There’s not much support or enthusiasm for balance in today’s American culture. We strive to: work as hard as we can, exercise mercilessly, be better looking, and have more material wealth than our neighbors.
It’s counter-cultural to want to work less, exercise gently, look good enough, and have enough to meet our needs – much less to have goals that are unrelated to being the best at something, anything.
In a culture where more is better, it’s not surprising that so many of us struggle with addictions to cope. Sex, food, booze, drugs, over-work (pick your poison) allow us to escape from the crushing demands and our feelings about how unmanageable our lives have become.
As a result of this cultural pressure, most of us gravitate toward black and white, when grey is usually the right solution. It’s just difficult to choose what shade of grey is right for us.
Tough choices, but worthy of strong consideration
How hard should we push ourselves at exercise? How much of ourselves are we willing to give to our work? When is it time to quit being so responsible and take care of ourselves rather than others or our work?
I’ve been an advocate for better life balance for decades, but I struggle with how to incorporate it into my own life. As a writer, I’ve journaled about my struggles, written columns and come up with exercises that I’ve used to inject more balance into my own life.
My biggest challenge with balance comes from wanting to be good at everything. Some people choose an artistic pursuit, a sport, a hobby, or a career that they want to excel at. My personal challenge is that I want to have it all: be smart, emotionally grounded, athletic, have a nice home, good marriage, strong spiritual life, bonds with my family and friends, and above-average career success.
A tall order that often detracts from my goal to balance rest with continual activity. So I’ve written a book entitled “Bringing Your Life into Balance” to share what I’ve learned about being in balance and to help you incorporate ways of weaving more balance into your life, as well. It will be published this fall.
Common barriers to being in balance
While writing the book, I identified the most common tensions that prevent me and many people I know from being in balance:
- The well-known difficulties of finding enough time for work, family and me.
- Figuring out how much time to devote to financial goals versus the personal ones, which are often short-changed
- Distinguishing between “taking responsibility” and codependence with family members, co-workers, and friends.
- Compassion for others versus boundaries that keep me focused on what I want to accomplish.
- Finding the right equilibrium between perfection and “good enough.”
- Maintaining balance while getting through tough times, including: death, divorce, financial challenges, disappointments related to children, etc.
The structure and discipline of bringing life into balance
Instead of solely focusing on work and family, I’ve created a vision of the myriad of benefits that I hope to enjoy by bringing my life into balance:
- Spiritually fulfilled by taking time to connect with myself and my higher power.
- Emotionally resilient, because I ask for help when I need it and take responsibility for my own role in my life.
- Physically fit compared to most other people my age – I don’t suffer from over- or under-use of my body.
- Intellectually stimulated by seeking challenges at work and at play.
- Work is not only challenging, but enjoyable, and I am appreciated.
- I take time to do things that are just for fun and are personally rewarding.
- Socially, I’m not isolated nor inundated with social obligations.
- Financially, my income matches seriously considered goals and obligations.
- The amount of time I devote to family obligations is in synch with the amount of time I want to devote to other family members.
I know bringing my life into balance requires vision, structure and discipline. I welcome you to join me on my journey to find balance in a very unbalanced modern American world.