balance revisited

As I’ve mentioned in the previous post, I’m reading The ONE Thing. In the book, they talk about “lies,” people often believe.

I’ll admit, most of them I can nod along with and say, “sure, sure,” like Paul Newman’s character from The Hudsucker Proxy (great movie if you haven’t seen it). But some of the supposed “lies” are actually a bit harder for me to swallow. Two in particular: a disciplined life and a balanced life. The book’s authors claim both are a lie.

I consider myself to be a fairly disciplined person and I’m all about that balance stuff.

It turns out the disciplined “lie” isn’t so striking. The argument is that instead of trying to be disciplined in all aspects of life (and failing), just be disciplined in one thing. It makes sense and they use Michael Phelps as an example, so who can argue with that, right?

Balance though, that’s something I’ve really got to lean into (pun alert).

We live in a world full of extremes and I’ve always felt that balance is a healthier approach. There’s a balanced diet, a balanced checkbook, even balance bikes (you know, for kids).

The book makes the argument that while balance sounds great, no one actually achieves it—it’s an impossible ideal. Okay, yeah, maybe there’s some truth to that. 

In my mind, when I finally reach perfect balance I’m sitting alone atop a grassy knoll with legs crossed in some Zen-like trance and, somehow, little stones are hovering around me. That’s the moment right before I single-handedly take on an army of Storm Troopers. Hey, it’s my dream, I can do what I want.

Really, that’s never gonna happen. There are dishes to feed, mouths to change, and diapers to load. Oh, and that whole business about making money in order to keep the lights on. Plus the only Storm Troopers I know are just folks in costume.

Life is too full of important and necessary things to keep them all in balance. I get that. But I still think a mindset of balance is beneficial.

It’s better to allow yourself a little bit of sugar once a day (diabetics not included) than to go a few days without and then totally gorge yourself on it. Same with exercise. A little bit of exercise (like a short jog) every other day is way healthier than none at all followed by a day of pushing your body to the edge of cardiac arrest.

The book’s argument against balance is that only the people who live on the extremes are successful. That may be true in some sense, but I think it’s debatable as a principle for everyone. I know plenty of people who have lived their life on the extremes and done quite poorly for themselves.

The ONE Thing offers “counter balance” as the alternative to a balance life, where you focus on one thing while everything else gets neglected and then you return to the other things and focus on re-balancing. But even they can’t help but give the strong warning not to neglect family life too often for work. So even the balance haters have to admit there’s a need to hold work and family in some kind of equilibrium.

In the end, I think we might be talking about two sides of the same coin here. 

To me, balance is not holding everything equally, giving it all the same amount of time and attention. Clearly that’s not possible. Balance is finding the right amount of time to give every task, thought, emotion, goal, habit etc. If you’re angry all the time, or sad all the time, or even happy all the time, that’s not good. Life has rhythms and flows. For everything there is a season (you know the rest).

It’s kinda like a hula-hoop. You might look pretty silly swinging your hips that way and at the start you just keep dropping it again and again. But, the more you work at it, the more you figure out just the right way to keep that thing going, around and around and around.

Wait, were we talking about balance or centripetal force? Ah well, save it for another post I guess.

By the way, here's my previous post on balance, if you're leaning that way.

A.P. Lambert

A.P. Lambert is a creative professional who helps others live with creativity and purpose.