Recently I asked my wife of 43 years, “What do you like most about me: my rugged good looks or my athletic body?” She looked at me from head to toe and replied, “I like your amazing sense of humor.” Well, based on our conversation, at least you can tell that I’m well balanced. In fact, that’s what I’d like to talk to you about: balance.
I remember reading a joke where an elderly woman using an ATM asked a man standing near her to help her check her balance, so he pushed her over. Okay, maybe it’s not that humorous, but there’s a principle it highlights. If we become too invested in one aspect of our life, at the expense of others, we can tip over. Have you ever heard this axiom? “We lose our health to make money; then lose that money to restore our health.” Of course it’s important to work hard, but it’s also important to give time to your health, love, family, and friends because nobody, even ourselves, will remember the meetings, lofty degrees, or hours of overtime on our death bed.
We live in the middle of a crazy time in a crazy world with crazy pressures putting crazy demands requiring crazy schedules on us, and we have crazy expectations of ourselves. Our society is filled with workaholics, exercise-aholics, food-aholics, TV-aholics, and even Facebook-aholics. As a people, we have become unbalanced and have forfeited the peace and happiness we’re actually chasing. For some, to recapture this balance will only require a minor course change, but for others, it will require heroic measures. Either way it will be so worth it.
What does life balance actually mean? Is it really attainable? What does it entail? What is the pay-off? Life balance is the state of bringing all your activities, relationships, desires, and needs into a state of equilibrium to where each receives the time and energy they require without robbing each other of any attention. We probably all know of someone who has destroyed their marriage because they gave everything to their career or someone who underachieved in their education because they spent too much of their time on the ski slopes or at the beach. No doubt, modern life is a juggling act and if we concentrate too much attention on one specific ball, we’ll probably drop some of the others.
Years ago I had a personal experience with this principle. I decided to run a marathon. In preparation I couldn’t think about much else other than my next run. I became fanatic, extremist; everything else in my life took second place. My relationships suffered, my patient flow at my practice decreased 25%, and I became like a one note pianist. After the race was over and I realized what had happened to me, I put my love of running into its proper priority and it was such a relief, almost like I had be released from jail. I still run often to this day, but it’s just one of the balls I juggle.
Let me share some very simple ways to get control and balance in your life. Notice that the ideas are simple, but the practice may need some work. The process will be different, custom made, for each of us.
1 – Watch who you hang around with. Avoid whiners and people with poor attitudes. They are toxic. I am reminded of the Jack Nicolson movie “As Good As It Gets” when he said to Helen Hunt, “You make me want to be a better man.” That’s the kind of friends you want.
3 – Value your time. It may require some budgeting, just like with your finances. Learn to say “no” to things and people that would tip your balance one way or another. Sometimes it helps to work hard in shorter packets of time, and then move on to another interest. Variety can feel like a mini-vacation.
4 – Nurture your family relationships. Make any time spent with loved ones quality time.
5 – Lighten up, joke, play, smile, and laugh lots.
6 – Pamper yourself regularly. Get a massage, buy yourself a treat, read a fun book, go to the movies, jettison what clearly isn’t working for you, or take a day off for some personal R & R.
7 – If you’re brave enough, ask your closest loved ones how they think you are doing with balance. Be prepared for some surprising responses and be willing to do something about them.
As you bring your life into a more beneficial equilibrium, you should feel less overwhelmed, more at peace, and more relaxed. You should even have lower blood pressure. I’ve heard it said, “There is no need to drag yourself through life. Let go of the struggle and give yourself the time and love to find balance.”