What is balance? What is balance in life? We often hear people talk about being out of balance in life or complaining about their life being lopsided. Usually, these complaints involve work and the fact that it can sometimes seem to consume your waking periods. One of the first things that I need to make clear to you is that work is part of your life. It pays the bills, and it gives one a sense of purpose. It also helps if you like what you do!
Don’t get me wrong. Living a balanced life doesn’t mean you take more time from your work life by attempting to reallocate it to other parts of your life. In fact in many cultures, this would not be possible. If you reside and work in the United States, you are probably working more hours than most all other industrialized nations (see the chart below). Longer working hours is mostly a cultural issue, and it’s probably not going to change radically.
So, living a balanced life is not necessarily about time portioned between life segments. It is more about how you spend the time that you have. It is really a philosophy about the things that are important to you. A well balanced life contains four segments:
If you give your work an inordinate amount of focus, it is likely that some or all of these areas will be lacking. That is not balance! Again, I’m not talking about time. I’m talking about focusing your attention fully to these areas when you are working within them.
Why is balance important? There is a very high correlation between balance in life and self reported happiness. Studies in this area show that individuals who have very high weekly working hours report an increased incidence of depression (27%), anxiety (34%), and irritability (58%). More than 40% of employee’s who were surveyed reported that they are neglecting other aspects of their lives because of their work.
How do you achieve balance? Achieving balance in one’s life is going to be different for every individual. It will be based on their respective weighting of importance in each of the four segments of life. In other words, a formula will not meet the needs of all people. Developing a philosophy about life and your individual circumstances will provide the most fruitful results in achieving balance.
I recommend that you seek wisdom and guidance wherever you feel comfortable in helping you shape your philosophy. Siddhartha Gotama taught his disciples to follow the “middle way.” The middle path is not about going straight down the middle, or as we discussed above, portioning equal amounts of time to each area of your life. The middle path is about moderation between the extremes of indulgence and self mortification. It’s about taking each of those four segments of your life seriously and not letting any piece suffer from lack of focus.
Your life will take many turns. You may find that you are neglecting one area of your life because events in another area of your life have become time consuming. Having the focus to be mindful of this and return attention to the neglected areas when you are able is crucial to the achievement of life balance. In many ways, your life is like a ship on the ocean. You can decide what your course will be, but, the tides, the currents, or a storm may push your ship off course.
A good ship’s captain will deal with this by constantly adjusting the ships navigation as necessary. You must do the same. Life is not a straight line moving from one place to another but instead a zigzag path. If you make the necessary adjustments at the right times, you’ll end up at your desired destination and find balance along the way.
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Amplify Your Results!
Dr. Richard B. Greene, DBA
Peak Performance Coach & Human Potential Expert