Posted by: kevinliebl | April 24, 2011

The Importance of Staying Balanced

Importance of BalanceWhen I was in high school, there was a popular song by Jackson Browne called “The Pretender”.  In it, he spoke of being “caught between the longing for love, and the struggle for the legal tender”.  This week, while traveling on business, I was reminded of the song as I spoke to a middle-aged woman sitting next to me on a flight between Dallas and Austin.  She explained that she was in pharmaceutical sales.  She was very successful, but as she put it, “had sold her soul” over the past 20-years of her career.  She was now between jobs and trying to “heal herself” since she was financially secure, but emotionally bankrupt.

Most of us struggle with this issue of balance in our life at some point.  It may be work vs. family.  It may be family vs. personal hobbies.  It may be personal hobbies vs. spirituality.  It could be any activity in our lives.  The result may manifest itself in obvious ways such as an addiction (e.g., alcohol, drugs, work, exercise), or in more subtle ways such as suffering relationships or excessive stress.  In most cases, it is simply a question of priorities.  Is it worth missing my son’s basketball tournament to be present at my company’s sales conference?  Are the physical and mental benefits of my exercise regimen worth giving up time I could be spending at the office or with my family?  The answer is different for everyone.

We all strive to be the best spouse, parent, child, neighbor, provider, student, athlete, and so forth that we can be.  However, the truth is that we can’t excel at everything.  Something always suffers.  There have been times when I put too much emphasis on certain aspects of my life and let those activities control me.  As a result, other interests suffered. There have been times when my social life took precedence.  There have been times when athletics – in my case cycling – has dominated.  For years, my career was all consuming.  In each case, I was lucky enough to recognize that I was out of balance and forced myself to re-center.  My wife continues to remind me that the right answer is, “everything in moderation”.

We first learned this lesson when we were children.  We quickly learned that too much ice cream or candy would lead to a stomach ache.   We learned that too much television would give us a headache.  Throughout our lives we are reminded that too much of anything is a bad idea.  However, we live in a society that glorifies excess.  The benchmark for what we consider “success” is often unachievable for most people.  This causes many of us to stay on a treadmill and not only feel like a failure in our area of focus, but clearly feel like a failure in the areas that we have chosen to sacrifice and ignore.

It is interesting that while we all understand the issue and know the answer, we chose to ignore the solution.  Most of us recognize we would be much happier having a healthy balance in our lives of work, family, education, spirituality, exercise, and so on.  I would rather be good in all areas, then great in one and poor in all the others.  The best answer is – almost always – a healthy balance.

I will close with a story attributed to the Dalai Lama that summarizes the point very well…

A question was posed to the Dalai Lama – “what one thing about human nature surprises you the most?”  His answer – “Man”

 “Because he sacrifices his health, in order to make money.
Then he sacrifices his money, to recuperate his health.
And then he is so anxious about the future, that he doesn’t enjoy the present.
And as a result, he doesn’t live in the present or the future.
And he lives as if he’s never going to die, and then he dies having never really lived.”

Find your balance and enjoy the ride – all of it, not just one part of it.

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Responses

  1. Good points Kevin, and often easier said than done. We serve many masters and try to please many in our lives, not the least of which are spouses and bosses. At the same time, we need to continually invest in ourselves too, whether our physical health (exercise), our minds (reading and study), or our spirits (worship, prayers and contemplation). Time is uncompressable and finite. Each of has only 24 hours in a day. Trying to keep it all in balance (especially the urgent vs the important) is a never-ending challenge. And special thanks for the ending quote. Makes me ponder, which is exactly the point….

  2. Family is the central point for my life. I enjoy my family life (time) and I will do whatever to support my family no matter doing publicly or personally. I always remind myself what is my true purpose for doing those things. I totally agree Ed’s point. Life is never in balance. However, we need to move around from one thing to another and do our best when we are doing things. And ask ourselves “why am I doing this?” Then you will gain more energy and you will never forget your eternal goal.

  3. Being a fellow member of the high tech marketing (semiconductors specifically) fraternity, I found your piece interesting and a personal reminder – balance can, and should, be achieved.

  4. I have been in Hi-Tech for 30 years and it never ceases to amaze me how fast it is going. It is a very difficult field to be successful in and still succeed in having “life-balance”. I am reading a book right now called, “The Power of Now” by Eckert Tolle. He quotes the Dali Lama in much the same way. The book is about making sure you keep your “center” or consiousness and that if you are always dwelling in the past or worrying about the future, you will never realize the the real control of your life is managing the present. I am learning but its hard. I want balance, but if my family isn’t taken care of emotionally, financially, phyically, etc., I have failed from the start. So I feel balance starts at home. The rest is second.


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