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4 Key Qualities of Balanced People

What it means to be psychologically balanced.

Key points

  • Psychological balance involves possessing a consistent yet flexible outlook on life and spending the right amount of time on oneself and others.
  • Researchers recently constructed a model of psychological balance containing 10 value domains, such as self-direction and achievement.
  • People who are psychologically balanced generally possess a core set of values but also tailor the priorities of their values to a given setting.
Ivana Cajina / Unsplash
Source: Ivana Cajina / Unsplash

A new paper published in Frontiers in Psychology attempts to define an important yet elusive term in positive psychology: psychological balance. According to the researchers, it has to do with the degree to which someone is able to possess a consistent yet flexible outlook on life while also knowing how to spend the right amount of time taking care of oneself versus others.

“In the literature, absence of psychopathology infers psychological balance, which is associated with psychological continuity across time and an ability to cope with daily challenges,” say the authors, led by Anastasia Besika of the University of Zurich in Switzerland. “In spite of [...] a strong association between psychological balance and well-being, investigations of how an individual remains psychologically stable in a constantly changing environment are missing.”

To fill the gap, the researchers constructed a model of psychological balance containing, at its center, the following 10 value domains:

  1. Self-direction (e.g., “I decide about which way my life goes”)
  2. Stimulation (e.g., “I am open to discovering new things in life”)
  3. Hedonism (e.g., “I can enjoy life to the fullest”)
  4. Achievement (e.g., “I strive to do my best and succeed in what I do”)
  5. Power (e.g., “I strive to gain resources and influence over others”)
  6. Security (e.g., “I want to be safe wherever I am”)
  7. Conformity (e.g., “I follow social rules out of respect for others”)
  8. Tradition (e.g., “I follow ideas of my culture or religion”)
  9. Benevolence (e.g., “I care about my family, friends, and other people”)
  10. Universalism (e.g., “I care about all things on the planet”)

“All of the 10 universal values are important and they all influence psychological balance to a different degree,” says Besika. “We tend to have multiple values and we can change our value priorities at different times. Although we prioritize different values at any given time, less prioritized values are equally important as part of the value system.”

The researchers found that people who expressed a high degree of psychological balance were those who possessed a core set of values that defined who they were, but who were also able to tailor the priorities of their value system to fit the needs of different situations.

“An unexpected situation may require us to put aside something very important to us and re-define our goals,” says Besika. “The current pandemic is a very good example of that. We all had to change our routines and find new ways of doing things while prioritizing staying healthy, something we took for granted previously.”

Moreover, people can get into trouble when they cling to only one or two core values.

“One important finding is that extreme endorsement of any single value leads to unhealthy behaviors—for example, workaholism or even terrorism,” comments Besika. “According to our theoretical approach, values influence well-being as a dynamic system and not as single elements.”

The other key piece of psychological balance, according to their model, has to do with the amount of time one invests in improving oneself versus the time spent helping others.

The researchers suggest that individuals who devote relatively equal amounts of time to themselves and others—what they refer to as a 1:1 self/other ratio—are most likely to exhibit psychological balance.

“The present work provides validation of a novel theoretical development concerning psychological balance, a dynamic state characterized by relatively stable characteristics that can adapt to change,” state the researchers. “Accordingly, evidence indicates that the integration of the 10 value domains, which constitute a universal value structure, as ideals that inform personal goals and influence behavior, as well as the ability to define and pursue new meaningful goals when life events get in the way of a person’s plans, contribute to psychological balance. A critical ratio of motivation to benefit personal interest and the interests of other people influences a person’s psychological stability and overall well-being.”

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Besika A, Horn AB and Martin M (2021) Psychological Balance Scale: Validation Studies of an Integrative Measure of Well-Being. Front. Psychol. 12:727737. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.727737

Besika, Anastasia. How To Live A Psychologically Balanced Life., 26 Sept. 2021.