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7 Keys to Finding Balance in Complex Times

We live in a complex, fast-paced, and ever-changing time, and one aspect of daily life that seems elusive is a sense of balance. Often when people talk of happiness, they are really speaking of the by-product of living in a balanced and meaningful way. Yet many forces, some internal and others external, push and pull in the moment or over the course of the day or week, enough so that we find ourselves off center. Too much time spent in this mode wears us out and invites a feeling of being out of synch and trying to catch up or catch our breath.

Complexity challenges us to change for an important reason: simplicity. The process is one of transformation (not just addition) and we become more able and complex individuals, better able to integrate into the ongoing demands of each of our roles. Less really is more. But only if we find the power and perspective afforded by a sense of balance. 

Are there consistent aspects of daily life we can attend to in order to cultivate this sense of balance? The path to simplicity can be complex, and the answer takes time and reflection but…

Here are 7 Keys that are worth a space in your daily life, balance points that keep us centered on simplicity, growth, and well-being. 

1. Move

Simply put, our body structure gives away that we are not meant to be sedentary. Movement is a keystone of good health and we learn and think more effectively when movement is a part of our day. Movement helps mood and attitude. More than just an exercise program, movement honors our form and how we are wired. Plan your exercise and movement as much as you plan other important events. Get up and move, especially after stretches of not moving.

2. Manage Energy

Added to movement, what we consume and how we repair and restore during sleep are vital to all aspects of health and balance. And consumption goes beyond nutrition. In this era, consumption includes media and technology which influences health and sleep. Also, managing energy requires discipline in planning our commitments, an intentional action that keeps us from over-planning or living in a reactive mode. Make the effort to monitor and adjust these key areas of energy to keep the feeling of vitality.

3. Make Space

A bird’s-eye view of the modern schedule reveals a trail of events and transitions. While structure lends a sense of control, too much structure and busy-ness can lead us off path. Making space in the moment connects value with choice (as we are constantly making decisions). And making space within the day’s structure connects action with meaning (ask: did I attend to what matters most?). Active reflection is the ultimate to becoming more purposefully responsive in the moment and connecting a future vision with daily intentions. Planning and adding these “down” times in your day keeps you up in spirit.

4. Appreciate

Balance from this key comes in two forms: gratitude and growth. We are centered when we appreciate life and its inevitable ups and downs. And when we appreciate and purposefully develop our mind, body, spirit, and relationships we are aligned with the flow of being alive. Planning time with the most important people in our lives and reaching out with gestures of gratitude centers us on our most significant relationships — and who are sometimes taken for granted. And actively developing in mind, body and spirit all bring a sense of balance and a positive, creative mindset. Notice how you appreciate and make it a part of your day.    

5. Ride Momentum

Just as we were born to move, life does not stand still. We are either moving forward or sliding backward. All living and open systems obey this. If we notice and reflect on the first four keys, we get a sense of moments building upon each other. Momentum is inevitable based on actions. Setting goals (appreciate) or developing skills are good ways to get a feel for momentum. As you make progress you notice change on several levels. You have overcome the inertia of an old way of thinking or doing. The opposite of forward momentum is feeling “stuck” which is really an off-center state. Momentum is a process we can notice in these balance points and ride its force.

6. Integrate

Notice how all your roles and goals go together. While the whole is always greater and of a different quality than the sum of its parts, noticing how these parts integrate feeds a sense of balance. This global sense of living highlights the relationship between parts and whole and where we are aligned or misaligned. This is different than the typical “compartmentalized” mindset that may work in the moment but not in the long run. We can’t keep putting stress or things that don’t work in a mental box on a shelf. Relief is not progress. But we can learn, change, let go, and align so what we can truly integrate our roles, goals, and relationships in a meaningful whole. 

7. Inspire

One universal feeling we all seek is a sense of “being alive” and connected to something bigger than us. This state resides far from boredom, routine, and productivity, and runs wide and deep. Inspiration can be a purposeful connection to meaning or the Divine. Or separating from the “schedule” and taking a quiet walk in nature. Or reading words that inspire. While awe seems lacking in daily life, its absence drains a vital sense of connection to a greater community. We don’t do well with long periods of feeling uninspired and this often leads to habits of cheap versions of immediate pleasure. Having a daily ritual that inspires can provide the ultimate sense of balance and help to provide the space for life’s most difficult questions and challenges. 

In summary, consider making a wheel with these 7 keys to balance on the spokes and “you” at the center. Just spending some time each day noticing the connection between “you” and the keys can be eye-opening and influential. When we feel balanced all the spokes of the wheel are aligned and oriented to the center. When we feel unsteady and off balance, chances are insight and remedy are in these 7 keys.   

7 Keys to Finding Balance in Complex Times

John C. Panepinto, PsyD, LPCS, NCC

John C. Panepinto, PsyD, LPCS, NCC, has worked in educational, clinical, and, private settings for over two decades. Presently, he balances roles as a consultant in early intervention for the largest school system in North Carolina, and as Clinical Psychologist for Carolina Developmental Pediatrics. He also maintains a private practice. Dr. Panepinto has written on parenting, development, emotional intelligence, resiliency, and performance psychology. He was the keynote speaker for the 2017 National Stay-At-Home Dad’s convention, and blogs on fatherhood. He helped to develop the processes and content for a National Character Education Award winning program in 2003. More at

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APA Reference
Panepinto, J. (2019). 7 Keys to Finding Balance in Complex Times. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 24, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 20 Nov 2019 (Originally: 20 Nov 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 20 Nov 2019
Published on Psych All rights reserved.