Having a Balanced Life is An Illusion


This is one of my greatest ah-ha moments. I lived most of my life trying to “balance” being a wife, mother, minister etc., and I never felt that it was achievable. I always felt like having a balanced life was an uphill battle that I could never win. And I discovered that I was right when I read the book, The ONE Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. I was set free from the bondage of trying to have a balanced life when I read the following words written by the authors,


“If you think of balance as the middle, then out of balance is when you’re away from it. Get too far away from the middle and you’re living at the extremes. The problem with living in the middle is that it prevents you from making extraordinary time commitments to anything.

In your effort to attend to all things, everything gets shortchanged, and nothing gets its due. Sometimes this can be okay and sometimes not. Knowing when to pursue the middle and when to pursue the extremes is in essence the true beginning of wisdom. Extraordinary results are achieved by this negotiation with your time.”


Did you just do an exhale when you read the words, “knowing when to pursue the middle and when to pursue the extremes is in essence the true beginning of wisdom”? The writers go on to say that “the magic”, I would say the “flow” happens at the extremes, not in the middle therefore we should replace the word balance with “counterbalance”, because when we have been running down the rabbit hole of trying to live a balanced life what we were really doing was trying to prioritize.

However, you cannot prioritize and be balanced at the same time, because to prioritize one thing, another “priority” will have to wait, or be left undone.

Keller and Papasan also say that “Leaving some things undone is a necessary tradeoff for extraordinary results”. Those words set me free! The balanced life is a lie. Trying to balance anything is a lie. Even Jesus says, “no one can serve two masters, you will love one and hate the other.” (Matthew 6:24). Yes, I know that contextually he was talking about money, however the principle transfers to this idea of a balanced life. To attempt to have a balanced life is like having two masters therefore when we counterbalance, we are better able to master our time and our priorities.


They use the ballerina as the perfect example. When a ballerina is on her toes, she is not balancing on both toes, that’s an illusion, what she is doing is counterbalancing they describe it this way, “When the ballerina poses en pointe, she can appear weightless, floating on air, the very idea of balance and grace. A closer look would reveal her toe shoes vibrating rapidly, making minute adjustments for balance. Counterbalancing done well gives the illusion of balance.”


So, when you see someone who appears to be balancing all their responsibilities well, what you are really seeing is a person who knows how to counterbalance well.

I will conclude this blog with these words from the authors,

“Leaving some things undone is a necessary tradeoff for extraordinary results."

"But you can’t leave everything undone, and that’s where counterbalancing comes in. The idea of counterbalancing is that you never go so far that you can’t find your way back or stay so long that there is nothing waiting for you when you return.”


Stop trying to live the balanced life and start living the counterbalanced life in doing so, you will experience the weightlessness and the grace of mastering one priority at a time.


Sidenote: If you look closely in the picture above you will see the ballerina's front toe is not touching the floor, however it doesn't appear that way at first glance. That's counterbalancing done well.


All quotes are taken from: Keller, Gary; Keller, Gary; Papasan, Jay; Papasan, Jay. The ONE Thing (p. 74- 80). Bard Press. Kindle Edition.

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