Gandhi said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
A synonym for harmony is balance and balance is the hidden key to success. Balance is our foundation; it’s how we learned to stand, then walk, then run. Balance unobtrusively sneaks itself into areas of our lives.
You may not realize how much you need it until you are thrown off-balance and propelled in an inadvertent and unwanted direction. It is easy to lose ground and forget the importance of a few of the simplest notions.
Here are eight areas of life you should learn to balance in your 20s:
1. When to let it go, when to push back
There is something my favorite yoga teacher in New York once said during a class that has always resonated with me, probably because it contradicts the very philosophy of yoga.
She explained that yoga often encourages its students to let things go and to take the high road, but we shouldn’t do this. There is a fine line between letting go and being a pushover, she said.
The importance of “letting go” is a core phrase in the yogic dialogue and in life, but it’s not always the right choice. Anger can be crippling, but there are times when it is warranted, when you need to stand up for yourself, when fighting back is the best, healthiest thing you can do.
Never let anyone walk all over you. Know when to stay quiet and when to speak up. Be kind, but strong.
2. The extent to which you store your faith in other people’s ability to change
A question that has continually stumped me is whether or not people are able to change. I’ve always wanted to believe they are, but part of me believes the stark opposite: People can’t change; it’s simply impossible.
I’ve realized it's unneccesary to decide; you just have to balance your expectations. The best thing we can do is accept people for who they are and the roles they play in our lives.
Give everyone a chance, but don’t waste too much time on a friendship or relationship you believe has the potential to change what you want it to be; instead, take a step back and see it for what it is. You can try to change someone, but it just won’t work.
Andy Warhol’s quote on the subject has always made the most sense to me:
When people are ready to, they change. They never do it before then, and sometimes they die before they get around to it. You can't make them change if they don't want to, just like when they do want to, you can't stop them.
3. Making sure to be selfish at times
Especially as we get older, it’s critical to make decisions based on your wants and needs, and no one else’s.
I don’t mean little decisions, like where to go for dinner or what movie to see, but the bigger decisions surrounding your living situation, career, ethics, or even how you choose spend a weekend (weekends are precious).
The choices we make determine our happiness, and hurting someone’s feelings in the short run is a small price to pay for your own wellbeing.
4. Being social vs. spending time alone
It’s important to find a balance between being social and spending time by yourself. Some people need more alone time than others, but you don’t want to be the person who can’t stand being alone.
We live in a hectic world; between work, social events and dinners, it can feel like there’s always somewhere to be. Take a night off and spend it with your thoughts; talk to no one for a whole day.
Learn to be happy in your own company -- it’s incredibly relaxing and rejuvenating. I couldn’t agree with Audrey Hepburn’s opinion more.
5. Time spent on your phone
Millennials are so plugged in to social media and texting, our cell phones are practically hooked to our bloodstreams. I have days when I find myself spending way too much time on my phone, and I hate it. It’s unnecessary.
We are supposed to live our lives in the present, not in some checked-out trance, staring at a screen. In many ways, social media has changed our world for the better, connecting us across the globe, sharing our experiences with one another in amazingly vivid detail.
But, with the ease and accessibility of sharing comes oversharing via the various social platforms that dominate our culture. No one needs to see what you eat for breakfast every day.
We need to remember to take breaks from technology once in a while, to put our phones away for several hours at a time and remember that each moment is precious and unique.
6. Reading vs. Watching TV
At the end of a long day, it’s easy to turn on the TV and unwind with an episode or two of whatever’s on your DVR. There are tons of incredible, smart television shows airing today, and getting hooked on a show you love is thrilling.
But, there are also so many good books, classic and contemporary. Instead of instinctively reaching for the remote, try climbing into bed with a good book for an hour.
Television is great, but there are definitely some crappy shows out there, and we can’t forget the invaluable joy of reading a good book.
Kardashians or Kerouac? There is always a choice.
7. Money vs. Passion in a career
In a perfect world, we would get paid to do what we love. But, it doesn’t work that way. Some people choose careers they dislike, solely because they pay the bills. Others accept lower salaries in pursuit of their dream jobs.
There is hardly ever a perfect situation, but we need to find balance when it comes to our professional lives.
Selling your soul to a career you hate in exchange for a six-figure salary isn’t worth it. Life is simply too short. On the other hand, following your passion to the extent that you risk losing financial security and health insurance isn’t the way to go, either.
I’ve gone several months without health insurance, but saving a few hundred dollars each month and simultaneously praying I don’t get hit by a bus or develop a rare illness is no way to live. Never stop pursuing your dreams, but before you get there, you might have to accept a job you aren’t crazy about.
Balance is vital when it comes to the people you choose as friends.
As we grow up, we learn not all of our friendships are sustainable, and different friends strengthen us in different areas of life. I think it’s good to keep a balance of friendships in your life.
Some friends ground you, nourish your roots and keep you safe, like ships in a harbor. These friends are irreplaceable.
Then, there are the friends who push you outside your boundaries, who open your mind and make you see the world in a new, exhilarating, sometimes frightening light. You must surround yourself with these people; they will be instrumental to your growth.