Struggling for Balance

Every area of life requires and continually struggles for balance. We’ll look at that struggle at play in a variety of rolls throughout this month, but first let’s develop an understanding of what balance is and what it requires.

7 Principles of Balance

In thinking about balance, several principles stand out as universal in our struggle. As we work to obtain and maintain balance, we must always keep in mind that balance…

  1. tree postRequires movement. To stay balanced, we must constantly move and adjust. Sometimes, the adjustments are small and invisible to others, but they always exist.
  2. Exists as a constant goal. Our physical bodies constantly work toward balance, toward homeostasis. The desire for balance exists as naturally as the function of our physical bodies. We can never escape this continual striving for balance.
  3. Needs focus. When doing a tree pose in yoga, focusing on a fixed point in front of you helps maintain balance. When your gaze wanders, balance becomes an increasing struggle.
  4. Can improve. The more you do the tree pose (along with a variety of other yoga poses), balance becomes easier. The more you consistently work at it, the better your ability to stay balanced.
  5. Keeps drama & chaos at bay. In some variety shows, acrobats show off their balancing skills by complicating the situation with people balanced upon people balancing a variety of objects. In real life, drama within balance only leads to chaos and overload.
  6. Looks different for every person. Everyone has unique limits. Every holds unique gifts and abilities. Because of these facts, our ability to balance looks different too. The basic principles stay the same, but we all obtain balance uniquely.
  7. Requires honesty & humility. We have to admit that we need to rest and readjust regularly. We have to admit our need for help in living a balanced life. Not admitting these means choosing the hard – and likely impossible – path to balance.

We’ll address the above principles later this month as we look at the role relationships, accountability, simplicity, commitments and faith all play in our constant struggle for balance. Before we can consider the activity of balance within the various aspects of our lives, though, we have to first realize the importance that having an accurate scale plays in achieving, maintaining and assessing balance.

An Accurate Scale

scale

The Bible talks about the importance of having a fair and just scale, one that accurately weighs and balances whatever it measures. That’s what we need for our lives too.

Comparisons are not accurate; neither are we able to accurately measure our own balance (2 Corinthians 10:12). God needs to be the scale. Only He knows what balances means for each individual, and He tells us through Scripture and through His Holy Spirit. The only way to obtain and maintain a balanced life is to have it continually weighed, measured and adjusted by the only accurate and just scale available to us.

DISCUSSION: Where do you feel you’re out of balance? What adjustments do you need to make?

Overcoming Overload with Balance

balanceLast month’s focus on technology was interesting because I didn’t realize the impact of technology in the details of my life. I didn’t realize how out of balance I truly was regarding my use of technology and my need for almost constant access and information.

I certainly don’t think technology is evil. I love the relationships, the access to information and the freedom to share thoughts and ideas. Yet, I also realize the need to master or be mastered by technology and its incessant call. I understand that I must refuse to follow the crowd and instead choose my own focus. In doing so, I can overcome information overload by focusing on creating balance.

Laying Down the Gauntlet

Just like overload looks different on every person, so does a balanced solution for overload. In Managing Overload with Boundaries, we discussed basic principles as a guide in creating a plan for awareness, prevention and management of overload.

In today’s post, I am issuing a challenge, playing off our focus last month on technology and playing into this month’s focus on balance.

CHALLENGE

The challenge is this: Decide one way you can begin to become the master over technology in your life rather than a slave to it. Think of some change you can make that clearly says, “I refuse to follow the crowd and will decide for myself how to use technology & how to manage the information it constantly presents.”

To help, let’s look at examples of others working to create balance in their lives:

These examples and suggestions hopefully serve to get your creative juices flowing as well as to inspire and motivate.

Choose to Think

With the gauntlet laid down, consider this quote from Rick Dawson of Planned Peasanthood, someone who always hits home with truth…

“God gave us the ability to think – we have to choose to do so, on a minute by minute basis sometimes, if we don’t want to be overwhelmed by the ‘drinking from the firehose’ condition of living in an always on, 24/7/365 world. In its own way? It can set us up for the same sort of response that primitive man had – always afraid, always on guard.”

Choose to get grounded with God, and let Him prioritize your day. Trust God to get you the information and connections you need instead of obsessing over the constant inflow from technology. Find YOUR balance by choosing to think based on the guiding and directing of the Holy Spirit.

While I see the convenience of technology, I simply cannot shake the fact that it never satisfies my deep need for connection. And for that reason, I choose today to pick up the gauntlet.

DISCUSSION: Will you pick up the gauntlet too? If so, how?

Reducing & Preventing Overload by Filtering Thoughts

1430223_49148998 (2)Filters purify. They keep out the harmful and leave the beneficial. In any are of life, improvement comes through removing or keeping out bad and adding in good, through filtering.

A defective filter does little good. Only remove bad and fail to replace with good, and the bad comes back in full force (Luke 11:24-26). Only add in good and fail to remove the bad, and the good fails to have much – if any – benefit (Colossians 3).

Filters in our thought lives reduce overload by sifting through all the information and opportunities constantly coming at us. They allow for separating and removing what we don’t want and keeping what we do want. This filtering involves processing information received by placing it against truth, and with the Holy Spirit’s guiding choosing the appropriate response.

Filtering to Prevent & Reduce Overload

Applying filters involves creating habits and establishing priorities that help keep out negative and allow positive to shape us.

Habits go a long way in directing our thought lives. For example, I make a habit of considering the impact of whatever I choose to read. This means reading very little romance or horror and also flipping between fiction and nonfiction as a routine. I also regularly consider the benefit of the various blogs and articles I read. This habit keeps me balanced since my thoughts are easily influenced by the written word.

Filtering thoughts also involves prioritizing. This means realizing that sometimes we have to say “no” to good things simply because we cannot say “yes” to everything if we hope to avoid overload. Prioritizing includes everything from the what to read, what movies to watch, who to spend time with, and even what commitments to accept or reject at church.

My husband and I have created a filtering system that orders priorities within our schedules. This system works well in keeping my inner atmosphere from getting overwhelmed with too many details and lack of focus and my husband from getting out of balance by failing to relax and rest.

Our prioritizing filter involves keeping each other accountable and not adding any large and/or long-term commitment to our schedules without consulting one another. We ask if the added commitment will tax the margin in our lives because lack of margin almost always results in an overwhelmed thought life.

Creating Your Own Filters

Start by looking at what overwhelms you easily and finding specific ways to simplify and keep overload at bay. Remember that a good filter usually involves the following…

  1. An accountability system.
  2. Acknowledging and recognizing limits.
  3. Prioritizing to maintain healthy margins.
  4. The Holy Spirit’s guidance.
  5. Consistent time with God.
  6. Adjustments with the seasons of life.

The idea that focus determines reality is never more true than in our thinking. This is why we must deliberately choose a filtering system based on absolute truth, God’s truth, and not on the relative truth of man that changes like shifting shadows.

“Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” (James 1:17)

DISCUSSION: What filters can you apply in your own life to prevent and/or reduce overload of any type?

Reducing & Preventing Overload by Capturing Thoughts

In Solving the Problem of Information Overload, we realized that the goal for reducing overload involves balance, which comes through deliberately capturing and filtering thoughts and by setting information boundaries.

When we receive information, regardless of its source and avenue, we react to it through our thought lives. The more aware we are of this process, the better able we are to deliberately make choices regarding our focus.

A large part of capturing thoughts involves creating a strong core of truth within us out of which our thoughts can then operate.

Capturing Thoughts

sf_spiritOfTruth_05Taking thoughts – the products of our God-given ability to reason, reflect and respond – captive means avoiding decisions based solely on our finite processing. This requires holding to a central truth to help govern those thoughts.

Truth should shape us, not the information we take in. The information we receive and digest, whether overloading us or not, should not sculpt thoughts. If it is, we’ve got it backwards. Instead, let truth determine the shape & direction of thoughts. Information then becomes a tool for spreading truth.

Spending time in Scripture allows truth to become part of our thinking and to fuel our filtering system. This practice must exist at our core instead of as a problem-solving method only, and this only happens by spending time regularly dwelling with Him and allowing His Holy Spirit to guide our thinking (1 Corinthians 2:10-16).

Reducing Overload

An overloaded mind produces a divided focus, and a divided focus fails to live fully by truth. So, in addition to establishing a habit of building core strength on truth, capturing thoughts involves limiting and managing the information we take in to allow for a more singular focus.

To reduce overload in a way that allows truth to direct and guide, first limit incoming information and then make sure what you do allow to dwell supplements your thinking instead of draining it.

This process requires taking the time to think about what you’re thinking by asking the following questions regularly:

  1. sf_beautifulMind_04What am I allowing to shape my thoughts? Psalm 1:1-2 says to avoid bad influences and focus on good. We’ll cover more of how to manage this in the next post.
  2. What am I allowing to dwell in my mind? If you think you can’t help what you think about, you’re wrong. Scripture tells us we can choose where to fix our thoughts (See Romans 8:5, Philippians 4:8 & Hebrews 3:1)
  3. What is the source of my thoughts? Do they come from the thinking of others? Or, do they flow out of the truth of Christ established in you? (See Colossians 2:8)

Overload blocks deliberate thinking and even an awareness of the thinking process itself. At some point, you just have to say “Enough!” and give yourself time and space to stop the inflow of information, consider what’s going through your head (writing thoughts down or talking them out can help), and pit them against God’s truth.

If you fail to capture your thoughts by thinking about what you’re thinking, you’ll be the one in the cage while your thoughts wreak havoc as you watch through the bars of overload. Choose to use information as a supplement and an avenue to spread truth instead of letting it overload you.

DISCUSSION: What experience do you have with reducing information overload? What role did God’s word play in that process?

Solving the Problem of Information Overload

Information 1

Information Overload

“I feel… thin. Sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread. I need a holiday. A very long holiday.” (Bilbo in The Fellowship of the Ring)

Can you relate? While specifics vary from one person to the next, many people, myself included, feel spread thin by the constant flow of information and constant access available every minute of every day. And we largely bring it on ourselves through our unbalanced approach to interacting with technology.

This lack of balance leads to too much information coming too fast with no down time allowing for processing any information in a healthy way. Information overload does to our minds what indiscriminate eating and a sedentary life do to our bodies.

Infobesity

Information overload, known as “infobesity” or “infoxication,” has actually been around since the 1970’s. Over time, information overload leads to “information anxiety,” which distracts and negatively impacts an individual’s ability to be productive.

Even before any of these terms existed, George Miller hypothesized that humans have limited ability to process information and that overload results when these limits are exceeded. Evidence of taxed limits include…

  • Confusion
  • Poor decision making
  • Inability to generate original thoughts
  • Inability to have unique ideas

Nichoas Carr and Eric Schmidt agree with Miller and say that information overload could have an impact on though processes by…

  • Obstructing deep thinking
  • Blocking understanding
  • Impeding formation of memories
  • Making learning more difficult

This condition of “cognitive overload” results in diminished information retaining ability and failure to connect remembrances to experience stored in the long-term memory, leaving thoughts thin and scattered.

Simply put, information overload reduces our ability to think, understand, form memories and learn. It limits our capability for retaining information and accurately remembering experiences.

Finding Balance

To a great extent, we cannot control how much information comes our way nor how much we have to use technology. However, we’re not helpless either. We can find balance and avoid feeling spread thin by overindulgence.

Balance comes through setting information boundaries that mitigate the negative impact the constant flow of information has on a person’s ability to think, reason and remember. It also comes through deliberately capturing  and filtering thoughts.

(Note: The next two posts will look at the idea of capturing & filtering thoughts in relation to technology and information overload, and next Thursday’s post focuses on providing ways to find balance by creating information boundaries.)

Creating balance in the atmosphere of the inner self requires developing ways to regulate and filter the information entering our lives. Doing so helps create a state of  information balance instead of information overload in our lives.

DISCUSSION: What symptoms do you see of information overload in your life?

How to… Obtain Knowledge

We gain knowledge from a variety of sources. The goal, of course, involves obtaining knowledge from positive sources that helps us grow. Part of that goal includes sorting out knowledge that comes from deceptive sources and/or that won’t contribute to our growth in a positive way.

Knowledge is another important element in our journey to Be Victorious. So how do we obtain knowledge that helps us grow and at the same time avoid accumulating knowledge that is not edifying?

My health journey has involved a tremendous amount of sorting through good and bad information. I collected knowledge that helped and tossed what did not.

My sources of information included the internet, doctors, magazines and books along with friends and acquaintances going through similar situations. No one source provided all the answers. Rather, the solution to my struggle with depression and other nagging health issues involved knowledge gained from a variety of sources.

The idea that small changes made over time add up to make a huge different certainly applies here. As I collected information and through the process of trial and error, I slowly made changes mentally, physically and spiritually that brought me to a place of health and wholeness.

Through this process, I learned several lessons that others can use to obtain knowledge in a way that promotes growth and health as an individual.

  1. Persistence is an absolute necessity. Simply refusing to give up is half the battle toward obtaining knowledge that promotes healing. For more on this topic, read the post How to… Be Persistent.
  2. Know thyself. I wrote in my journal regularly to help sort out what I was feeling physically, mentally and spiritually. I also kept food and exercise logs as well as noted how I felt throughout the day. Knowing myself well helped me identify the information that would help me most.
  3. Look for knowledge to come in unexpected ways. From the waitress at the coffee shop to your pastor, anyone can give a tidbit of information that provides a small step in your journey. Refuse to discount any information until you have had time to pray over it and to corroborate it with additional sources.
  4. Have & focus on goals. My first goal as I searched for the knowledge I needed was to overcome depression. I felt, and still feel, I can deal with any physical ailment as long as I’m stable mentally. I then focused on the physical ailments. Within all of this, I kept a focus on growing spiritually, knowing this was the glue that held all else together.
  5. Be aware of information overload. As I’ve already mentioned, there is a lot of good and bad information available. More than that, there is simply a lot of information coming at us constantly.  Take in information in bits and pieces and avoid taking in so much that you can’t process anything. And be sure to take breaks from building knowledge. On a regular basis, let yourself relax in a good book or movie or time with friends.
  6. Realize your helplessness and dependence on God. The hope of deliverance from the pit of depression kept me moving forward and pursuing knowledge. Most importantly, knowledge of the Source of that hope trumped all else.

In Hosea 4:6 we read that the people were actually being destroyed by a lack of knowledge and that the leaders (priests) had actually rejected necessary knowledge. Regardless of the situation, a lack of knowledge creates a severe handicap that leads to an unproductive and sometimes hopeless life. God gives us the knowledge we need to live victorious lives. Above all, as our knowledge of Him increases, He gives us opportunity to increase in knowledge in all other areas of our lives.

DISCUSSION: How does the difference between knowledge and information fit in with this discussion?

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