The Paradox of Balance & Why To Stop Seeking It


As a culture and as individuals, we often strive for balance, especially between the areas of work and life. This well-intended concept implies allocating half, if not more, of our waking hours to something we begrudge while anxiously awaiting the other half to do those things which makes us feel alive.

Is there a more shortchanging way to exist?

Time is life’s currency! The little moments that comprise our days are, of course, how we spend our lives. (The first message here: don’t be afraid to quit what stops serving your growth. Please, don’t read this as an invitation to quit when the going gets tough!)

In pursuit of balance, we divide our lives and then hedge our investments against one another instead of looking at the sum.  A desire for integration has always been part of the human experience, but we continue to put on different masks and show up as mere slices of ourselves in the primary arenas of our lives – work, relationships and self.

Think about the different roles in your life. How do you show up in each?

  • Professionally with both people who you report to and those who report to you
  • Romantic relationships
  • Social outings with friends
  • Family: parent, child, siblings
  • Personal time: yoga, meditation, hiking, running, reading

In the exhaustion of seeking balance, we often give up one or more of these masks (ie. parts of ourselves) to gain what seems like an easier existence. Compromising between this unfair tradeoff of work and life (relationships and self) implies the need or desire to reach a happy medium between conflicting needs.  And, therein lies the challenge, because each of these areas is a non-negotiable part of what makes us whole.

As Emerson observed in his reflections on how we grow: “People wish to be settled; only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them.”

What’s he saying? Growth is fundamental to life, self-discovery and ultimately, inner peace. Balance stunts growth. The paradox is that we strive for it anyway.

Let’s go back to this idea of integration or the process of recognition, pursuit, achievement, disappointment and re-commitment. Integration is the opposite of balance and key to creating and embracing an ever changing existence.

Why is this important? Well, the dis-integrated approach constantly undermines our morale, our relationships and our capacity for passionate work.

So, what are you waiting for? Let’s invest our time wisely and be both vulnerable and brave enough to be who we are in each moment we have!

I’ll leave you with a poem from Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist who lives in France:


Call Me by My True Names

Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow

because even today I still arrive.

Look deeply: I arrive in every second

to be a bud on a spring branch,

to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile,

learning to sing in my new nest,

to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,

to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,

in order to fear and to hope.

The rhythm of my heart is the birth and

death of all that are alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river,

and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time

to eat the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily in the clear pond,

and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence,

feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,

my legs as thin as bamboo sticks,

and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to


I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat,

who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea


and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and


I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my


and I am the man who has to pay his “debt of blood” to, my


dying slowly in a forced labor camp.

My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all

walks of life.

My pain if like a river of tears, so full it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,

so I can hear all my cries and laughs at once,

so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,

so I can wake up,

and so the door of my heart can be left open,

the door of compassion.

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