Balance is a new buzzword of late. People often talk about achieving work-life balance. Usually that means trying to spend less hours working in order to fit in more non-work activities, such as spending time with family or friends.
I’d like to discuss a slightly different form of balance: a balance of your inner and outer worlds. By the outer world, I mean what you do that is external or directed outward from your physical being. In other words, what you create in the world, whether a work presentation, a meal, a new business, or a book. These all entail expending your energy outward and creating something tangible in the world. We’re very achievement oriented, so understanding what I mean by expending your energy for external achievement should be easy because it’s likely what you do most of the time.
So what is the internal part of this external/internal balance? Well that’s the emphasis, effort, and energy that you put into going inward. It is often alone but can also be done in a group, such as yoga, meditation, and tai chi. It’s not necessarily about being still either, as there are certainly walking meditations. It is all about where your attention is focused: outward creation or inner awareness.
Yoga is a wonderful way to bring your awareness back to yourself, combining both movement and stillness. Tai chi is a powerful way to learn to focus inward and manage your energy. In these kinds of practices, such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, and even journal writing and psychotherapy, your focus is on yourself: knowing yourself, observing yourself, perhaps reaching deeper insights about yourself, as opposed to the external focus that we usually maintain. In our everyday life, especially at work or school, we are more often focused on others and events external from ourselves, perhaps understanding them or working with them.
When we are too externally focused we lose touch with ourselves and can feel disconnected from ourselves; we may not know what we really want out of life and too often don’t enjoy life. When we are too internally focused we can lose touch with others and the outside world; we may become disengaged and have difficulty achieving in the outside world.
The healthiest goal is to seek balance between our external efforts – what we create in the world – and our internal awareness – what we come to know and understand within ourselves. Neither external nor internal is inherently better than the other, we need both for a fulfilling life, and we all have our own unique balance of external and internal that feels healthiest for us.
Please give this idea some thought and consider whether your life is too heavily focused in one direction and could use some rebalancing.