The Problem with Balance
Seekbalance in all things you do in life. This is the well-known and often-heard universal advice to many challenges and problems in life. Experts constantly encourage us to do all things in balance. Corporate life encourages a life-work balance attitude (as though work is not part of life, but maybe that’s just semantics). Balance in our work, in our hobbies, in our careers, and in our relationships. Do you really think this is the best approach to living well?
Balance means everything is in equilibrium. It means you allocate just the right amount of time to all the things that ask for your attention. You should do just enough of this and just enough of that, and take care of everything and everyone in perfect balance and harmony. This could be a safe and smart approach to life for many. It makes for a very orderly and possibly stress-free life. It may even take you safely into old age and afford you much wisdom along the way.
But how can you pursue wild passionate dreams in the calm of balance and order? How can you achieve greatness without complete chaos and turmoil first? How can a balanced distribution of all your efforts yield a significant result in any one aspect of your life?
Trade in Balance for Focused Intensity
If Michelangelo had balance in his life, would he have sculpted the surreal La PietÃ at 24 years old and painted his masterpieces, “The Last Judgment” and the entire ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, among other prized treasures, all in one lifetime? If Leonardo da Vinci had balance, would he ever have given the world the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper to admire with eternal awe, not to mention his other brilliant timeless beauty? If Leo Tolstoy had balance, would he have given us War and Peace and Anna Karenina in such a short time?
The answer is an emphatic no. Quite obviously, balance and genius do not go hand in hand.
And if the thought of not comparing yourself to such greatness crosses your mind, dispel it instantly. Because it is a self-fulfilling prophecy that we become what we think. I would be the first to admit my conviction that there will never ever be another Michelangelo or Leonardo da Vinci or Tolstoy but that is irrelevant to the point at hand.
The masterminds of the Renaissance and literature did not have balanced, orderly lives. They had a deep passion, purpose and yearning in their lives and lived to fulfill it with all their might in their every waking moment.
And if you were to choose any role model for your life, would these genius minds come short in inspiration?
I think we need less balance in all things and more focused intensity in the right things.
The creation of balance may rightfully convince you that you have no time for that art class you are dying to take or that musical instrument you are longing to play if you want to keep this perfect balance and order in your life. Because those new pursuits may mean less sleep and less time with your family and perhaps even less social time with the co-workers. The guidelines of balance may very well discourage you altogether to pursue anything else at all. You have way more than enough to do as it is but are they the right things on which to spend your finite time in life?
And besides, it’s quite possible that art class may not kindle your passion; you may realize you have no talent for art but your passion lies in music or theatrics or writing. Or perhaps like many happy grown adults, your true calling is still undefined and yet to be found. But balance is not going to help you find it. Curiosity, deep search, questions, trial-and-error, and stepping out of your comfortable zone into unknown territory, that is how you will find your calling.
Passions, Focus Intensity and Happiness
There is no such thing as too late or too old for pursuit of your passions. There is only sloth and complacence that get in the way and too much balance and harmony may just feed your comfort zone to the point where you relax too much and miss out on your own greatness.
Defining the right things to focus on with insane passion rather than focusing on everything with balance, that is the best way to unlock your own potentials and tap into your true reservoir of talent and abilities.
Maybe it’s time for that extra relationship or responsibility to go if it no longer is serving you well. It may be anything but easy to make those calls — but not making them is the worst regret of all. Maybe it is a waste of time to complete mundane tasks and fill in the weekends with an extra hour of relaxation or a trip to the beach — and maybe it would do your soul and inner core some good if you pursued a difficult project which will have your wheels spinning to the wee hours of the morning. Maybe in the process, you learn something amazing about who you are, and what you really like, conventions and propriety be damned.
My main question for you is this: Are you living a full, intense and passionate life or just creating balance in things that demand your attention? Are you swimming purposely in a certain direction or letting the waves shove you here and there and just staying afloat and balanced in the process?
When you find a niche which calls your name, and to which you can passionately belong, exercising balance in your life may seem irrelevant in presence of such joy, happiness and completeness. The happiest people I know do not have much balance at all. They have a deep passion which exhausts them and challenges them and yet feeds them with this incredible stream of joy and happiness. They are fanatical about what they want, they are filled with energy and drive, they are unstoppable. They go for long periods without rest or relaxation. They sacrifice heaps and make many hard choices and live in chaos more often than not but they seem to be the happiest of all.
When you find such a place, balance is out the window and you dedicate your entire life to creating greatness. You will live and breathe your passion with focused intensity and from it flows all the happiness and peace of mind imaginable.
My greatest question at the day’s end is not whether I have relaxed enough, rested enough, and allocated enough time to everything which demands my time and effort. It is whether I have put my talents to good use and fed my passions and deepest desires to the best of my abilities. And at the end of my life, I imagine my greatest regret would be if I never pursued a passion with insane focus and drive and not whether I lived a fully balanced life. Today, I am living a life that would give that regret no chance. Are you?