Is Life Balance Possible?
Study the best seller lists of the past few years and you'll notice titles that range from Peter Lynch's "Beating the Street" to Thomas Moore's "Care of the Soul: How to Find Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life."
This juxtaposition captures the dilemma facing all of us in the business world. How does one swim with the sharks, squeeze the margins of an angst-filled financial world, and still lead a life of wholeness in spirit, mind and body? Nor is this a new question. Marsilio Ficino's 15th Century treatise, "The Book of Life," sought to help the Medicis and their merchant counterparts create a renaissance of spirit amid the draining demands of commerce and a new creature called capitalism.
Whether a Renaissance banker or the CEO of a high tech conglomerate, whether a guild master of stonework or a manager of information services, the issue is still one of balance. But balance is not an equal measure of work, love, prayer and play. Nor is it a state that can be achieved and frozen in form for all time. Rather, this amorphous thing called "balance" is an on-going, deliberate set of decisions that make the journey of life much like the metaphor of sailing.
Consider the single person sailboat. When there is much wind, the little boat appears off balance, moving forward at an angle, sails filled to bursting and the sailor leaning back over the craft, with one hand on the sheet and toes hooked under the railing. What allows the sailor to stay in the boat is that he is connected to all the important parts of that craft. When the wind shifts, so too must the sailor. Life is also like that.
We give ourselves tremendous mental stress when we think that life must balance. Having a different image allows us to see where we might be out of control. Briefly, there will always be competing and unequal demands upon our time... much like the tug of the tiller or the push of the wind. Depending upon the course we have chosen for ourselves, we respond to these demands. We might decide to change direction, seek harbor, or give full rein to the beating waves and blustery wind. The quality of these decisions depends upon the direction of our sailboat, the prevailing winds, the depth of the water, and the need for overhaul and repair.
Direction refers to the goals, created by our values, which we have established. The wind and the depth of the water represent those people and events, outside our control, which make demands upon our time. Lastly, overhaul and repair stands for the need to cease and desist, to nurture and renew our physical and spiritual self, and to re-examine the course we are sailing. If we consider sailing as a metaphor for the "balance" we all seek along life's journey, then what is needed are navigational aids.
What could help all of us on such a journey is a process, a formula, whereby we might take stock of our decisions, weighing them against our personal values, goals, and physical requirements. Since we are all bound by the same relentless 24-hour day, we would be best served by looking at not how much we can cram into the blocks called "time", but how wisely do we choose what we put into our finite day.