On Chasing Balance Versus Seeking Your Center

by Belinda Munoz on June 4, 2010


Balance is a challenging word for me.  Most days I shrug it off when it’s being bandied about around me.  Some days, I sneer when I hear it, especially when I feel it’s being pitched to me.

Oh, I’ve been seduced by it to be sure.  It beckoned like a five-and-dime store to a bargain-hunter when I worked long days several jobs ago.  It made me resentful of my work days, as productive as I was in those hours.  And when I did get some play time, I was too exhausted to do anything, knowing deep down that balance wasn’t synonymous to veging out.

Now?  I’ve grown cautious of its lure.


Back in the day when I thought I lacked balance, I chased it not knowing exactly what it looked like.

Did it mean less travel?  If so, then why did I still want to travel for pleasure?  Did it mean shorter hours?  If so, then why did I do volunteer work on the weekends?  Did it mean more quality time with people I love?  If so, then what of me enjoying myself during dinner and cocktails with clients and colleagues?  Wouldn’t it be a bit snobbish to think that, though I enjoyed the company of those inhabiting my professional world, what I really wanted, needed, was more time with family and friends?

I wasn’t sure what balance meant.  And yet, I felt strongly that I needed it and held the concept close like a dirty politician clings to power.


Balance sounds attractive when we’re neck-deep in unpleasant tasks, endless drudgery or even simply the grind of an ordinary work day.  It may even be enticing enough to want a different life or at least to make some minor to drastic changes.  Consider men (and statistically less frequently, women) and the surprising/vexing stunts they pull during a mid-life crisis.

Still, I wonder about those among us who are driven to follow their passion, to fulfill their mission, to heed their calling.  What about artists who choose the path of starvation in order to produce masterpiece after masterpiece, giving themselves wholly to their creative journey?  What about students who take out exorbitant amounts of loans which they’ll pay back in excruciatingly small monthly installments for many years after graduation?  What of those bleeding hearts who could be making a decent sum and living comfortably but instead, choose to toil in a developing country, living in poverty, risking their lives in hopes of saving those of others?

Would balance steal their thunder?  Would they even want balance?  If so, what would it look like to them?

Is balance — as thoroughly as the notion has penetrated not only our vernacular but also our ever-growing list of wants and needs (at least in developed countries) — nothing more than a wet blanket that threatens to snuff out the fire within us?  And, I hesitate but wonder, could balance be a marketing ploy (that somehow took off like wildfire) to sell “well-deserved” vacation packages, penthouse suites, first class airline seats, luxury goods, and any other commodity that takes the edge off the paid or unpaid work that we do?  Work that, grind or not, gives meaning to our days, makes us feel needed, reminds us of our irrevocable connection to others (as separate and lonesome as it sometimes may make us feel)?


Balance is a challenging word for me.  I chased it.  I don’t know if I’ve ever had it.  I’m afraid it’s still out there, poised if I let it, to have me running, twisting, spinning, contorting and juggling about like a circus act.

What I prefer, after my futile attempt at defining/gaining balance, is to seek my center and to feed it.  Why?  Because it’s there.  Within me.  It lets me know when something doesn’t feel right.  It tells me it’s possible (and okay!) to love work as much as play.  It helps me see light in a dark place.  It whispers the truth when the chatter of lies surrounds me.  It grounds me in authenticity when artifice threatens to besiege me.

Balance?  I don’t know if I’d recognize it.

My center?  I think I’ve got a handle on it.  And I know for sure it won’t desert me.


Do you think about balance?  Is it real?

Do you want it?  Do you have it?


Image by Wollbinho

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Colleen June 4, 2010 at 3:45 am

I agree, I am pretty sure I know where my centre is and how to get in touch with it when I need to. But balance I think is ever changing and can be one thing one day and something else the next so I doudt I would recognize it if I found it.


2 lynelle paulick July 10, 2012 at 2:38 pm

Hi Colleen,

My website is still under construction, I’m sorry you cannot visit it yet. But I’ve read your response to Belinda and was wondering if you’d like to exchange emails and be in communication more on this subject. Maybe you can tell me what you’re most interested in also?

Thanks. Look forward to your reply!


3 Tony Single June 4, 2010 at 6:01 am

I think perhaps you’ve hit the nail on the head with this one, Belinda. I think balance is a bit of a myth, a buzz word that’s bandied about to quieten those who moan about their lot in life: “Well, if you’d only exercise a bit of balance, this wouldn’t happen to you!” Well, to that I say, “Phooey.” Ultimately, the perception of balance (as you have pointed out) can be a highly subjective thing. 😛

But having said all that, I find that I’m not a terribly centred person either. I like the idea of it far more than that of balance, but I’m not living it. Yet. I guess a lot of this centredness would have a great deal to do with knowing exactly who you are… or at least having a fairly good idea. I have no idea. I look at myself in the mirror like some sad narcissist sometimes and wonder who the flipping heck I am!


4 lynelle paulick July 10, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Hello Tony,

You may notice that I’m sending emails to all of Belinda’s posters, since if they’re interested in the subject of balance, maybe we can be in further communication on such subjects. My website is still under construction, but it will be up in, oh, 2 weeks maybe?

Hope to hear from you.


5 Katie June 4, 2010 at 11:50 am

Hey Belinda, Fascinating subject. A marketing ploy for sure, because marketers always look at our real pain and our real needs, then spin it so we feel we’re lacking (balance in this case) but could get it if we just buy this or that. I still think balance is an okay word outside that realm. It’s about being centered, being grounded, getting back to basics, all of that. I don’t think it matters what you call it (except when the word is over-used and then loses its meaning – maybe that’s what’s happened for you). I think it’s more about the feeling it exudes – in this case it grounds and helps you. That sounds balanced – or centered – or like you’re just finding a way to be you. Lovely post.


6 lynelle paulick July 10, 2012 at 2:42 pm

Hi Katie,

You will notice, maybe, that I’m sending email replies to all of Belinda’s repliers, because I love the discussion of balance and centering–and all that comes with it–and maybe we could exchange addresses and be in touch.

Let me know if you’re interested!


7 Kristen @ Motherese June 4, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Hi Belinda – This post really resonates with me today. I’ve been thinking pretty much nonstop this week about this elusive idea of balance. I’ve gotten two metaphors from blogging friends that have helped me realize that balance might not be totally illusory, but is only attainable over the long haul and not on the day-to-day scale.

The first metaphor was from Eva who shared the idea of four burners on a stove, each burner representing one area of your life (family, work, health, etc.). We only have so much fuel to light the fires and must recognize that when we turn up the heat on one, we’re taking heat away from the other. And that’s okay, as long as we are conscious of the choices we’re making.

The second was a reminder of what pediatricians say about kids’ nutrition: it doesn’t really matter what they eat on any single day. Instead it’s about making sure that they get a healthy variety over the long haul. And it’s the same, I think, with the different areas of our life. It’s not reasonable to think they’ll always be in balance, but we might run into trouble if we don’t get our emotional nutrition over the course of several weeks.

Thanks for offering another helpful perspective on this issue, Belinda!


8 Sarah June 4, 2010 at 6:58 pm

Oh Belinda, Belinda, Belinda, I DO love your mind. And I absolutely adore this post. Adore it! Balance! Ha! I’ve tried to write on it before. It IS a lure. It is a catch-phrase. It is held over our heads as humans–womens especially, I think–as something we should attain, or seek to attain. But how? What is it? And if we feel we are imbalanced, are we then failures of some kind? Failures without a way of knowing how to succeed?

This idea of the center, YOUR center, is perfect, precise and poignant. (How ’bout those P’s?)

Ditto this for me: “My center? I think I’ve got a handle on it. And I know for sure it won’t desert me.”

And you get a big ol’ !!! from me today.



9 alita June 5, 2010 at 4:45 am

It does seem so utterly elusive. But why fight to try to find it? I guess balance is almost like love. Don’t go looking to find it and it will find you. My anxiety level is so much better since I turned 30. My C’est la vie attitude these days has actually found my center for me. So here is to balance that is a balance in itself!


10 BigLittleWolf June 5, 2010 at 9:48 am

Wonderful post.

I have a beef with many of these words – “balance,” “presence,” even “happiness.” Because they aren’t a destination. And we are overusing them like some single threaded search for the holy grail. At best, these terms are watchwords to keep in mind – reminders to the busy self to take a breath and consider, in the midst of too much to do with too little time.

Seek to be in touch with more essentials and less “stuff” or “noise?” Absolutely. Examine and adjust how we spend our time, so we aren’t chasing our tail so often, in a blur of concocted “musts?” Yep. I’m there.

Trail after the latest trends in pop culture and pop psychology – which have reason and reality at their base – but are taken to an extreme?

Not for me. Knowing full well that there are times in life when balance is impossible, when happiness is a dream cast adrift, when the “moment” is a luxury – and getting through is the best you’ve got. But not all you’ve got. Because it will change. And more of the good stuff will be possible.


11 Cassie June 5, 2010 at 10:09 am

Hello, my dear. Speaking from the depths of my personal mid-life crisis (ha) the term “balance” doesn’t resonated with me either. Holding more still than I have for many years, the concept that keeps coming up is “peace” – I’m paying attention to how to find that little light of peace that’s somewhere inside all the time and that’s easier or more difficult to access depending on choice, action, and attitude.

It’s different then working towards being “happy” or being “balanced”, it’s not a state of being, though it’s more easily accessed through certain moods than others which is why I think we try so hard to be happy or balanced. But I know I’ve felt the thrumming of peace after an intense day of productive business meetings in the same way I’ve felt peace while making my niece laugh. And also I’ve felt peace going through painful situations – as long as I’m being truthful about them and know that resolution is coming. The quality of the satisfaction/happiness/joy/pain is different each time, and they DON’T always balance out. But the sense of peace that comes with each is different.

And now you know how I’m doing here in Austin. 😉 Love to you and the boys!


12 Tisha June 5, 2010 at 11:01 am

Hi Belinda,

Yes, I have struggled with this concept before. And I have been frustrated with what it’s supposed to mean for my life when I look around and see women and moms embracing “all” of their parts and juggling what seems like a LOT of stuff. My first response was to jump on the bandwagon and encourage this mult-tasking go-get ’em sort of attitude, but the only problem is that it often sets people up for failure – simply because they are ascribing to the idea of what’s possible, not necessarily for them, but for the so-called masses. I think you are spot on when you speak of finding your center as opposed to seeking the elusive holy grail of balance because it is only within ourselves that we can determine what our “best” is and how much, or little, we can or would like to take on. And whatever that might be is OKAY, no matter how it measure up against the masses. Thanks for a fantastic post!


13 Aging Mommy June 5, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Hi Belinda – this is a wonderfully thought provoking post and beautifully written. It is hard to get the right balance in life and sometimes we think we have it and then realize someone or something important that doesn’t necessarily shout out at us for attention is being neglected.


14 Mama Zen June 5, 2010 at 6:53 pm

“It tells me it’s possible (and okay!) to love work as much as play”

Oh, thank you for that!


15 Rudri June 5, 2010 at 9:36 pm

I think in the end balance works as a concept, but not as a reality. Are you balanced when you are happy? Are you not balanced when you are sad? I don’t know the answer to these questions. I think your analogy is appropriate. If your core/center is solid, the waves of balance shouldn’t frustrate you.

As always, you offer interesting perspectives on topics that are relevant to all. Thanks.


16 Davina June 5, 2010 at 10:31 pm

Hi Belinda.
I think about balance. I also believe that we can decide that we are balanced, no matter what the circumstances; it’s a matter of adjusting and flowing with what is in the moment and not trying to hold on to what we define as balance. I think it is similar to happiness in the sense that it is always there, we just have to allow it. Now… do I feel balanced? Most of the time… no, lol. I think too much.


17 Hulbert Lee June 6, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Hi Belinda, many people write about balance such as balancing work and play. One example might be putting giving 50 percent to your work and giving 50 percent to play, or combining the two together so work becomes play. I don’t think there is an exact thing called balance and when you try to chase it, it can make you miserable. I do want to have more balance in my life though, but tend to do it one step at a time so that achieving balance doesn’t become too overwhelming.


18 Wilma Ham June 6, 2010 at 5:51 pm

Our thoughts judge and make things wrong and say that they are out of balance.
Is a boat who heels out of balance?
Is a storm on your day off when you want sun, out of balance?
Nothing is out of balance until we judge it so and when we focus on the problem rather than creating a solution.
Is running out of money being out of balance when creating a solution is how you look at life? No it is just what is and you go and create a solution.
Our current inability to create solutions beyond the level we have created them is causing our illusion of being out of balance. As long as our ego-style mind is in charge and not our heart-centered intelligence, we will always judge life as being out of balance. Do not indulge in your feelings about balance, there is always balance, it is our ego who loves this kind of talk.
xox Wilma


19 Eva @ EvaEvolving June 9, 2010 at 10:06 am

Oh my, this post is fabulous! Thank you for asking the tough questions, Belinda. After reading this, I have much thinking to do about balance.

My initial reactions: I do think you’re right, that “balance” might be a luxury of the wealthy, of the developed world. That it might be an illusion we’ve created or a convenient excuse. Because like you, I really enjoy being busy and fully engaged in a project. I enjoy throwing all my time and energy toward something. And I’m not sure what balance looks like or if I actually want it. Maybe I’d be bored if I had it!


20 lynelle paulick July 10, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Hi Belinda! Just up front, a comment–my website is still being constructed, so you cannot visit there just yet. But I would really love to create a back and forth relationship of communication with you, just based on your questioning mind. I personally believe that’s where it all begins–whether that’s when you’re 15 or when you’re 60+ (the latter which is often the case, right?).

At any rate, how I found your site is that I was looking on Google for “balance versus center” because I read somewhere that “balance” is mistakenly identified with “center” or “centeredness.” So here we are–your post is the only one that had anything but the use of distinct keywords meaning nothing to do with the question I had. Here’s my quick take on balance and center. I’m getting the wind that they are exactly the same, but tremendously misunderstood and therefore ripped apart–partially because, as some of your posters remarked, balance is perhaps marketed out of relevance for those of us actually seeking the real thing (quote marks, please). I see balance AND center as being nowhere in particular. There are people out there who are extraordinarily, painfully asymmetrical physically–and people who are seemingy asymmetrical emotionally–which might indicate imbalance to some, right? But that very asymmetry happens to be their center from which they function fully and have found peace within themselves. I may get cut off here, so in ending, it appears that anywhere you “stand” in which you have a feeling of peace, where your ego and mind are not screaming in pain–even if your ankle feels like it’s about to break because you’re leaning way to the left and you’re racing to the end of a marathon; what tremendous excitement!–then you’re in balance. You’re in your center. That’s my run at it for now. Please feel free to reply!


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