I’ve spent a lot of energy over the last few years tying to wrap my head (and my life) around the concept of balance. It’s easy to see it when our peers are clearly off-balance, but oftentimes harder to see the spot on which we stand. Do you notice yourself or your peers working 15 hour days, spending all your free time with your girlfriend/boyfriend and none with your friends, or maybe even going to the gym 3 times a day? At the foundation of each of these activities are good intentions. In-and-of-themselves, there’s no harm in working, dating, or working out. But like anything, there are tipping points (think of the person who over-eats or over-drinks). Where are the limits?
I unquestionably believe that the boundaries are different for everyone. For some, working 8 hours a day is their threshold whereas for others, it can comfortably (and enjoyably) be 12. But, how does one balance work, social, love, spiritual, and family life? Certainly for some, these pillars will vary. But, I think we’d be kidding ourselves to think that spending 90% of our waking moments focused on one of these categories will be fulfilling. Think to the mom who spends all of her time caring for her family and forgets to take time for herself. Her intentions were spot-on but still resulted in some amount of stress or dissatisfaction.
Let’s look at it this way: there is no black without white, meaning it’s tough to see the good in one situation if not juxtaposed with something else. It’s tough to enjoy your time at the office if you have no ‘me’ time. It’s tough to enjoy your monetary success if you have no time to do so or no one with whom to enjoy it.
About a year ago, I asked a successful businessman how he achieves balance as he runs a large company, has a family, volunteers, and has an avid social life. He explained to me that he doesn’t look at it as balance as much as integration. He continued to say that if something he commits to doesn’t hit on at least two cylinders (social and business, family and social, etc) he doesn’t do it. By integrating his worlds, he no longer feels off-center.
I continue to check my own life to see how this plays out. And typically, it doesn’t take much to do a self-assessment because I can tell by my stress levels and happiness. When I’m feeling calm, satisfied,and generally content, I know things are relatively integrated. When I’m feeling rushed, uneasy, and stressed, I know something is off.
I went to my first yoga class since college last week. Not only was it a wonderful experience of both mind and body, but I got to enjoy it with one of my best friends. It’s taken me about a year to come to a conclusion as to what could be a good physical challenge for me, but also be enjoyable. For now, at the very least, I’ve found this solution and feel I’m rounding out that side of my circle of balance, which for some time looked like it was drawn by a 3 year-old, a bit lop-sided.
As things change in our lives during our Betwixter years, I can only imagine how the shifts in balance will occur, but we’re fortunate to have this stage of our lives to build the foundation for those future changes and challenges, hopefully more equipped to better handle them down-the-road.