The difficulty in keeping one’s life in balance is related in large part to the type of life we lead in America. Industriousness is rewarded in our society and at times busyness can become an addiction. Yet, balance is not reached by simply paring down our activity, it’s selecting those activities that sustain our spirit and organizing our time so that life’s pursuits make sense in light of our personal goals and philosophy of life. While everyone has a point of pure exhaustion, what we really need are diversions – opportunities to exercise a different part of the brain and be creative. I am influenced by Daniel Pink’s thoughts in his book Drive. The author’s primary message is that we are happier as human beings when we have significant opportunities to be creative and autonomous.
Like most of you, I am both fortunate and cursed to have so many interests. While my job as an educator carves out a powerful slice of my day and week, music allows me to exercise a different part of my brain. I lead a contemporary music group of about 20 men and women at a large church in Manchester, NH which is both exhilarating and challenging while forcing me to keep up my musical chops. In addition, my father the engineer instilled within me a love for technology so playing with the latest gadget or experimenting with social media challenges me to be inventive.
Focusing on health is crucial for balance too. As the economy has worsened and true retirement seems but a dream, I have made a commitment to exercise and lose weight so I can earn a salary as long as I need to. Stopping by the local gym and enrolling in the online Weight Watchers program has increased my energy and well-being quicker than any other method.
Ultimately, commitment to family is the greatest factor in achieving balance for me.
As the kids have grown (Ben is 24, Abby is 21, and Jake is 16) it has also been easier to involve my kids in what I do. My daughter Abby, when she is home from college, sings with my church group. I share Fantasy Football with Ben and Jake as well as a love of technology. It’s also easier than ever to go on dates with my wife given the age of the kids. The five of us have shared two summer vacations every year as are all dedicated to forgo our jobs and other commitments for a week in July and one in August. Truly, how you achieve balance shifts as the family changes.
As the new year begins, striving for life’s balance is a challenging but worthy goal. Sit down with the people you love and assess together how balanced your life and your family’s life is at the beginning of 2012. You will find more balance and meaning in life when you truly examine the activities that are taking up your time. May you have an incredible 2012.