Imagine in your mind present-day Pakistan, dated back about 4,000 years. Imagine merchants at the time with every sort of good: food, wood, pottery, gold. Two different merchants enter into this scene with the desire to trade something that could not be identified or counted into equal pieces. For example, two pieces of irregularly shaped gold nuggets. How could these two merchants make a fair and even trade?
They couldn’t at the time. Thus, a weighing scale or “balance” was created. Two plates were attached to an overhead beam and that beam was fixed onto a central pole. Next, the unknown item would be placed on one side of the plates and on the other, weight-setting stones. The weight-setting stones were important because they had a value attached to them and the merchants therefore had something to compare the weight of their gold against. The two merchants would continue to place weight-setting stones on the plate until an equilibrium, a point of perfect equality, was reached.
In today’s culture, we have taken this tool of weighing and comparing objects for equality and placed it upon our lifestyles. To establish control over our ever-changing, frustrating and fast-paced surroundings, we have set on our horizons the concept of balance that is seemingly a place of peace and happiness. What would life look like in this “balanced” place? Well, from the creation of the balance, we know that when equal weight on all sides is reached, the tool stops. There is no more movement. No more curiosity. No more discovery. No more creativity.
Looking from left to right, I see a world that doesn’t need us to stop. I see a world that needs the creators, the builders, the wordsmiths and the caretakers to continue walking forward. I believe that our world needs us to seek more than a perfect and stagnant balance. We need something that does not eliminate the difference. Instead, we need something to bring unity through movement.
We need not seek the perfection and static of balance; instead, let’s focus on a progressive rhythm, integrating the beats and movement, the highs and lows. Here are three observations on why every person should focus on the rhythm of their life, never the balance:
Rhythm celebrates authenticity.
The most important understanding as we compare and contrast balance and rhythm is that, while we may be born into a world that is out of balance, every single person is born with rhythm. In neuroscientist Daniel J. Levitin’s book, This Is Your Brain on Music, he explains that located at the bottom of your brain toward the back of your head is the cerebellum. This area of your brain is uniquely involved in interpreting rhythm and keeping a beat.
Depending on your unique environment, creativity, hearing and sight, blood flow will increase to this area of the brain based on how we interpret the sounds of our surroundings. I interpret this to mean that one of our most authentic expressions begins with rhythm. While balance tells us that all must be equal, rhythm says that your most authentic self is gifted in some ways more than others. Rhythm celebrates and rewards our unique and truest self, not the self we compare in search for balance.
Try this: Take five minutes this week to identify a creative gift, physical gift or personality gift that you have had since before you were 10 years old. Most likely, this is an area of strength for you and you should spend more time developing this gift.
Rhythm fights anxiety and increases joy.
Many of us learned language with the aid of rhymes, repeated similar sounds that make rhythms musical. When the writings of life are in a modern, culturally familiar verse, rhyme will break the pattern to add unpredictable spice, giving a special emphasis to the lines of that rhyme.
While balance celebrates perfection found in comparison, I believe that a life of rhythm allows space for the unpredictable, for the outcast, for the adventurer, for the creative. A life of rhythm allows for spontaneous joy. And the best part is our brains become trained in this repeated pattern. Studies show that behavioral therapy based on values consistency helps combat anxiety.
Try this: Choose one area of your life you want to improve. Wake up 45 minutes early each morning for two weeks consistently to train your brain in this pattern. The key to success is to avoid all other distractions during this time. Trust me, you will not regret training your brain in this new rhythm of life.
Rhythm builds trust.