Finding Equilibrium Through Ritual
Nov 24, by Matt McManus
Looking to our life’s rhythms and routines to bring things into balance
There has been an increasing amount of conversation around work/life balance, and this is fantastic. It’s a conversation we need to continue to have because, if you’ve tried to follow along, there are a million different ways to approach it. I’d like to write about some ways that I’ve been able to tap into existing rhythms of my life and use them as a consistent force against stress and distraction.
To start, let’s take a look at the big picture; What are we trying to accomplish?
Equilibrium. Equi-lib-ri-what?. Equilibrium! Yes, it is just a fancier way of saying balance, but I think differences in semantics are significant. We achieve balance by distributing things evenly. When thinking of work/life balance, that sounds nice! Everything in it’s right place, where it makes me the happiest.
However, in my experience, work and life are not simply weights sitting on a scale. They’re active, perpetually changing forces that often demand more than what I can give them. Equilibrium is reached when two opposing forces are held in check and balance. Once one force is stronger, you need to reduce it’s power or provide sufficient counterforce to bring it in check.
As we begin to think about equilibrium holistically, not just a fuzzy binary of “work” and “life”, we discover how many forces are at work. It’s not just family demands and work demands, it’s my propensity for procrastination, overcomplicating, getting distracted, etc. For example, my distraction is often the result of feeling overwhelmed. I check out and distract myself to avoid stress; this ends up creating more problems and more stress. Fixing the problem is not simply a matter of “stop being distracted”. The force of distraction can only be stopped by replacing it with something more constructive. It can only be dealt with when a force of equal strength is applied to it.
How do we start to find equilibrium?
We must begin to understand and tap into the existing rhythms of our lives in order to develop constructive routines. These routines can then begin to free our minds from clutter, increase our resilience and make us more effective. That may seem complicated, so let’s break it down.
We all have rhythms to our lives. Each week has times of work and times of rest, times of being engaged and of being tired, times of being at peace and times of being anxious. Each day has time for thinking and for doing. Each season has its time for new experiences and it’s crazy time.
Over the next few posts, I want to look at some of these specific rhythms. I’ll share how I’ve found or made spaces to develop effective habits that help me be more focused and at peace with all that life requires. These routines have become a significant part of my life, sacred even, which is why I’m so inclined to call them rituals.
So here is your homework assignment before I post the next article:
Think about your week. Are there times where you have a natural lull, like taking the bus? Are there times where your stress level always goes up, like Sunday night? Take some time to consider your existing rhythms and how you could potentially add some healthy routines.