I have an adverse reaction every time I hear someone give advice about living a balanced life. It doesn’t matter who it is, it drives me crazy. I was talking with my pastor and it finally occurred to me what it is.
It seems that this concept of “balance” teaches that there is the perfect middle ground between your priorities that allows you to stay “balanced”. That if you “balance” your life you can be happier in everything you do. Not only is it technically impossible to live a balanced life it’s a total farce as a recipe for happiness or success.
Balance implies every priority is of equal weight in your life. Balance also implies that time spent should be proportionate to your priorities. After all, if something is important to you – you should spend more time on it. I believe both of these assumptions are flat wrong. Let’s see if I can articulate why.
Suppose I was going to proportionately distribute my time to things that are important to me. My wife is more important to me than my job, so I should spend more waking hours with her than work. My children are more important to me than my career, so I should spend more time with them than work. My parents, same thing. My brothers, my friends, dittos. And then there is my music and writing and composing are also more important to me.
If I were to live a balanced life, economically speaking I would be a bum. Actually, I’d have no time to be a bum. My faith in God is my most important thing so I’d be a monk instead, seek exclusion and abandon all other priorities in my life and spend all my time with him.
Maybe that sounds a little extreme. So lets take a look at this “balance” thing with another approach. Perhaps I am supposed to give all of my priorities equal value? In that model my wife is equal to my work, etc. Let’s just stop right there. That won’t work for me at all.
If I am to lead a “balanced life” I either need to spend more time in each area of my life that is important to me and less where it’s not or I need to admit that my life is out of balance. While I would love to spend more time in areas that are important to me, I still choose the later.
I believe in being out of balance. I believe in being passionate. Out of balance allows me to focus at what needs to get done when it needs to get done. Balance is a principle that leads to moderation and eventually the withering and contraction of good things.
I maintain that being out of balance is a God made principle that creates growth in nature, in relationships, in education, in every area. When you boil water you don’t “balance” the water temperature. When an airplane takes off from the runway, it doesn’t do it at a balanced speed. It takes tremendous energy overcoming great resistance to do a thing of any significance.
I like to call these periods of being out of balance “seasons”. Just like there is a season to plant and a season to harvest there is a season to work hard, and there is a season to play hard. But this principle does not only apply to planting and harvest time. It’s seasons that make life work. You don’t balance it out and say, “we just planted 5 minutes now it’s time to harvest 5 minutes.” How absurd is that?
If you make the assertion that less time spent means less value, you are wrong. It’s impossible to balance your life in this way. Based on that assumption, I should never leave home. And there is a multitude of things I should never waste my time on because their value is insignificant compared to what’s really important. I work because I love my family, I love my friends, I work to serve others and in a season of work I am out of balance because of my priorities.
So in Danny’s world, time spent has nothing to do with balance or value. The second it takes to plant a seed is not equal to the time it takes to grow the seed or the time to harvest. Which is most important? Can you have any harvest without the time it takes to plant that seed?
But it’s not just my world in which this “balance” thing doesn’t work. The concept of balance is foolish especially when it comes to economics and politics. A balanced vote is a no pass. A balanced government is non decisive. A balanced view of liberty means you are not free 50% of the time. Balance in a spiritual sense means you are in heaven 50% and hell 50%? Balance is not a good thing in any circumstance where goodness is what is being balanced.
We can not equally distribute our lives among the things we value, we must be out of balance. Balance is for mediocrity, I want to be out of balance. I want to live.
It’s foolish in my mind to try to balance your life because priorities should not be of equal weight. And concerning time management, you cannot be balanced between your priorities because sometimes it just takes more time to do things that aren’t very important.
One final thought on balance. If you believe that balance is a good thing, odds are that you believe you can mitigate the affects of bad decisions, policies or even destructive behavior with balance. That there is an equilibrium that exists. If I balance my drinking, I won’t become an alcoholic. The absurdity of this statement is that you don’t spend 50% of your time drinking to become an alcoholic. Nor does it take drinking 50% of your liquids. And if someone is an alcoholic, they don’t stop being an alcoholic through moderation. They have to get out of balance and stop drinking all together.
I’m not saying that you should drink obsessively, that’s even more absurd. I am saying that the principle of balance is bogus. The concept of balance as a means to avoid obsessive excessive behavior is a bogus principle. It doesn’t work. You cannot balance or mitigate the affects of a destructive behavior or policy. You can’t balance it.
It’s an excuse for not taking responsibility and not being accountable. Whether in relationships, social governance, or drug addiction – balance is an excuse for letting something happen with the false assumption that you can contain the affects.
Personal accountability requires at times for you to be out of balance and that’s a good thing. In fact, you cannot balance your life. Sometimes you cannot chose the seasons and sometimes you can. You have to invest in what’s important and sometimes you have to do things that are a complete waste of time. That’s part of the seasons. Don’t deceive yourself with “balance” to make your life work. You have to make it work. You have to take action.
More importantly don’t use balance as an excuse for mediocrity. You are better than that.
I probably have angered some of you who are balanced-life believers or advocates. I don’t really know what to say about that. Perhaps if you believe in it to the level that it would upset you, you are probably out of balance yourselves.
Hmmm. Now it’s time for me to get back to work. And I feel good about that decision. I am supposed to be out of balance right now.