What is Equanimity and Why is it
Important in Life and Work?
“Equanimity suggests balance, centeredness,
not being pulled internally too far in one direction or another.”
— Nancy Flam
A few years ago I came across the word equanimity. The term was new to me. The concept was and is life-changing!
Equanimity is a capacity for calmness and balance even in a difficult situation. The concept provokes the image of a sailboat managing to remain upright and balanced even in heavy winds. Although the sails sway in the breeze, they hold centeredness.
For most of us, equanimity is a practice to be developed like exercising, eating healthier foods, or meditation. We set an intention to navigate toward the internal spaciousness that equanimity offers, and practice incrementally. Gradually, we learn to manage the sails as they flail in the winds of our lives.
Lately, I think frequently about equanimity. This is because I am aware of how easily stirred I sometimes feel in the precarious whims of life’s breezes and heavy winds.
I recently coached a client struggling with a relationship issue. “How do you typically deal with your emotions in these types of difficult situations?”, I asked her. She said she tried to pause and remember “this won’t last forever.” I asked how she could bring that calming voice to this situation, and what it would mean to her to do so. Then we brainstormed a few strategies she might consider. She chose a strategy she thought would work to gain greater balance, to feel less pulled by the relational dynamic. She followed through with an action plan to move forward with more inner spaciousness and equanimity.
A few thoughts on moving toward equanimity in life and at work:
1. Recognizing that equanimity is not indifference, passivity, or resignation. Building equanimity involves recognizing life’s challenges and the resulting thoughts and emotions, while also engaging the capacity to experience balance. Acknowledging the realities of a situation, but not being pulled emotionally too far in any direction. From this place, it’s possible to respond calmly, with resolve and action. Equanimity assists in personal and professional situations as well as engaging wrongs, oppression, and other confrontative issues in our communities and world.
2. Letting it be OK to begin where we are. Life presents many issues, for example, increasing demands at work, job transitions, health challenges, losses, political struggles. The tendency is to yearn for the way things were before the change or feel upset that things are this way. These habitual thought patterns and emotions can impede acceptance and action. Consider adopting a calming “this too shall pass” attitude; a knowing that things are changeable. Cultivating evenness, calmness, and self-compassion can lead to acceptance that it’s OK to start where we are.
3. Engaging techniques such as breath awareness and mindfulness In her book, Real Happiness at Work, mindfulness expert, Sharon Salzburg, writes:
“Mindfulness is a relational quality, in that it does not depend on what is happening, but is about how we relate to what’s happening.”
Mindfulness is a skill we can learn like swimming or planting a garden. Pausing and taking one or several conscious breaths offers a respite for clarity. The list below offers a few resources for mindfulness practice.
Practicing equanimity can bring more balance to everyday life and work even in rough waters.
- Flam, N. (November, 2017). Cultivating Equanimity.
- Oxford University Press (2017).
- Positive Psychology Program. (January 18, 2017). 22 Mindfulness Exercises, Techniques & Activities For Adults.
- Salzburg, S. (2014). Real Happiness at Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement, and Peace. Workman Publishing. NY.
- Williams, M. & Penman, D. (2011). Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World. Rodale Press.
Coaching with Ilene Can Help You Call Yourself to Action
Ilene Berns-Zare, PsyD, PCC, CMC is an ICF Credentialed Professional Coach and Speaker. Ilene helps people live their best lives by bringing mind, body, and spirit into flow with their strengths, callings and potential. She inspires clients to find fresh perspectives and access their full potential as creative, resourceful, whole persons. Find Ilene online and access free resources at http://ileneberns-zare.com.
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In light and empowerment,
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