When I think of a blissful existence, I imagine enjoying every moment of every day while at the same time building what I aim for in the future. Yet how can this be? On the one hand, why seek change if I am happy with myself, my relationships, my achievements, my contributions to others? On the other hand, not accepting change in life invites obsolescence. And yet focusing my life on creating a desired future state will make it hard to appreciate the life I have.
There is a paradox in finding the perfect balance between being happy with ‘the now’ and aspiring to something other in ‘the future’.
Finding the perfect balance
So how do you find this perfect balance? In my experience, the secret isn’t to be found in a sequence of steps or any other rationalization. Rather, it comes from embracing the emotions one feels when experiencing the now or building the future. I’ve written elsewhere on the benefits of savouring experiences in order to enhance wellbeing. Try to savour the present as both the culmination of your own efforts and the haphazard yet wise direction of the world. This will help you appreciate ‘the now’. And savour the pursuit of the future state without being tied to a specific outcome. This will help you appreciate change without the pressure of potentially unreasonable expectations.
Another contributor to finding the perfect balance is to think less. In fact, I only started to feel the perfect balance when I stopped focusing on it. This effect, contradictory in itself, is sometimes described as the paradox of intention. I also gradually came to accept that the perfect balance is a lifelong commitment requiring lifelong effort to feel more and to think less.
Once I felt the perfect balance, I expected to stay there. Well, it didn’t happen.
Compassion for yourself also plays a role in finding the perfect balance. What is happening now may or may not be what you wished for. Yet it is happening and can’t be changed, so seek to find the positive elements in it. And what will happen tomorrow is only partially within your control, so do your best and then gracefully accept what comes. When a certain outcome you expected doesn’t materialize, take your learnings, and move on. As I noted in a previous blog post, embrace the power of adaptability! Readjust your approach or even your goals, then continue towards your desired future state. At some stage, you will realize that your desired future state feels exactly right as part of the present. Perhaps you will have found your life’s purpose…
Keeping the perfect balance
More tangibly, I find that keeping track of my drivers helps me maintain the perfect balance: drivers of wellbeing in the now and drivers of purpose for the future. I celebrate drivers of wellbeing through something akin to a gratitude journal, an approach I wrote about recently in my blog about slowing down to speed up. And I manage drivers of purpose in something that looks like a ‘to do’ list. I take great pleasure in jotting down what I aim to do, and even greater pleasure in crossing out what I have done! To avoid the anxiety trap of an overly busy list, I prioritize what’s on it based on how I feel about each item rather than on its intrinsic importance.
And finally, I suggest having a rescue technique. A useful way to regain balance is to ritualize something you do when you feel you are veering too far from the perfect balance, or perhaps veering for too long. My rescuing technique is meditation – meditation calms and slows my mind, bringing a more detached perspective on that which is pushing me off balance. Try whatever works for you – exercising, talking to a close friend, going for a walk…
Feeling sceptical? I can understand that some of this feels a bit counter-intuitive. But doesn’t the picture on the right also appear to depict the impossible, or at least the very implausible? And yet it depicts a perfect balance built on the gravity-defying positioning of individual stones. So why not give the implausible a try yourself? Who knows, your perfect balance may be just around the corner.