The Imperfectly Balanced Life
There’s really no such thing as a balanced life, at least not a perfectly balanced one.
And what’s more, you wouldn’t want one. And you know what? I’ll go one step further. A balanced life isn’t for everybody.
We talk about the virtues of a balanced life all the time, don’t we? We hold it up as something to strive for, do we not? Yes and yes. So what’s this heresy?
Just a dose of reality.
Anyone who’s been with us for a while knows I’m a Peak Performance Strategist. That’s all about figuring out what you have to do to reach hard-to-reach goals.
Do you think someone training for her first triathlon might have to dedicate an inordinate amount of time and energy to training in order to do well?
And will that necessarily mean other areas of her life get a whole lot less time and attention while she’s coming up to speed? No doubt about it. Same thing with starting a business.
As Chuck Blakeman said in a recent Inc. Magazine article, “Momentum doesn’t come from balance, but from giving it your all up front. Any airplane burns up to 50% of its fuel just getting to cruise altitude.”
For a competitive athlete, it’s impossible to give equal focus to training PLUS meal planning, shopping, cooking, eating, your children, your spouse, your job, your spiritual practice, and your self-care … when your day was completely full before you took on the training.
Something has to give.
Is that a bad thing?
No. It’s a necessary thing. You hear world-class athletes talking about making sacrifices all the time.
It’s only bad when you become too unbalanced for too long.
Another example: Say you’re an accountant. Your life will be out of whack in the weeks running up to April 15 … guaranteed … no matter how much you wish you could get in a little golf or play with the kids more.
Can it be helped?
And what if you’re a genius at something and have a singleness of purpose? Would it be advisable to broaden your horizons in order to be more rounded? Not necessarily.
I’m happy Edison was obsessed with inventing things and considered sleeping a waste of time. I’m delighted Mozart spent his time writing music. I can’t see Einstein … or physics … being better off if he’d only done more gardening.
Great and exceptional don’t come from a place of perfect balance.
Sometimes it makes sense to forget about balance and give it your all in one area. Then again, if we’re way out of balance for too long, we risk crashing and burning.
For most of us, we want the “wheel of balanced living” to be as nicely rounded as we can get it most of the time. Being way out of balance … like working 14 hour days for months on end … can kill you.
But there are times when it makes sense to … or you just have to … go full bore on one aspect of your life or another … for a while … in order to be great … prolific … fulfilled … or simply responsible.
Does that mean it’s okay to neglect your family or perform poorly in your job?
Of course not. These things are still priorities no matter what else you’re up to. But it’s okay to give yourself permission to borrow time and attention from one area of your life to give to another on occasion.
You can bring everything back into balance once you’ve been there and done that.
So really, what you’re after isn’t the perfectly balanced life.
It’s the imperfectly-balanced at times but still overall pretty well-balanced life.
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