Finding Balance Has Nothing to Do with Effort
For the past three weeks, I’ve been immersed in a web development project, one that I’m hugely proud of, but one that’s been all-consuming to say the least. Prior to this, I was regularly going to yoga, taking walks, working in a variety of places I found interesting, and switching tasks based on my mood and internal rhythms. All of that has gone out the window, replaced by 12+ hour days, caffeine bingeing, and dreams of writing code. It’s been fun, but it’s not sustainable, and it’s not really what I want to be doing with my life long term.
Now, as I’m coming up for air and looking once again at the big picture, I’ve had an important insight:
Willpower does not create balance: structure does.
What I mean is that no matter how many times I’ve said “this is bad for you” over the past few weeks, it’s been impossible to pull myself away from the addictive tonic of obscene productivity. Looking at the bigger picture, I can see the same pattern throughout my life. I want to meet interesting people, say, but it doesn’t happen if I’m not putting myself in situations where that can occur naturally and with minimal effort.
That’s what I mean by structuring-in balance: creating inescapable situations where you’re forced to take your mind off that all-consuming activity — work, television, video games, surfing social-media, or whatever else. When you do that, getting out of your habits has little to do with willpower anymore. It relies on a kind of physics more than anything else.
Whether it’s consciously changing work environments, driving yourself out to the middle of nowhere, making plans you can’t comfortably back out of, or allotting specific times for another activity, there are plenty of ways to structure balance into your life. The nice thing is that once you’ve done it, you can take your mind off all the things you’re doing wrong, and just enjoy whatever you happen to be doing at any given moment.
Ryan Melsom has a PhD in literary studies and has spent over twenty years working in communications, design, and writing. His second book Spendshift: 100 Lazy Hacks to Rock Your Finances is now on Amazon. For more by Ryan, follow him on Twitter @lintropy, or visit his Facebook page.