The assumption in these questions is that a balanced life leads to a better life. That may or may not be true. How in fact can one life be better than another? Because we only get to live it once, can we ever truly know?
And yet, I have experienced those times when one role (manager, startup founder, father to babies) completely dominated the others. In all instances, this led to some form of physical, mental or emotional exhaustion. The result for me was that by my late 20s I had a clear vision for the kind of life I wanted to live.
I realised that my life was split into a whole series of roles (some of my clients use words like compartments or buckets) and that when one role dominates, the others live in the shadows. This leads to frustration, even anger – a sense of being overlooked and of shrivelling up.
This also means less time playing those other roles – being a father, son, husband, friend, volunteer or simply just being. Self-care, exercise and hobbies all get shelved. I therefore found that I functioned much better when I was able to nourish all aspects of my world.
What Does Balanced Mean?
I’m not sure there is any easy definition. More than anything it is a feeling. A sense that all aspects of you, all the voices within you, are being listened to and cared for.
For most of us, it is not a permanent state but rather something we need to reflect upon and finetune on an almost daily basis. We never know what a particular day may bring that may knock us off balance – something at work – a family illness – some other crisis.
This is part of living. Stoics even have a practice called PREMEDITATIO MALORUM where they fortify themselves against the worst the world can throw at them. Regardless of what happens they retain their balance.
“This is why we say that nothing happens to the wise person contrary to their expectations.” (Seneca, On Tranquillity of Mind, 13.3b)
What Step Might I Take Today?
Instead of fortifying myself against fortune or fate, I ask myself these questions:
- Where do I feel out of balance?
- What might I do about it?
- How might I get knocked over?
- What is the worst that can happen if I do get knocked over?
There are simply those times where we need to embrace the fact that one part of our lives is dominating. This might mean that we know we have to travel for work next week and won’t get to see friends or family or get the exercise we need but that at the end of it we can bring everything back into balance. However, for this to happen we need to know what balance means to us.
What does a balanced life mean to you?
Questions in the Image:
- Do I feel my life is balanced?
- What might knock me over?
- What might true balance look like?
Want to Further Explore This Topic?
Episode 18 of the Time Academy Podcast further explores the idea of balance in our lives.
Nurturing Curiosity – Daily Practice: This is part of the Nurturing Curiosity series of tools, insights and questions designed to help nurture curiosity as part of our daily practice. In point of fact, every interaction we have is an opportunity to question what we are observing and how we and others are seeing the world. Also remember that questions come in many forms throughout our day. A day when you’re not feeling well physically is an opportunity to ask How might I be pushing myself too hard? It is truly on those days that we get a sense of how tough a taskmaster we may be.
What Thoughts Would You Like to Share? My name is Tom O’Leary, and I envision a world in which curiosity shapes leadership. In this world, leaders aren’t boxed in by traditional thinking or established playbooks. They are open to fresh ideas and diverse perspectives, fostering a culture of exploration and learning. My mission is to shift leadership focus from authority, over-measurement and control to curiosity, learning and innovation, empowering leaders to prioritise the essential. My journey, lived in a number of countries and through various languages, has always been driven by a profound sense of curiosity. In fact, life has taught me that possibility lies not so much in seeking answers but in learning to ask better questions – the ones that help prioritise what is truly essential. I welcome your thoughts, feedback, or personal experiences related to these questions or any insights they may have sparked.