Life is about balance. The good and the bad. The highs and the lows. The piña and the colada.
Don’t confuse having a career with having a life.
~ Hillary Rodham Clinton
The notion of balance is an old one but is as important now as it has ever been. Modern life tends to move at a frenetic pace. Our professional and personal lives are equally demanding, and we are getting information, both helpful and unhelpful, at the speed of light.
We each start our day with a bottle full of mental and emotional energy—our energy juice—and it can go fast.
We use up a significant amount during our workday. For many, that’s where most of the bottle is poured. Then when we come home, we pour a bit more out—maybe while coaching our kids or engaging in their school functions. We pour a bit more out while interacting with our spouse and working through marital issues. Then we see if there’s any more left in the bottle to address day-to-day problems and issues, such as bills, doctor appointments, household maintenance, and the never-ending stream of minutiae we all have to deal with. After all this, we turn to those things that we do for ourselves. But when we pick up the bottle, there’s nothing left.
We know that each of these elements of our life will require some energy juice. And just to be clear, I’m not talking about time (see Time), although it is related. I’m talking about expenditure of energy and emotions. For some of us, the bottle is a bit bigger, for some smaller, but the amount is finite for all of us.
How much energy juice you use for each aspect of your life should not be left to chance or dictated by demands. It should be based on a balance of all the aspects of your life that give you what you need and what you want. It should be well thought out.
The balance in what life gives us back is also important. Sometimes it may seem as if life is giving us nothing but headaches. Your car breaks down, you catch a cold, you lose your keys, you get into an argument—it can seem like the world is against you. But the bad times can help us recognize the good times as good. Rain can make you appreciate the sun. Pain can make you appreciate joy. Loss can make you appreciate what you have.
The concept of balance in our lives can also be thought of in a much broader sense. Take the philosophy of yin and yang for example. This concept describes seemingly opposite forces that are actually interdependent and complementary. It can be used to describe many things in the universe: darkness and light, male and female, cold and hot; but it also fits very well with issues we face in our everyday lives.
How many spoiled people do you know who have happiness, serenity, and inner peace? Probably not many—they don’t know that they are privileged because they have nothing to compare their good fortune to. They don’t have a yin (negative) to go with their yang (positive). But the concept is more than just a basis for comparison.
The two aspects of our lives are actually part of and flow into each another. It is often true that a strong sense of contentment or accomplishment can only come from struggle and hardship, that a sword only becomes sharp after time spent grinding against a stone, and that beautiful music only comes through intense practice. The yang is actually part of, and flows out of, the yin (and vice versa).
When I experience stress, anxiety, or depression, one of the first things I think about is the balance in my life. When your life is out of balance, the universe has ways of letting you know. Don’t ignore those signs. Balance doesn’t happen by accident and it can take a variety of forms, but it is a critical aspect of a well-rounded and fulfilling life.
It’s OK to be generous with your juice, but keep some for yourself. Oh, and don’t be a yin-hater—you can’t have your yang without it!