Twelve years of research, study, and introspection carried me from my own disengagement to where I am now. Along the way, I learned that the three realities of life balance aren’t all that different from the realities of balance in the world of sports and fitness.
What follows is an excerpt from my book, Navigate Chaos, available October 10 on Amazon.
1. If you lack balance, you will fall.
Just like a gymnast may fall from the balance beam if they lose their balance, you too (or those closest to you) will fall without proper life balance. While the ultimate result may not be as sudden, the impact can be far greater…years of regret, failed relationships, illness and disease, the list goes on.
In my early thirties, my work was pervasive. Though I professed to my wife and children that no one was more important, I did not demonstrate it through my actions. Though I believed that faith was foundational to my core being, it took a back seat to the demands of my job. And though I valued fitness and health as a former athlete, I did not commit the time to sustain it.
My professed priorities were inconsistent with my demonstrated behaviors. Work defined me and consumed all aspects of my physical and mental being. I lacked balance and, as a result, my relationships with my wife and children were not whole. My spiritual foundation was lacking. And, I was physically unhealthy. Ultimately, my lack of balance was the underlying root cause of my crash. I had fallen.
In what aspects of your life are your professed priorities inconsistent with demonstrated behaviors?
What warning signs exist that you are falling or headed for a fall?
2. Sprinters never last.
Even the most superior, conditioned athletes in the world cannot sustain a sprinter’s pace indefinitely. They must eventually, pause…they must rest…they must refuel.
In his book The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, Robin Sharma likens our lives to that of a high-performing machine. If you purchased a high-performing vehicle, would you run the engine non-stop without a periodic pause to cool the engine, refuel, and change the oil?
I took off in my career on a dead sprint. I was eager to please and determined to succeed. This seemed sustainable as a bachelor in my twenties but persisted as a detrimental habit that lacked strategic focus and clarity of personal values and life priorities. Eventually I fell in love, got married and had two kids and a dog. The competing demands grew exponentially, and I had not learned the discipline necessary to pause. I had not learned the importance of filling my tank.
Stephen Covey wisely defined the 7th(and most important) habit of highly effective people as “Sharpen the Saw.” This is a metaphor for the simple act to preserve, refresh, and enhance your physical, spiritual, mental, and social/emotional well-being. And just like pausing to sharpen the saw can greatly enhance the productivity of the lumberjack, so too can pausing to sharpen your mental, physical, and spiritual well-being enhance your productivity and fulfillment.
In what aspects of your life do you need to refuel or sharpen the saw?
What warning signs exist that you are running out of gas?
3. Overuse leads to injury.
In a study published in in the May 2017 issue of theAmerican Journal of Sports Medicine, University of Wisconsin researchers found that young athletes who participate in their primary sport for more than eight months in a year were more likely to report overuse injuries.This seems to be a statement of the obvious. Perhaps more concerning are reports from the American Academy of Pediatrics, that discovered a higher prevalence of burnout, anxiety, depression, and attrition among children that specialize early in a single activity.Just like the specialization of young athletes leads to higher incidence of physical and mental injury, so too will a specialization or singular focus on work to the neglect of other personal priorities.
For years, my job was the single, priority focus of my life. It defined and consumed me. Even when I participated in activities associated with family, faith, or friends, work always crept into my thoughts. I was always preoccupied and rarely present to these and other important aspects of my life. I was unable to experience joy. I was not present.
My singular focus, or specialization, pertaining to my job taxed my physical and mental well-being. I had high-blood pressure in my early thirties. Though physically and mentally exhausted, I experienced many sleepless nights. I did not know who I was or what I even desired in life. Not surprisingly, I ruptured my Achilles tendon during a rare night of basketball with friends. I was not inspired. I was depressed. I was injured.
In what areas of life does overuse come at the expense of other priorities?
What warning signs exist of mental, physical or spiritual injury?