finding balance in your life




Having a high quality of life has always been really important to me. In fact, I'm sure that most of you who know me have heard me profess my love for this many times. I'm always making a conscious effort to balance the time and energy that I put towards my personal life and my work life. And, I'm very motivated to do this. For example, if my writing or teaching begins to suffer, I'll try to socialize less so that I can make more time for it. On the other hand, if I feel like I'm not spending enough time with Hus (aka- my husband) or with my friends, I'll cut back on my work-load by taking the day off or saying "no" to new project ideas. I feel like I'm only truly happy when my life is balanced.


Recent research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology describes a new theory about how and why we try to achieve this balance that I love so much (Kumashiro, Rusbult, & Finkel, 2008). 

The authors begin by explaining the two domains in their model; relational and personal. Personal concerns involve "behaviors that we enact for ourselves to gratify self-oriented needs and promote self-oriented goals" (Kumashiro et al., 2008, p. 94), while relational concerns involve "behaviors that we enact for our relationships to gratify relationship-oriented needs and promote relationship-oriented goals" (Kumashiro et al., 2008, p. 95). Basically, we're either concerned with things having to do with ourselves (like working, making money, improving our own competence, declaring our independence, or exercising) or with things having to do with our relationships with others (like improving intimacy, engaging in sexual activities, talking with loved ones, or spending time with our friends). So, when I spend time writing on this blog, I'm satisfying my personal needs and when my husband and I discuss our daily activities with each other, I'm satisfying my relational needs.

Kumashiro et al.'s (2008) Personal-Relational Equilibrium Model argues that when individuals don't have a good balance between their relational and personal domains, they want to restore that balance by enacting certain behaviors to achieve equilibrium. Furthermore, if individuals can't restore balance, they experience reduced life satisfaction and reduced physical, psychological, and relational well-being. 

The authors conducted four studies to test their model. Each study tested their model in a different way. 
  • The first study examined an individual's reactions to anticipated disequilibrium, by telling participants that they would (or would not) likely experience an unbalanced life in their futures because of their answers on a particular survey. They found that individuals were highly motivated to fix the anticipated disequilibrium, that they thought they would experience in the future, by finding balance. 
  • The second study asked participants to recall periods in their lives when they actually experienced disequilibrium (or equilibrium in some cases) and answer questions about how they felt and what they did in those situations. In this study, participants reported high motivation to restore equilibrium when they felt like their lives were unbalanced. Additionally, these participants also reported low life satisfaction and well-being during the unbalanced time and high life satisfaction and well-being when they talked about time periods when their lives seemed balanced again. 
  • The third study had participants write in a diary for 10 days about current feelings of disequilibrium. They discovered that individuals had high motivation to restore balance, actually enacted behaviors to do so in the days after the disequilibrium was realized, and experienced low life satisfaction on days when they felt unbalanced and high life satisfaction on days when they felt balanced. 
  • The last study followed individuals for 6 months and assessed times of equilibrium and disequilibrium in their lives, their life satisfaction, and their psychological, physical, and relational well-being. Participants who reported balance between their relational and personal domains reported more physical and relational well-being, higher life satisfaction, and less depression and anxiety than those who reported disequilibrium.

What does all of this mean?
  • We all want balance in our lives. The inability to maintain that balance can result in anxiety, depression, low life satisfaction, conflict within our relationships, and reduced happiness in our relationships.

Unfortunately, in our society, the relational domain is what tends to be neglected. Americans value their jobs and autonomy so much, that we sometimes forget what's truly important in life. 




The love lesson: the next time you're spending too much time at the office or taking on way too many projects at school, take a break and do something fun with the ones you love so that maybe you can begin to restore your equilibrium.













Reference:
  • Kumashiro, M., Rusbult, C. E., & Finkel, E. J. (2008). Navigating personal and relational concerns: The quest for equilibrium. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 94- 110.

For more information about finding balance in your life, see these resources:

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