Ok, I am not sure if this is something others struggle with, but this is a top struggle for me. How do I find a balance between flexibility and rigidity? Let me explain. I struggle with how much structure to have in my life, when to say yes and when to say no, when to be spontaneous and when to stick to the plan. Like in yoga and other exercise, there needs to be balance between a flexibility and strength (rigidity). If it is too flexible then it is hard to control movements and if it is too strong, it can be hard to move. As a coach, I try to help my clients create structure but also allow for fun and opportunities to go with the flow. But for me personally, I can be overly rigid or overly flexible, the magic is in the balance and I constantly struggle to find that magic.
I was just listening to a TED talk on the radio where the speaker was talking about the benefits of daydreaming. Daydreaming is the epitome of flexibility. It allows for the opportunity to be creative and let our mind wander. But we can’t daydream all day. Do we need to create a structure for daydreaming? Is that the answer, combining rigidity and flexibility?
My junior year of college I let rigidity get out of control and it has haunted me ever since. I will do anything to avoid falling into that pit again. One could say I have rigidity PTSD. My eating bordered on disordered where I counted everything I put in my mouth and my weight was phenomenal! I had a strict studying schedule and I had my highest GPA ever! But I was no fun to be with and I was a walking stress case. I may have had great numbers on the scale and on my report card, but the reality is that was one of the worst years of my life.
But I also can go the other way where I am so flexible I lose my sense of self. As a middle child, I am used to being the diplomat. Balancing the extremes of my siblings out. My parents are balanced when they are combined. My dad is rigid and my mom is flexible and together they are balanced. But how do you find the balance in one person at one time?
I really don’t know, but I have put a few systems in place that are helping me work towards that balance. Please, if you see me being too rigid or too flexible do not throw this blog in my face. I am not claiming to have conquered this. I am a work in progress just like the rest of you.
Find a program that matches your personality
My husband and I are in the midst of our third round of the Whole30. If left to my own devices I would gain 20 pounds a year. Now that my metabolism has slowed, I need to be more rigid, but I have to be careful not be disordered. I have a daughter and my goal in life is to role model healthy eating without focusing on calories and the scale or the size of my clothes. Doing the Whole30, where you are not allowed to weigh yourself or count calories, is the perfect balance for me and I can do it whenever I need to be more mindful. And even better, my husband and I do it together, so it has been great for our relationship. Whenever I go too far on the “rigid” side, my husband reminds me that the founders of the Whole30 are divorced, so I should chill out for our marriage’s sake.
Create a balanced schedule
When I was studying positive psychology we learned about the idea of SPIRE. It stands for: Spirituality, Physical, Intelligence, Relational and Emotional. The idea is to make sure each of these five areas is accounted for in your life and to notice if they are out of balance. I use the color coding in my Google calendar to help me manage this: Yellow for workouts, green for work, blue for social, light purple for business development/learning, and then each of my kids have a color as well so I can keep track of their schedules. If I am in balance, my calendar should look like a rainbow. But here I must be flexible too—some weeks are more devoted to one area than another. I guess the goal is balance in these areas over the course of a month rather than over a day or a week.
Create spontaneous rituals
My daydreaming time is every morning. I wake up at 5:45 every single morning (even weekends) to sit with a cup of coffee and do my writing pages (see The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron to learn more). During these 45 minutes, I am free to write or not write whatever I want. Sometimes I write To Do lists. Sometimes I contemplate life. Sometimes I remember my dreams from the night before or I write my dreams for the future. THERE ARE NO RULES. The only rule is that I sit and write. To me this is the perfect balance of flexibility and rigidity and it has been a life changing ritual for me. Not everyone likes the morning, not everyone likes to write. Find a spontaneous ritual that works for you.
Cater to your introversion/extroversion to a point
Over my 47 years of life, I have become more and more aware of my introversion and it has made me so much happier. I know that I cannot have too much social in one week. In contrast, my husband, an extravert, needs a certain amount of social for his mental health. Determine what is right for you and figure out how rigid or flexible you need to be. Saying no to social engagements has been hugely empowering for me, but sometimes I need to chill out and go with the flow here. Again the magical balance sometimes eludes me, but I keep trying and improving.
Saying yes or no
A lot of people and animals rely on me. Sometimes I have planned to take the dog on a long walk and she is not in the mood. Or she wants to go for a long walk and I have only allotted time for a 15-minute walk. This can turn into an existential crisis for me. Do I force the dog to do my bidding or do I accommodate her? I am obsessed with my dog so this is not an easy decision. I was recently asked to be on a committee that seemed interesting. Do I participate? Is now the time? What do I have to give up to participate? Will I feel FOMO (fear of missing out) if I say no? I have got to think others don’t agonize like I do in these circumstances. But if you do, I feel your pain. Life is determined by our choices and sometimes I find choices fraught with competing demands. I try to help my clients have self-compassion in these situations where there is no right answer but you have to just make the best choice for you in that moment.
Overall, I feel I am working towards finding my balance. I have started my own business and I have designed a schedule that works for my personality, energy and availability. I love having the balance between being a mom, a coach, a business owner and a writer. I make time for naps, exercise, volunteerism and reading as well as for my family. Finding balance is WORK. But for me it is worth it. I would love to hear tricks you use to achieve balance in your life!