Much ado about balance…

People often refer to “balance” in life or in work as if it was something pre-determined and concrete; a line-in-the-sand or a clearly defined goal that once reached, would produce such imagined “balanced” state of well-being.

The problem I have with this is that to me, the concept of “balance” isn’t fixed; rather, it is an ever changing “living” component of our individual lives whose definition is as diverse as we humans are and thus, any discourse about this “balance” – like with art –really is a highly subjective matter.

Who is to say that someone’s hectic and seemingly exhausting life isn’t really perfectly balanced… for them? Or that someone else’s highly organized seemingly moderated and diverse lifestyle isn’t really a nightmare of control and blandness to be avoided at all cost… for others?

In the past few years as “work-life balance” vision, objectives and words found their way into corporate statements and our own wistful vernacular, I have come to consider such as “unbalanced”; superficial “flannel”, which does little more than add noise and possible dissent into our corporate and private lives.

It is a relatively modern trend to view “work” as something singular and different from an individual’s “life”, but I’m reminded and offer that there should not be such a clear distinction between the two; that they are in-fact interdependent, each an integral part of the other and each – at times – requiring that more focus be given to one over the other.

For I can’t imagine living possible; in balanced ways or otherwise, without actually working at producing something in real-time; be it the pollen a flower produces for dissemination by bees and wind, to everyday necessities we acquire by the application and exchange of our life skills, to the contribution we make as we guide our babies to hopefully grow into the “next generation” of productive people.

All subject to daily external influences which impact and alter our lives and how we may have to modify our reactions to engage and deal with such influences moment by moment.

The idea that these and all other evergreen “productive life” components which together contribute to an overall life-on-the-planet balance of sorts, should each have and follow some form of prescribed self-balance – even if we could actually come to agree on what that “balance” should be for us as a species – is flawed and unreachable me thinks.

Have we – in our relative affluence – grown softer and more demanding of what is “due to us”?

Do airline pilots, typically regulated to fly about 40 hours per month, have more “balance” in their lives than the average Western individual working 60 hours per week… or a person working 18+ hours per day in an Asian factory? Which amount of work vs. “work-free” time, and/or “level” of balance within ourselves should we be striving for?

What about our poorer and distant neighbors… the folk elsewhere in Africa and India for example, scouring nearly around the clock for the means of basic survival such as finding relative safety, drinkable water and food of any kind that we, with our self-induced complicated lives, take for granted as a basic given? Do they need or even think about “work-life balance”… or is having the gift of actually waking-up breathing yet another day, hopeful of being able to make it all the way through to the evening with – perchance – some improvement, balance enough?

Perhaps our search for “balance” is a distracting cause; the wrong value to use when assessing ways to enhance our human existence holistically and in a sustainable productive manner. For all of us still breathing – in all of our wondrous diversity – manages to achieve our own reality based version of a “balanced life” if not on a daily basis, certainly over a period of time.

Remarkably, I believe our existential needs remain largely unchanged over the thousands of years our animal species has been around… regardless of gender and varying levels of modern day complexity, we are basically a “caves & commons” species; requiring security and solitude for self-reflection, healing and survival, as well as, communal engagement and interaction to give & take, lead & support, fight & love, reproduce & evolve to live another day.

The fact we may believe this ought to happen more gracefully or in a more even manner, albeit interesting, does not determine the overall worthiness; the blended achievement occurring in our current everyday lives… as “imperfect” as we may think such to be.

* Published in the Good Men Project: “Much Ado About Balance

Thinking differently…

How many of us read a newspaper or walk around our offices and neighborhoods and wonder if the people we read about and sometimes interact with actually really “think” at all…?

There seems to be no shortage of headlines to shock our system; the discovery of some new fraud fed by greed and gullibility, rising pressures driving folks to catastrophic breakdowns… to mother’s abandoning their children, teenagers killing each other, father’s enslaving and abusing daughters. We read about wars, starvation and death, massive man-made ecological blunders that challenge life at a macro level, irresponsible excuses and inadequate governance responses… how many of us shake our concerned heads and think; “what were they “thinking”…?”

Do we ever get the feeling that “thinking” per se, any form of informed and balanced “thinking” at all, would be a “nice” enough goal for us humans in-general to strive for… to give us all a chance; a reasonable alternative to the “unbelievable stuff” we brace ourselves each morning to read and witness throughout the day?

Why such a big preamble to share a view on what it means to “think differently”? Because I believe it is relevant to note and foundational to try to understand the potential effect this continued exposure to abnormal occurrences; to such endless mass of challenges, may be having on our psyches…

Inner Conflicts

Image by Henry M. Diaz via Flickr

Are we at-risk of “normalizing” what we are continually exposed to? Of distorting and maybe even impairing how we think about ourselves and others relative to this world we live in? Are we in-fact sub-consciously “thinking differently” as it were, just so that we can keep functioning in a socially acceptable manner?

And if this may be happening to those of us who are relatively safe and well-off in our respective “developed countries” and neighborhoods, how desensitized and disoriented are those of us that live on “the edge”; at the center of these events…without the relative “safety” of structure and hope, without roofs and walls to mimic some form of emotional protection…surviving if at all possible instinctively, whilst facing challenges and extinction day-in and day-out to levels the rest of us probably can’t adequately imagine?

How differently – assuming we could – would we have to “think” to effectively help ourselves in these circumstances even if only marginally?

CNN broadcasts a segment titled; “Impact Your World”…it came to mind whilst I pecked-away writing this; to Impact Our World…is what “thinking” – differently or otherwise – aims to accomplish me thinks. What it means to me.

We humans were designed to think…we MUST THINK and have the opportunity to ACT on our thoughts not just in London or Chicago or Beijing neighborhoods but in Kandahar, Haiti and Khartoum…just a handful of examples to indicate a much broader geographic base, so that our thoughts and actions can collectively impact our world hopefully in a benevolent way. Otherwise, our world as we broadly experience it these days will in the end completely desensitize, overwhelm and possibly eliminate us all-together.

Some days as we “read the news”, this may not seem like such a bad idea if only we were able to hit a “reset” button without doing away with ourselves by the process.

Thank goodness we stopped and thought about it.

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