I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of “balance” as it relates to juggling activities and obligations in life…and it occurs to me that I might be thinking about it too simplistically. Quite frequently, when the term balance is affirmatively referenced in today’s magazines and online media outlets, it seems to imply that, at any given moment, all of life’s obligations should be perfectly weighted & appropriately apportioned. True, such articles are often benevolent enough to allow for the uniqueness of each individual’s portfolio of obligations and activities (i.e. everyone’s balance is different), but nonetheless, we should strive to ensure that everything, at all times, is optimized and counterbalanced. The general conclusion implies that achieving such balance is the key to happiness and fulfillment in your life. My question is…is there danger or, worse, mediocrity, in maintaining this view?
Should we adopt a longer-term perspective on this? Can we be balanced, on the whole, over longer periods of time and yet, in the short-term, swing wildly and erratically to one side or the other? For example, if I have just two obligations in my life and my lifespan is precisely two-weeks long (stick with me here…I know it’s a wildly unrealistic example…unless I’m a butterfly…which I’m not…at least not literally), I can split each day 50/50 between my two obligations or I can choose to spend the first week on one obligation and the second on the other. At the end of two weeks, I’m still dead…and I have managed to spend exactly the same amount of time between my two obligations. However, I think you can see that both approaches are radically different and are likely to produce different results, feeling, and emotions (maybe not for the butterfly…not sure if they have feelings and emotions…but I think you get my point).
Sometimes, great things can come from obsessive focus and fanatical obsession. In Rocky IV, even Rocky had to seclude himself in Cold War Russia to hone his skills and overcome distraction. How else do you think he could have defeated the towering, steroid-injecting Ivan Drago? Do you think that he would have achieved the same results if he had just hung around with Apollo and Adrian at the mansion and punched the clock at the local gym every day? Dare I say “I think not”? (Try not to focus on the fact that this is a fictitious character from a 1980’s movie…it worked well to illustrate my point…and if the whole city of Philadelphia can claim a fake boxing champion as an icon I can certainly use him to support my position!). While in Russia training for the fight, do you think his work/life balance was optimized? Of course not! And that, my friends, is my point!
We need to remember that there is a time component to this. Not all things need to be in balance at all times for us to be happy and fulfilled in life. Don’t shy away from great, inspiring, life-renewing pursuits just because they might create short-term imbalance in your life….consider the long-view. Great things often require periods of maniacal, laser-like obsession and focus.
And if you need more examples from cheesy 1980’s movies, I’m sure that I can come up with a few more to illustrate…(i.e. Do you think “Baby” would have ever gotten out of that corner if she didn’t have single-minded focus on learning to dance/obsess over Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing? Think she had life balance during camp? Hell no!) .
This is kind of a fun game actually…you should try it.