4.14. Awareness and Balance

The key to living a happy, healthy life really boils down to two things: awareness and balance.

According to psychology, self-help, and all the fields that focus on our mental health and well-being…the key to living a happy, healthy life really boils down to two things:

Awareness and balance.

There have been a lot of attempts to define awareness, from the early Buddhists to the present day. But the gist of it is really simple.

Awareness is about being able to stay grounded, being able to take a step back, being able to watch what’s happening to you without getting carried away by it.

You aren’t your thoughts. You aren’t your feelings.

Thoughts and feelings come and go within you. But they aren’t you.

Thoughts and feelings have the ability to sweep us away, to take us over, to get us to believe their stories and get us all riled up.

I’m not saying we should reject all our thoughts and feelings. I’m saying what we need above all is a healthy relationship with our thoughts and feelings.

The fact is, our thoughts and feelings are only sometimes helpful. And they’re always just temporary.

If we let them sweep us away, we’re going to end up embroiled in a lot of drama, stress, and anxiety. We’re only going to feel okay every once in a while, during those rare times when nothing bad is going on. We’re going to feel like our life is an endless, exhausting struggle.

But if we have the ability to step back and watch those thoughts and feelings pass through us—like clouds passing through the sky—then they don’t have so much power over us. Then we can stay calm, even in stressful situations. Then we can decide ourselves which of those thoughts and feelings to heed and act on, instead of letting them sweep us away.

Then we can bring balance into our lives.

If awareness is how we stay grounded amidst all this craziness we can’t control…balance is what we work toward within the parameters of what we can control.

The biggest thing we have control over is how we allocate our limited, finite resources to deal with all the various demands, obligations, and pressures we confront in our lives.

Balance isn’t about dealing with all that stuff equally. It’s about dealing with all of it wisely.

It means devoting your time and energy in proportion to how important those things are, how worthy they are, how much of your limited resources they truly deserve.

It means setting boundaries, saying no, and making time for guilt-free leisure—because you’ve made peace with your limits, you know you can’t do everything, and you know there’s nothing wrong with that.

Balance is tricky. Most of our lives are too chaotic and unpredictable to keep things the same way for long. Just when you think you’ve got the hang of it…something will probably come along and upset the balance.

But that’s only a bad thing if you make it so.

If you stay aware, and stay grounded, finding balance doesn’t have to be an elusive, frustrating chore.

It can be a fun challenge—a stimulating puzzle that makes every single day unique and interesting, no matter it throws at you.


This is the 74th in a series of over 150 videos about how to create real, lasting social change. Click here for a list of all titles, videos, and transcripts.

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