In my early twenties I suffered a health crisis that made me painfully aware that if we don’t take care of our health, before too long we won’t be able to enjoy our lives at all. I had the unfortunate but informative experience of being sick and in pain and seeing how it clouded my entire life and I decided that I needed to take care of myself if I wanted to have a good life.
Over the years, my definition of health has evolved beyond the subjects of nutrition and fitness. My own life path and evolution has expanded my approach and now includes many parameters of health including nutrition, movement, sleep, spiritual connection and growth work, healthy psychology and thought patterns, relationships and social engagement and fulfilling work. I firmly believe that we need to foster all of these parameters for us to be the healthiest, happiest people we can be.
At first glance this may seem daunting. Our minds and lives are already overflowing and we’re constantly encouraged to find “balance” but at the same time, the pressure to excel in life is ever-present and it’s easy to lose sight of what’s truly important. As the saying goes, “no one ever wished they’d worked more from their deathbed”.
Part of the problem is that we have these human egos that convince us that we have to be “perfect” at everything all the time, but the things we prioritize from that ego space are a bit screwy. Our egos want bodies that both LOOK and PERFORM perfectly, they want the rewards that come with successful careers and a big bank account. They also need to believe that we are perfect parents that can raise perfect children, be the perfect friend, the perfect partner, the perfect son or daughter, have perfectly clean houses and perfect vacations. If we are spiritually inclined, before long the ego will co-opt that and add a perfect meditation or spirituality practice to the list, which is the biggest irony of all.
Even if there were a clear definition of perfection for our ego’s to compare us to, which there isn’t, we could never achieve it in every area of life all at the same time, yet this is the “balance” we impossibly strive for. This egoic idea of perfection has become the enemy of “good enough” and it can prevent us from reaching our true potential.
We seem to know this intuitively, but instead of living from that place of self-compassion and acceptance, what do we do?
We live in the “all or nothing” ego space. We feel guilty and beat up on ourselves about the areas of life where we think we’re not doing enough. We say things like “I really SHOULD spend more time with my kids” “I really SHOULD work late tonight” “I really SHOULD cook whole foods from scratch instead of getting take-out” or “I really should workout for an hour every day”. Even looking at those four elements: relationships, career, nutrition and movement, we can see the potential conflicts in time and energy that are setting us up for failure and stagnation.
For example, it is really common for people to slug out a killer, 60 minute workout even if they’re fighting off a cold, dealing with a nagging injury, their stress levels are through the roof and/or they aren’t sleeping well, simply because skipping their workout would make them feel undisciplined or guilty because it’s something they’ve told themselves they should do. That’s a recipe for disaster that leads to health problems and serious injuries. It’s here that we need to be able to assess the big picture and recognize what the body, mind and spirit needs in that moment without judgement. Sometimes the best activity is a relaxing walk, sometimes it’s a nourishing meal and an early night, sometimes it’s an important conversation, some emotional or energy work and a good cry. We often get hyper-focused on certain aspects of life without much consideration for what we really need, what is most effective and/or what will serve us in the long-term.
So, that’s step one in my opinion; look honestly at where you’re spending your time and energy. Are you putting too much effort into your work and none into your health or relationships? Are you hyper-focused on nutrition and exercise and not doing any deep emotional growth work? Or maybe you’re striving for impossible “balance” and trying to do too much all at once. Define your growth edges, see where you need to invest some time and attention or reallocate some resources.
I encourage my clients to create something I call “dynamic balance” in their lives. The concept of dynamic balance is something I adopted from my fitness training. In static balance, the opposite of dynamic balance, we’re standing still, trying to hold a very specific position, like standing on one foot and trying not to fall over. In contrast, dynamic balance is the ability to MOVE and still maintain balance; a figure skater balancing on the middle of a blade while they spin, or landing a jump is an example of dynamic balance. There’s a lot more going on in dynamic balance and all the moving parts come together to create an impressive movement. In this context, I define dynamic balance as a “big picture” approach to life that pulls all the pieces together and puts a focus on longer-term thinking. It acts as a framework for a healthier, happier life that allows us to take a wider path while still moving towards a better and better future.
The case for “extremes” in dynamic balance…
The concept of balance is borne out of the truth that an excess of anything over a long period of time leads to imbalances that have negative effects, and you won’t hear any argument from me there. There is a common belief that practicing extremes is unhealthy and we’ve been taught that extremes are the opposite of balance, but I have a different perspective on this. I think we’ve developed a fear of extremes that isn’t effective or practical.
To create the best health we can with the minimum effective dose of any intervention, I think we need to challenge the belief that extremes are dangerous. There are examples of extremes in nature such as forest fires, and storms that create overall balance and long-term health and we need to remember that humans experienced extremes with some regularity throughout history. Our modern environment has made our lives quite comfortable so we rarely experience anything extreme anymore, which one could argue is an improvement on many fronts, but we’re built to handle extremes and in fact we can thrive on them in sort doses.
There are areas of life that naturally demand more of our attention at certain times. For example, if you’re an accountant you may know that work is going to be a priority for you during tax season and that’s reasonable. That doesn’t mean that health, family or any of the other parameters should be forgotten. Even with an extreme, but temporary focus on work, you can lay out a plan for maintaining a lighter focus on the other parameters that allows you to maintain your health and happiness. For example, you may need to modify your fitness routine and only workout twice a week for 15 minutes and incorporate some family hikes on the weekends to keep you in dynamic balance during that period instead of quitting your workouts all together during that time. After tax season, it may be prudent to shift the focus and schedule a meditation retreat, or a vacation to restore your vitality and nurture your relationships and then sign up for a new fitness activity that’s more demanding.
When life gets busy, we tend to sacrifice the foundations of wellness first: sleep, whole-food nutrition and exercise; the three things that are the most important to keep us well and capable of doing all the other things our life demands, but there is a way to keep those things in balance.
If I’m working on a project that’s taking a lot of my time and energy that means I may need to hard-boil a few eggs for dinner while I’m working (or preferably grab something healthy out of the fridge because I always have healthy options on hand) and my workout is going to be 15 minutes that day. That’s totally fine. I know that I can make up for the lack of attention to certain aspects over the course of a week or two and my health won’t suffer like it would if I completely abandoned my healthy habits. This may seem like a pretty simple concept, but it’s much more common for people to order a pizza for dinner, completely skip the workout and sit at a desk for 14 hours for the sake of the project. I’m a huge advocate for putting “just enough” effort into the key areas of wellness to prevent negative impacts while still having the space to focus on an area we’d like to develop. There’s a strong argument that keeping a lighter focus on movement, nutrition and rest will even make us more productive!
I commonly hear the “eat everything in moderation” mantra when I tell people that I recommend an ancestral eating style that practically eliminates processed grains, processed sugars, certain oils, man-made food chemicals and junk foods. This is especially the case when someone has health issues that need to be resolved and in some cases, I recommend an elimination diet that completely removes all inflammatory foods for a while. Yes, that IS extreme, but it may be absolutely necessary to restore health and come back into harmony. Even if we’re not in need of healing, eating as close to nature as possible may seem extreme to those that are accustomed to the Standard North American diet.
I also recommend that we commit time to quiet contemplation, self-exploration or growth work on a regular basis to be the happiest, healthiest person we can be. That might take the form of a daily ritual like journaling, EFT Tapping or meditation, or it may take shape in a solo week-long retreat from the world, a social-media “fast” or a deep-dive with an energy worker or a therapist, but to reach a new level of being, we may need to embrace a period of intense focus that some may call “extreme”.
Finding that sweet spot of dynamic balance requires zooming out and looking at the bigger picture, having the knowledge you need to be effective in all areas with the minimum effective dose, possibly some short-term extremes, a little strategizing, some self-experimentation and self-awareness.
So, how is your dynamic balance? Are you getting all the pieces to work together in a way that’s supporting your long-term goals and keeping you healthy in the here and now?
Here are some dynamic balance strategies to consider:
If your fitness/movement patterns are stagnant or you’re dealing with body aches and pains, a functional movement class or a month of sessions with a body worker might be a great idea.
If your sleep has been suffering, it might be time to consult with a holistic nutritionist or naturopathic doctor to look at your hormone levels, assess your stress levels and create a sleep improvement plan.
If you’ve been noticing that you’re being triggered or stressed more than you think is normal, it may be time to take on an EFT Personal Peace Procedure or some other growth work and look at the programmed beliefs and limitations that impact your relationship with life.
If your energy has been low, you’re struggling with chronic health problems or your digestion is off, it may be time for a strict gluten, dairy and sugar free health reset and gut-healing protocol and then learn simple strategies to eat well with minimal effort going forward.
If you feel like your career or business isn’t giving you the fulfillment and excitement you crave, it may be time to re-think your professional life, get some business coaching or talk to a career counsellor to create a new direction.
If you feel like your marriage is stagnating, maybe it’s time to do some growth work, invest in some relationship coaching, go on a vacation or get some couples counselling.
Your life is happening now, so don’t let the pressure to DO IT ALL stand in the way of your health, happiness and achieving greatness in the areas of your life that are most important to you. It all starts with an assessment and a plan.
Learn more and start assessing your own life and health now with my 3-part series on The Dynamic Balance Approach to Overall Wellness.
First take the Dynamic Balance Assessment
In this session we’ll uncover what it means to be truly well and how our current “sick-care” system limits our ability to be optimally well. You’ll leave the session with a fresh perspective on how to approach health and wellness without being overwhelmed by conflicting opinions and advice.
Here we’ll pull apart the concept of Dynamic Balance and look more specifically at the most obvious starting place; physical wellness. Do you know which systems you need in place to be physically well? Where should you start? How do you create physical wellness without sacrificing other spokes on the wheel? You’ll leave the session with renewed enthusiasm and a clear direction forward to improve your physical wellness as well as a sense of the bigger, longer-term approach you should take.
To make the most of the Dynamic Balance approach to wellness we MUST address the age-old question of why we human beings resist doing what we know is good for us. After all, knowing what action to take next is very different from TAKING that action. We’ll explore this topic and put some solid strategies and mind-set shifts in place to give you the best chance of successfully implementing what you’ve learned in the series.