I didn’t know in my 20s that much of my pain and anxiety was rooted in perfectionism and never feeling good enough.
I didn’t understand in my 30s that staying up too late and rarely resting as I tried to organize, plan, and balance my life perfectly was an attempt to feel safe in the world.
Little did I know that one day in my 40s I’d choose to surrender, loosen my grip finger by finger, make peace with imperfection, and finally start living.
I found joy and delight in an unbalanced life.
Peace, calm, and self-acceptance blossomed as I released the pursuit of perfection and made peace with messy.
When I awoke to the truth that joy and pain can coexist, I started laughing more and scanning for the beauty in each ordinary day.
Realizing that life is both imperfect and beautiful and offering myself permission to tilt instead of balance made space for me to step into my creative work and craft a more compassionate life.
Tilting as a goal works better for me than pursuing balance.
Living an unbalanced life means understanding that on any given day, week, or year, every yes we utter means a no to countless other tasks and goals. It means embracing ebb and flow and the delightful truth that building a joyful life does not require perfection.
To me, while balance connotes constant micro-shifts and vigilance to ensure equilibrium, and leaves me exhausted, tilting feels slower, gentler, and more forgiving.
When I picture myself tilting, I consider a tree that has put down deep strong roots which allow it to be flexible and resilient. Some days it stands upright and serene, other days it sways gently, and when fierce storms come it might lose a branch here or there, but it bends with the winds and does not break.
In my everyday life, tilting has looked like:
Being clear on my top values and priorities for this season, and this day, yet not trying to force each one to get equal playing time.
Saying no or “not yet” to certain dreams or goals because to everything there is a season.
Slowly plodding along with a clear vision and direction and knowing that a little meandering, tipping into periods when I’m hiding or unproductive, or walking through rough patches, will not pull me too far off course. I always return to center.
Staying responsive to the needs of my family and my health.
Living open to joyful possibility and unexpected opportunity, and sometimes diving heart-first into unplanned, creative, happy projects.
Making peace with things left undone – the laundry that waits because I choose to write, choosing simple meals and store-bought bars in lieu of homemade muffins as I grow a business, taking time away to rest even though my to-do list is long, saying no to writing a book in order to prioritize my mind-body health.
Building up an emergency fund only to have it drained when everything seems to break at once.
A season of grief and saying goodbye to people I love and then emerging once more into a season of spring.
A deepening love and appreciation for my partner interspersed with wild patches that make me wonder if we’ll make it.
Getting strong and fit only to tilt back into chronic pain or injury and what feels like forced rest again.
But it’s all temporary.
If balance is the goal I’ve automatically failed. If tilting is the goal – I’m simply in process.
But learning to tilt requires practice.
7 Key ways to become skilled at tilting
1. Deepen our Roots of Self-Awareness and Self-Compassion
We must put down strong, hardy roots of self-awareness and self-compassion if we are to learn to tilt and not break. This means understanding the full truth of who we are – our strengths, motivations, fears, challenges, triggers – seeing it all without shame or ego. We stop looking outside of ourselves for acceptance and validation. We are in process but choose to love and like who we are.
2. Embrace Seasonal Living
Living seasonally means understanding that there is wisdom to be mined in every season of life. We can take the longer view, learn to sit in seasons of discomfort and know that light will come again, we become gentler on ourselves and everyone around us. We learn to work with rather than against our natural rhythms and wiring. We give ourselves permission to taste pleasure and savor joy.
3. Live Mindfully
Living awake to the gifts of this day, noticing the stories we tell ourselves and how our personalities come into play, helps us stay supple and responsive. We plan but hold it all loosely, a mistake or failed attempt doesn’t destroy us; it’s simply an invitation to get curious. Mindful living also helps us pull our heart back from yesterday and our mind from tomorrow to live fully present in this day.
4. Stop Watering Perfectionism
We no longer wait for life (or self) to be perfect before taking risks, doing hard things, or saying yes to the things that we truly want. We show up consistently to take imperfect action and do the work that lights us up. We’re able to laugh at ourselves. We understand that real life is messy. We practice listening in, loosening our grip, and more often than not we choose good enough.
5. Fertilize with Rest and Play
To thrive we must nourish ourselves well and tend to our most basic needs. This includes an understanding that rest and play are as important to life and health as work and productivity. Without enough fertilizing we are unable to sustain growth and life; we are left vulnerable and weak. We make space for quiet, solitude, connection, and creativity and taste the fruits of this.
6. Grow a Healthy Mindset
We learn to examine and challenge the old patterns of thought and behavior, embrace uncertainty, and scan for beauty. We build a healthier relationship with stress that allows us to weather the inevitable storms of life. We practice gratitude when life feels easy and when it feels hard. We no longer numb our fear or uncomfortable emotions; they’re not good or bad but simply human.
7. Uproot the Weeds of Comparison
Comparison is insidious and will slowly strangle the life out of us unless we pull it up at the roots. When we understand that we are not meant to look, sound, or show up the same as anyone else, that we can build a right-sized life that honors our values and wiring, we live with far greater joy and delight. We pull our eyes and heart back to our own path and let others choose for themselves.
If balance is a term that resonates for you, I do not object; you are the expert on your life. But as for me, I find joy and delight in an unbalanced life.
Krista is a writer & Joyful Living Educator. She helps messy humans like her quiet the noise of perfectionism, comparison, and fear so they can show up fully (with joy and on purpose) to their imperfect and beautiful lives. She invites you to connect with her on Facebook or at A Life in Progress and to check out the Spring Session of her Seasonal Mindfulness Journal. *affiliate link
Pin this post for later: