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

Has “thinking outside the box” become an oxymoron?

… if so how would one describe original thinking? (1)

Blue-Sky or Open Thinking

It’s nearly impossible to predict the intent behind all of the ways people use/abuse this phrase… To me “thinking outside the box”; when applicable to a situation or problem, doesn’t mean “unorthodox” thinking, it means “thinking w/o constraints” and represents only an early step in a process… as the results from such limitless exercise should be deemed “preliminary” or “suspect” until they can be tested and validated through the reality (aka; constraints) that any situation or problem statements we’re aiming to solve will likely have.

I wish that another way to express “thinking w/o constraints” would be to say “original thinking”… after all, “thinking” per se, is part of an automatic sequence triggered in all of our complex human organisms from an early age… we start to develop through our senses (sight, sound, taste & touch) which evolves us to question and so, we begin to think; simply and w/o constraints at first (original thinking) and in more complex (learned and societal influenced) ways a bit later which, unbeknown to us, will lead us to become a highly unpredictable species.

Assuming we’re not children (being one at-heart does not count…), we will find it hard to think “originally” which is why phrases such as the “outside the box” one get so much overplay me thinks. As we wistfully desire to do so.

Houses of Parliament series (Monet)

Monet - Houses of Parliament

Original or un-restrained thinking is a delightful experience…every time I have the opportunity to watch children in their early discovery years, I find myself admiring their raw creativity and wondering how powerful it would be if only we could regress and/or tap into it in meaningful (read: grown-up useful) ways. But alas, except in rare cases, as long as we have lived and still co-exist in a formal society, we have had – by necessity – to learn to place ourselves within it and by the process, forever loose the innocence required to admire things as they seem to be rather than as they are.

But I am hopeful…for there are some folks whose curiosity level, attitude and Spirit have allowed them to push through the reality and constraints most of us live with on a daily basis. Some are the artists we either admire or don’t understand, others we disregard as unpractical…as being too “out-there”. But I wonder…

Before ending this I would like to reference a poem by Lisel Muller that has deeply touched me and that I re-read on a regular basis. It is titled; “Monet Refuses the Operation” – hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

(1) Question posed on a TED discussion by Spencer Holmes

%d bloggers like this: