Finding Whole Balance

F

Where we learn that the feeling of equilibrium
is within your control

I am fond of saying, “Equilibrium. That’s all that we want. That’s all any of us want, really.”

And if I’m compelled to say this phrase, then that usually means it feels appropriate to say it in a dramatic way; I pause between each sentence. I might gesticulate (not wildly). I might even throw in a sigh at the end.

In any case, I believe I give a lil drama to those sentences because that’s the way I vocally underline and emphasize the value I physically feel in, and for, this word. Equilibrium. When you feel dizzy or off-kilter in some way, you just want everything around you – including yourself – to get back to a place of total balance. You just want to regain your equilibrium. I feel like the whole namaste vibe includes the ingredient that is: equilibrium.

There’s an inherent calmness that goes with this absolute balance. Depending on the person, there might also be a quietness. Or, for you, it might be that the auditory component of it is the opposite of quiet, where a thrum of action and reverberance swirls around you – yet there’s a steadiness that you grok in the constantness of it all – be it music at a high volume, or your kids voices as they play, or race cars on a superspeedway track  – and you realize that, actually, in that moment, you feel balanced. You’ve found your equilibrium.

In the part of the math world that’s known as nonlinear dynamics (don’t worry, I’m not going to take you into there right now, and when I do I’ll give you plenty of warning beforehand), there are three different types of equilibrium: stable equilibrium, periodic equilibrium (which is super unstable – as in wildly unstable) and then chaotic, which is essentially no equilibrium at all.

Obviously, I’m talking about the first type here: stable equilibrium. That’s what I mean when I say, “That’s all that we want. That’s all any of us want, really.” That’s the equilibrium that is going to take care of you and provide comfort for you and be the dream boo that you’ve wished to meet and be at your side in your life. Stable and, ideally, constant equilibrium. 

A lot of my work revolves around supporting those companies who are seeking constant equilibrium. One of my first steps in my work is to go into a group – a company, an organization, a team of some sort, – and identify why this equilibrium appears to be unattainable. When groups are working towards one common goal there’s usually a system in place that everyone learns to follow to get them to that goal. Sometimes that system is purposefully designed and enacted because a few saw that there needed to be a system in the first place, and some systems just fall into place unintentionally; it’s weird how some systems can kind of blossom organically. Most systems will develop breaks at some point. The longer a system is used the more likely those breaks appear and the more likely they will be deep breaks.

And that’s when I begin my search to uncover where there can be constant equilibrium. I start searching for the turbulence within, the point in the system where it appears there’s some unpredictability. It’s probably a place that is avoided by those that are in the know, and is populated by those who are unaware (probably newbies) and those that have constructed their own clumsy mechanism of a process so that they can just survive each day, and in the middle of all that is the entity causing the disturbance.


There’s a great excerpt about equilibrium in James Gleick’s seminal book, “Chaos”, that really gets me going in the best way. Edward Lorenz, the mathematician credited with discovering chaos in the 1960’s, studied the different patterns made by weather systems and how some of those patterns – known as stable solutions – that reveal themselves may actually be unexpected. Since there are so many possible patterns, you can then consider them to be unpredictable.

Hiding within a particular system could be more than one stable solution. An observer might see one kind of behavior over a very long time, yet a completely different kind of behavior could be just as natural for the system. 

Such a system is called intransitive. It can stay in one equilibrium or the other, but not both. Only a kick from outside can force it to change states.

Chaos: Making a New Science – pg169

A kick! That’s a perfect visual for what is required in order to change a system that has been moving in one way, in one pattern, for a long time. And if it’s an intransitive system – and I’d consider most systems that involve actual humans participating in it to qualify as an intransitive system – then it follows that there is absolutely, definitively, another stable & constant equilibrium to be discovered and experienced within it.

It’s at this point I ask these questions of the group I’m talking with:

QUESTION: Now that you know there’s a mathematical basis to believe that balance and stability not only exist but is actually in reach, are you ready to give a kick to push it into a new state?

QUESTION: Are you up for finding that other equilibrium, one that I am positive exists, which may provide a sense of stability for more people? 

I usually get a mixed bag of responses. The most hesitation comes from those who do not have a big problem with the current system. Of course.

You know how there are systems out there – be it a system at your workplace, or a manufacturing system, or even something like our judicial system – that might work for some but not (a significant part) of the whole? It could (likely) have been a system that was perceived by one group of folks – the same folks that have always had their voices be the most amplified voices – to have always worked very well and is still “working well.”

These are likely intransitive systems, where – from one perspective – one group of folks aren’t experiencing anything disruptive themselves yet other folks that are also experiencing that same system – but experiencing it from a different perspective – are absolutely feeling disrupted, they are not feeling stable, they are not able to achieve any sense of equilibrium.

If a system is stable that doesn’t mean the same thing as it working for all that need it “to work.”  If you agree with that phrase of mine, “Equilibrium. That’s all that we want. That’s all any of us want, really,” and you realize that you could be a part of making that happen, imagine what could be accomplished if you just give it a kick.

Achieving equilibrium – be it absolute or constant – means not only balance as being the optimal end-state but there’s also a whole road to getting to that balance. A journey, if you will. The Journey to Equilibrium. 

Thanks, math. You’re the best.

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