Balance is an Illusion

This is another one of those posts that I’ve been trying to write for some time. It’s quite philosophical but it’s about something that I, and many others, have been trying to come to terms with for quite a while – Balance.

It’s been inspired by some of the posts from Maha Bali, Kate Bowles and Nick Drengenberg.


For many of us balance has become a pervasive goal in our lives. We talk about it in our work, family, social and personal lives. It is a quest to find that perfect point of equilibrium, where each is given equal weight and we can finally feel whole. The problem is balance is a state so infinitesimal, so fleeting and ephemeral that it is more like a mirage than an object. It is a haze in the distance, the refraction of light and ego on our world around us. An Illusion.

It’s not that balance cannot be achieved, it can, but its fleeting and momentary. Never permanent or pervasive before it’s washed away by the eternal ebb & flow of time and life. Yet we tend to devote so much energy, effort and sacrifice to achieve this momentary sense of balance it seems wasteful and foolish. In turn this quest tends to makes us so profoundly unhappy because despite investing so much of ourselves it so rarely occurs.

The quest for balance plays along with this very human concern of being in control – to create a level playing field on which to live our lives. The natural state of the universe however isn’t balance – its flux. The eternal shift from end to end and one extreme to another. It is the natural state, balance is merely a blip along the way. It seems strange to lust for balance when our innate human strength is the ability to adapt to this flux – to embody and absorb it – which has led to us flourishing as a species. We can move between the seasons, between drought and flood, peace and war, life and death. We can try to disrupt, impede and interfere along the way, but The Flux is the natural state and it will always triumph.

Flux is the natural state where as the point of equilibrium rests on the edge of a razor, balanced on the edge of a razor. If we chase balance to give meaning and happiness to our lives, even if we achieve it, it is only for the briefest, briefest of moments – only seconds or even minutes out of an entire lifetime. Instead, we need to accept that the Flux is the natural state, it is where we live our lives so instead we need to look for our priorities at that particular point in time, adjust to those and seek happiness there.

The quest for balance seems like an attempt to divorce ourselves from the natural state, to try and impose control, but it does’t work. Our lives are based on shifting priorities, thats the flux we live. There are different priorities at the different stages of our lives, on different days of the week and different hours of the day.

Our priorities will always be shifting focus – from family to career to social – and we need to accept that as natural. There will be conflict but there will always be opportunities for happiness if you look for it. The aim should not be to seek out equilibrium as some kind of saviour, but to try and adapt to cope better with the flux – to thrive and survive. Its not that balance isn’t achievable, it is merely a way-point and when you live in the flux those moments of balance become far more lucid and memorable.

Spiritual people, monks, priests and nuns often demonstrate a profound sense of balance but at what cost? They often have to make great sacrifices to attain this balance – family, social connections, human interactions and physical well being. This balance hardly seems real and is so tightly stretched that it will break at any moment and let the flux back in – say by trying to live in the “real world”.

To find happiness we need to embrace the flux and embrace the unknown, the unexpected, the shifts and the changes. We need to take joy in our points of focus day to day, moment to moment. We can learn that we can change priorities from work, to family, to social and personal as we need to and not feel guilt, but instead feel joy.

We shouldn’t feel guilt and shame for not living balanced lives, we don’t need it and we should be able to make peace with that.

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7 thoughts on “Balance is an Illusion

  1. Nice piece Tim, and thanks for the mention!

    You could see flux and balance as synonymous, or possibly so, if you think of something like surfng as an illustration. To be continuously negotiating the flux is in fact balance, or (my preferred word) is to be poised. Poise applies to everything, not just physical activity. To be poised is to ride the flux, in a balanced way.

  2. You are definitely on the money here.

    First, this makes me think of Eastern, Taoist philosophy. You know, Yin and Yang and all of that, which always makes me think of kites.

    Being a kite means being designed/prepared to take advantage of the changing winds. It also means hoping that you don’t get smashed into the ground or trapped in tree as a result of those same winds.

    Nice post, my friend.

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  7. Thanks for this. I’ve been trying to force balance for a long time I think. As usual, I find that my thinking is more the “problem” than any “failure” to achieve something close to balance.

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