Regaining Your Balance When Life Pushes You Over
Living a perfectly "balanced life" sounds wonderful. Who wouldn't want to tip-toe through life in a state of blissful harmony? But let's be honest: despite our best efforts to maintain equilibrium, life has a way of knocking us down in the most unexpected ways.
When I was in grade school, I felt great freedom whenever I rode my blue stingray bike. Gripping high handle bars and leaning back on a white leather banana seat, I zipped through my neighborhood with a thrilling sense of independence and control. That all changed the day the Bully stepped onto my street.
I knew the Bully by bad reputation, but the twinge of fear I felt when I saw him was countered by confidence that my bike could outmaneuver any threat. Avoiding danger, I pointed the wheel to the other side of the road and pressed my feet to the peddles. Bully picked up a stone and hurled it in my direction. The evil thing wedged itself into my bike's front spokes, jamming the wheel to an instant stop. I, however, did not stop. With sudden insight into the law of inertia, and accompanied by the Bully's swelling laughter, I flipped and flopped and landed on the side of the road. It was an early lesson in life-isn't-always-fair.
Despite our best efforts, we sometimes find ourselves in the path of an unexpected stone. The turn of the economy, the loss of job, an illness, a death, a betrayal, an illusive goal -- these are the things that knock us down. But even when recovery seems impossible, we can always get up; we can always find our way back to balance.
How can you can recover from life's knock-downs? Give attention to these four principles:
1. Know your center of balance.
Many people are unbalanced simply because they have no awareness of the core values that keep them centered. They've never stopped to answer the question, "What matters most to me?" The best answers, in my experience, are ones that remain unchanged even when circumstances shift. We all want good health, happy relationships, rewarding jobs, and adequate incomes, but none of these things are totally within our control to obtain or keep. Your balance should be defined by who you are and who you are becoming (character) rather than who you're with or what you have (circumstance).
2. Expect to get knocked down.
Inevitably, a bully will show up along your path with a rock in his hand. If you try to convince yourself that you're somehow immune, reality will eventually teach you otherwise. Everyone experiences unexpected disappointments, hurts, and failures.
Much of my counseling work is focused on helping couples recover from an affair. Betrayed spouses rarely anticipate this "rock" that blindsides them. Here's how one client, Julia, describes finding out about her husband's affair: "I sat there in absolute shock and disbelief... I got up from the couch, went into the bedroom, locked the door, and cried all night long."
The certainty that you will eventually be knocked down need not become a gloomy anticipation of impending doom. You can be prepared without being pessimistic. Keep focus on your balance, but be ready for rocks.
3. If you fall, take enough time to stabilize.
Once you've experienced a fall, you can choose to respond in one of three ways:
4. Return to your balance.
Remember your core values and find your way back to them. Whether your circumstances have changed for better or worse, you can regain your balance. Here's what Julia had to say about regaining her balance: "There was nothing [my husband] could do to take back his actions and give me back the last eight years of my life, so the only thing I could do was move forward, to focus on the true meaning of forgiveness and learn to walk in patience, kindness, gentleness... believing that my marriage could be restored. I am now honestly amazed at the resurrection of our marriage and redemption in both of our lives."
There is a proverb in the Bible that says, "A righteous man falls seven times, and rises again" (Proverbs 24:16). We should be defined by our recoveries, not our falls.
As a child, despite the Bully's taunts and laughter, I got back up on my bike and rode away. Over twenty years later, I experienced another bike fall when my front wheel broke loose during a race and required an ambulance ride to the hospital. Even so, I'm over 50 now and still enjoying my bike. Falling down doesn't mean staying down.