3 New Ways To Think About Balance—Because It's Not Always 50-50
October 23, 2018
Simone Biles stands gracefully in front of the beam, before smoothly launching herself onto it. She immediately does a variety of splits and maneuvers before a quick jaunt down her four-inch-wide runway, throwing in a variety of leaps and flips—defying gravity.
That’s exactly what goes through my mind when I think of balance.
Fortunately for all of us, though, balance doesn’t necessarily mean we need to achieve literal balance on a beam in front of the whole world at the Olympics.
Balance also doesn’t mean that we need to “do it all” and pretend burnout is a myth (because as much as we wish it didn’t, burnout definitely exists).
And balance most definitely isn’t perfect—but with a little self-compassion, it’s achievable, in part because it looks different for everyone.
In the world of design, there are three fundamental types of balance you can find: symmetrical, asymmetrical, and radial. It might not sound like it at a glance, but these in a way mimic the ways our balance shifts in our own lives, too.
The 50-50: Symmetrical Balance
When people discuss searching for balance in their lives, we tend to aim for symmetry. In this picture perfect world, we’re able to juggle aspects of our lives like perfectly equal slices in a pie. Maybe that looks like our work life and social life are thriving in equal parts, or maybe it’s the equal stability of our creative flow and healthy habits.
Managing your life with a 50-50 balance isn’t bad—if it happens naturally, that’s great. But what often accompanies this style of balance is a lot of pressure. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that if things aren’t equally balanced, we’re failing—which is far from the truth.
Balance doesn’t have to mean splitting your energy equally. A key to achieving any kind of balance is accepting that some days, your balance may look different than other days.
The 60-40: Asymmetrical Balance
Whether intentional or not, our balance usually falls into the asymmetrical category. In the design world, this means that two sides of something aren’t equal, and one side gets to steal the spotlight in an intentional way. For example: A meaningful poster might get to dominate 60 percent of your bedroom wall, while less important things fill the other 40 percent.
Our priorities shift throughout the course of our days, weeks, and life—which means that how we balance those priorities shifts, too. Sometimes, time with family or friends may be a focal point for how you divvy up your energy. Other times, maybe a portion of your focus is on spending quality time alone. The rest of your time might be spent focusing your energy on smaller tasks, like responding to emails or running errands—that’s OK.
Asymmetry isn’t indicative of bad habits. Taking the initiative to divide your plate with 60 percent of your focus on one thing and 40 percent on another (or whatever asymmetrical numbers your life calls for!) is a great way to show a little compassion for yourself and anticipate your needs.
The 360°: Radial Balance
Sometimes in life, our current roster of priorities include hefty tasks, and everything falls around that One Thing that needs all the self-love you can muster. Centering your energy around your purpose definitely counts as balance, too.
In art, radial balance design usually starts in the middle of a circle and extends throughout the design. Think of it like a bicycle wheel with spokes that all lead to the center. But applying radial balance to your life doesn’t necessarily mean ignoring everything but that One Thing—it actually means zooming out a bit and looking at things from a big picture perspective.
Your priority may be what lies at the center, but the amount of energy you put into all the other areas impacts whether or not you move forward without falling. Maybe your finances are the spokes to that big picture side hustle, or maybe you’re time-management skills are another. These deserve just as much attention, because they impact how everything else falls into place.
Find Your Groove
Whatever kind of balance you’re gravitating towards now, remember: iI’s all about finding your groove and what works for you (yes, you! Not anyone else).
Some weeks, I embrace the asymmetrical lifestyle and divvy up my priorities to look like a mosaic of 60 percent work time, 30 percent family time, and 10 percent health. Other weeks, those numbers are completely shifted around and they exist around every day things—like how much time I scroll through Instagram or how much coffee vs. tea I am consuming during the workday.
Taking the time to anticipate my balance helps me manage unexpected influxes of demands. But there is no balance without self-compassion.
If things don’t go according to plan, be kind to yourself. The beautiful thing about balance is that it redefines itself every day.