Bulldog Finding Balance

When Finding Balance Just Means Doing Your Best

By Emma Segal

I like to think I (generally) have balance in my life. I am a yoga and Pilates teacher, the owner of a fancy masticating juicer, a DIY’er of personal care products, and a passionate fan of local organic food and clothing.

All of this is true, yet I spent the last three days in front of my computer drinking too much coffee, and grabbing oatmeal cookies (healthier?) on my way out the door.

In Elizabeth Gilbert’s excellent talk at ICAN’s 2011 Women’s Conference, she told the audience a story about how she finds balance in her life:

I get up every morning at 4:30…and I meditate for about 45 minutes, and then I follow that up with about an hour of yoga to try to keep my body from being a distraction in my life. And then because cardio is important, I go running for a couple miles…I make a point to only eat things that are nourishing and healthy for me in very small amounts. I spend the rest of my afternoon in my many charitable pursuits. Are you buying… you’re not buying this? I don’t do any of that stuff… I do get up at 4:30 in the morning, but it’s just to pee and go back to bed.

I can certainly relate.

The pursuit to do better can sometimes feel relentless. Lifestyle goals can be overwhelming, and the attempt to be less stressed can actually cause more stress.

As Gilbert goes on to say,

I get up every single day and I do my best with what I have…and sometimes I fall very short of my aspirations for myself.

That feeling of falling short can be a valuable way of identifying when too much has been taken on. Allowing that feeling to become an opportunity for reflection and re-prioritization can help relieve the idea that success means doing all the right things all the time.

When I fall short, I try to remind myself that not every day can be a perfect example of the life I want to live. There are weeks at a time when I run on a regular basis, make ginger-carrot-green juices to last the week, and mix up my own toothpaste and house cleaners. I feel great, look better, and those around me can feel the emotional benefits. I feel like an amazing superhero, and congratulate myself accordingly. High-five, self!

Then there are days spent eating pastries and ignoring emails, beating myself up for not being consistent with the ‘good weeks’. Cue shame-spiral.

The answer to feeling better is not a mystery. We are inundated with solutions every day and know the formula well: eat nutritiously, exercise regularly, get involved with your community, and practice self-care. It sounds simple enough.

The how-to is as easy as Googling juice recipes, online yoga classes, YouTube meditations. Everything else you need is as close as your nearest web browser. I don’t need to offer you more homework on how to do better.

My advice for finding balance is simply this: do your best. Sometimes that means doing all the things. Sometimes it means a few, or just one.

If you’re a bit type-A like myself, that can be a difficult pill to swallow. My instinct is to try harder to be better, more consistent, and healthier. In some cases, it can lead to the opposite—stress and feelings of failure.

Ultimately, the goal is to feel happier. At times that may mean giving yourself a break from the effort of doing all the ‘right’ things. You may feel a bit low-energy from eating sugar all day, or not getting out for your workout. You may notice you’re a bit crankier than usual from missing your meditation time, or yoga class, or whatever it is that makes up your wellness kit. But you’ll be okay, and tomorrow or next week is full of new choices.

As Gilbert ended her talk, she asked only one thing:

Be gentle with yourselves today, and from this day forward, and everything is going to be fine.

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