I Can’t Stay Balanced

Man in red t-shirt trying to get balance on a tightrope.

If you keep trying to balance your life, only to find it sliding back into old habits again and again, read this for the sole source of this problem.

“Your mind is a self-correcting system. The primary condition needed for a self-correcting system to find its way back to balance is simple: an absence of external interference.” Jamie Smart

This was the story of my life…

I’m so busy, I haven’t got time. There’s so much to do! Oh that’s all I need, another spanner in the works! Oh! Now they’ve changed that meeting, when am I going to get that rescheduled for?

On the outside nobody in work would have seen this, it was all internal and I would then present the face to the world that showed me as calm, collected, totally fine with rolling with the punches.

Well, apart from at home. Home would receive the frustration, the general sense of ‘I haven’t got time for…’ I think eye rolling probably happened to my kids more than I care to remember. Definitely shouting at them did, when they didn’t conform to my timeline.

And I worked with coaches to help. I would stop every so often and assess the situation when it had ‘got too much’ and decide what would stay and what would go, or use diary-management systems to check the balance of how I was using my time, or Covey’s urgent-important matrix, or I would build a walk into my daily habit to try and slow things down and create space.

And that work with coaches also included seeing the thoughts beneath the surface, about needing to be busy and hard working and trying to re-write more helpful or truthful beliefs to try and bring more ease. (I didn’t know yet that no beliefs are truthful…or necessary…)

And so nothing quite nailed it. Bit by bit…creep, creep, creep…things would build again and I’d be back to re-implementing strategies to manage things.

Then I came to this work

And it all changed.

I stopped trying to find balance by managing what was going on out there, or even by trying to manage the thoughts in my head. Instead I realised that balance was within.

We are designed for balance. In biological terms it’s called homeostasis and it applies to our psychology as much as to our body.

After you’ve worked out at the gym, your heart rate naturally returns to base — you don’t have to do it.

If you’ve caught a stomach bug or eaten something bad, your body naturally makes you sick so you return to a healthy state — you don’t have to do it.

If you’ve ever been worried, anxious or overwhelmed, those thoughts always lessen or even stop at some point , even if just for the shortest period of sleep — you don’t have to do it.

And if you feel out of balance (always busy and rushing, feeling overwhelmed, busy-minded) you will naturally be guided towards ways to rebalance: whatever form that takes (coaches, diary management, lunchtime walks) — you don’t have to do it.

Hang on! What? I don’t have to do it?

Of course I’m doing it. Here I am going for a lunchtime walk. Here I am working with a coach to assess priorities.

And yes, it looks like you’re doing all that doesn’t it? It looks different to all those other examples of your heart, your stomach, or your busy thoughts… hmm, maybe less so with your thoughts. Maybe you think you’re responsible for your thoughts too…

But it’s all the same. The ‘you’ that thinks it’s responsible for thoughts and a balanced life isn’t doing anything — other than clogging up the natural re-balance system with it’s ideas!

Think about it

When your body wants you to throw up (sorry this is a bit gross but it’s a good example!) it moves you to the toilet. Even if you’ve been in deep sleep it wakes you up to get you to the toilet — so clever! So how could the ‘you’, that thinks it needs to do everything, have done that ? It was absent in deep sleep. That idea of you as a do-er wasn’t there. So what woke your body up and moved it?

The same is true of a balanced life. Life is designed for balance. It’s designed to return to homeostasis. All the things it looks like ‘you’ have been doing to make your life balanced have just been life moving your body towards something to help that process — the same as moving you to the toilet!


The difference in the waking state, and the difference with things like thoughts and self care or diary action plans, is that the ‘idea-of-you’ thinks it’s involved and thinks it’s got skin in the game. It thinks ‘this is a problem and I can fix it if I can just find the right solution.’

It casts around, finds something, applies it and ‘phew!’ — good! Looks like that’s worked 🙂 Good job me!

But, this ‘you’ doesn’t know that it is in fact the source of the problem. And so, whenever this ‘you’ looks real, the apparent dis-balance in your life will also look like a ‘real’ problem.

Before this ‘you’ appeared, the system would simply have noticed any challenges with volume of work, or lack of space to pause — in the same way it notices a high heart rate . Then, in the same way it would bring the heart rate back down, it would also have naturally introduced actions to return to balance anyway.

But instead, the ‘you’ popped up shouting ‘this is a problem people!’ and, as I said before, would have gone seeking out there for solutions…to itself…

It’s hard to solve a problem that didn’t exist in the first place. All that’s happening is an activity of thought, and thought doesn’t need to be fixed. It’s not broken.

“Your mind is a self-correcting system. The primary condition needed for a self-correcting system to find its way back to balance is simple: an absence of external interference.” Jamie Smart

The ‘you’ is external interference.

And the ‘you’ is the one that will come with beliefs waving around that are crashing into each other with their oppositional nature:

‘You need to work hard’….‘You need to rest more’.

‘You haven’t done enough’…‘You need to get better at not taking on so much’.

‘You don’t deserve to stop, it’s lazy’…‘You really should be doing more self care’.

‘I wish life was easier’….‘Life is hard’

Do you see the stuckness in all those oppositional pairings of thought. You’ve collected so many beliefs through life that now they’re just battering against each other and leading to stuckness. Or maybe temporary movement but then they draw you back into their storyline…

Because You think they are somehow who You are. You think they have something important and relevant to say about Your life and how You’re living it. They don’t.

So the only solution is to reveal the ‘you’ as the source of external interference that keeps the naturally self-correcting system out of balance. It is the heart of the interference. It is the only ‘thing’ making out-of-balance into a problem that it thinks only it can solve.

And it’s simply not needed. You are designed to return to balance naturally. So let’s slightly adjust Jamie’s quote:

“Your WHOLE LIFE is a self-correcting system. The primary condition needed for a self-correcting system to find its way back to balance is simple: an absence of ‘you’.” Jamie Smart tweaked by Helen Amery!

Tell me what resonates. I’d love to hear from you.

With love, Helen

The inspiration for this post came from the theme for last week’s Coaching as the Space of Transformation group. If you’re a coach and you’d like to understand the role of this ‘you’ in your experience, the next group begins 4th Feb 2022. Find out more here.

I coach and guide smart, passionate, curious people who care about improving the lives of those around them. Often coaches and leaders, they’ve worked hard all their lives to be the ‘best’ them and it doesn’t seem to have delivered the happiness, security or freedom they expected. Now they’re wondering what else is available. I guide you back, prior to stories, to remember the real you because that’s what you, me and the whole world really wants! Find out more here.

2 Comments. Leave new

  • Jacquie Bamber
    5 October 2021 9:00 pm

    I love the Jamie quote with the Helen Amery twist! I hear him say this so often yet your version absolutely hits the spot ! Brilliant 🤩 xx


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