Photo Credit: Angie McMonigal Photography

When I received the photo for this week’s Photo Inspiration Challenge, I initially drew a blank.   Cultural syntax, general linguistic norms, and inspirational quotes all represent growth as a positive aspiration.  But what does it mean to grow?  And is growth always a positive thing?

As I thought more about growth and what it means to grow, I realized the inherent dichotomy of the word. A growing garden of brightly colored blooms and a field of wildflowers are delightful; a yard full of unruly weeds is a bit less desirable. The growing body of a 5-year-old is a physical marvel of health and wellness; a growing waistline at the age of 35 signals a few too many trips to Dunkin’ Donuts. Personal growth is admirable when an individual has learned open mindedness, confidence, and patience; when the ideas growing in a person’s head are potentially self-destructive thoughts, like anger, fear, doubt, and denial, the growth is detrimental. A growing social movement is inspiring when it is Martin Luther King Jr.’s Civil Rights movement; but a growing social movement that seeks to oppress certain groups, like the anti-marriage equality movement, not so much.

What, then, separates positive growth from dangerous growth?  And what keeps positive growth from developing into unstable growth?

Perhaps the answer lies in balance.  With balance, we can keep positive growth from spreading beyond control and we can keep risky growth in check.   With balance, we can harness potentially dangerous emotions, like fear and doubt, and use them as motivators.  With balance we can enjoy the guilty pleasures of life while relegating them to the lower tiers of our priority lists.  With balance, we can learn from the ills of oppressive social movements so that positive social movements are reminded to maintain a respectful stance.

Balance is not something that comes easy to me.  In fact, with my all-or-nothing personality, I am in a constant battle to find balance.  After ending my 14 year swimming career that included training for about 5 hours a day, I didn’t exercise for two years straight.  Not once.  And I gained a good thirty pounds as a result.  When I eventually resolved to lose a few pounds and went on my first “diet,” my 5-10 pound weight loss goal turned into an eating disorder.  So, like I said, balance does not come easy for me.

Yet, I understand that balance is perhaps one of the most important contributing factors to my happiness.  So I try to find balance.  I resist; I give in.  I work; I play.  I am active; I rest.  I teach; I learn.

Except when I don’t.  When my priorities, time, and emotions become unbalanced and off-kilter.  When I become immersed in a project and begin neglecting my relationships and obligations.  When I wallow in self-pity or brood over an unpleasant conversation.  And stress and frustration, sadness and anger, fear and doubt all take hold and grow.

So I get out the shears and do some major pruning.  I make some readjustments.  I try to find the balance.  And, with any luck, calm and satisfaction, happiness and love, hope and confidence can find a way to grow.

 How do you maintain balance in your life?

This post is part of the weekly Photo Inspiration Challenge.  Special thanks to Angie McMonigal Photography for her fabulous photos.  Make sure to visit her website or facebook page.

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  1. Still looking to find balance! Its hard to do something “for yourself” as a mother, at least for me. That usually translates to feeling guilty about neglecting something- whether its the children, my household responsibilities, my husband.

    • Lenny Buchanan

      Jay I encourage you to do things for yourself. If you don’t who will? Doing things for yourself helps you to be a better mother, wife and friend. When the guilty thoughts and feeling come in fight back by focusing on the FACT, regardless of how bad you may feel, that you are improving yourself to be the person you are made to be for you, your family and your friends.

    • It’s a never-ending struggle, I think. It seems like just being aware of the need for more balance has been helpful to getting me back on course. Miss you!

  2. Lenny Buchanan

    Your post makes good sense. Balance to me is constantly moving and the smallest thing will knock me off balance. I no longer seek it since it is a difficult target to hit and at one moment I have it and then I don’t. This reality was frustrating for me. When life is not going the way I want it I stop and ask the question “what is not working for me and where do I make changes?” One thing that has helped is the book “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. The four agreements are Be impeccable with your word, Don’t make assumptions, Don’t take anything personally and Always do your best. Adopting these agreements has brought a lot of awareness and peace to my life.

  3. Whew, I hear ya girl. Finding balance is tough. I meditate and that seems to keep me in check. Of course like anything else, when you don’t find the “time” to meditate then everything else falls out of balance. It’s a constant struggle.

  4. Balance is HARD. I am always after it. And I think that’s it for me – that I’m conscious of it, going after it and doing the best I can.
    I hear you on the all or nothing…I lean toward that and it has taken years of soul-searching and better choices to find some middle ground.
    Have much, much grace for yourself. 🙂

  5. triciaraisinghumans

    I think balance is a confusing concept. For me, it doesn’t mean all things equal at every moment; it means prioritizing and living within bounds that you define for yourself. Which is also not easy but is more achievable. We can’t be all things or doing all things all at the same time.

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