others and observing my own experience from a detached perspective is that life is not about finding a constant static state of contentment. Or of harmony. Or of balance.
Life is constantly changing by nature.
The broader picture of life, of birth, growth, decline and death, is happening on a micro scale in our experiences every single day. When we are conscious of that change in motion and embrace it, we suffer less. We can feel less attached to the emotions of the moment, feeling them but not getting dragged down by fear or sadness, or hanging on to joy too tightly.
It is the attachment that creates the suffering, while detachment creates freedom and facilitates the ability to handle change without suffering. During difficult moments we can gain comfort that we will have joyful moments too. During joyful moments, we can allow ourselves to be fully present and enjoy it with gratitude, rather than hanging on to the false belief that this moment will last forever, only to feel disappointment and despair when it doesn’t.
All of those years I had been trying to change the balance of those 8 elements, to essentially change my external environment to find balance. When really what needed to change was my attitude towards life balance, my expectations about achieving a constant state of harmony.
Change is the only constant in life. And now I realise just how beautiful that is.
Michelle Borner, a mom on 23 missions, blogs about her Deep Thoughts on a wide range of topics from parenting to conscious living to lessons from brain cancer.
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