Thursday, September 20, 2007

Is Balance Really Possible?

As overachievers, we have high expectations for the idea of balance in our lives. Because we believe we can do everything, balance for us is when all areas of our lives are operating at 100%. We don't really understand that balance might mean sacrificing a little to make sure we're not driving ourselves crazy.

I went for a jog today and of course I couldn't help thinking that I should go running more often. I beat myself up for a few minutes about not being disciplined enough to wake up early every morning. Then I thought about all the other things that I wanted to incorporate - eating healthier, getting more work done during the day, learning to speed read, sort through my bills when I get them (instead of letting them pile up), spend more time with family, etc.

There's so much to do just to try to stay on top of everything and "in balance". But how to accomplish all this? Something's gotta give - sleep less, work longer hours, take time away from my hobbies or friends, ...? But then I'm not in balance anymore and am stressed trying to do everything.

I started thinking that there were 2 models for thinking about balance, just like there are different approaches to filling your car with gas - the "Top Off" method or the "Almost to E" method.

I know I usually let my car (and areas of my life) get almost to Empty and then head to the station to replenish. This has taken the form of sending a bunch of "How've you been?" emails in one day, or running everyday for a week, or eating an entire head of lettuce in one sitting (true!). But I find that I'm swinging to extremes in different areas of my life in a strange attempt to maintain a balance on a longer time-frame (e.g. over a few consecutive months).

I admire the people who take the "Top Off" approach - it seems like they're balancing their lives on more of a daily basis. It takes a lot more discipline to keep all aspects of life in check - i.e. talking to your friends/family every week, consistently eating healthy, working an extra hour here and there, etc. Maybe these types of people are naturally more regimented and organized, or perhaps just more realistic about how much they should bite off at one time.

It reminds me of an article I read in Fast Company, entitled "Balance is Bunk". It's an interesting read, albeit a bit long. The basic premise is that balance is nearly impossible and it's better if we stop trying to reach this unattainable idea of "balance" and just be happy with how we do things. Being from the "Almost to E" camp I might have to agree :)

  • Are you an "Almost to E" or "Top Off" type of person? Is balance really possible? (...please comment!)


Rachel Flynn said...

The last thought seems to make the most sense being okay with where you are at certain points. Recognizing that you are happier when you go running often and instead of beating yourself up about it look at how you are spending your time. If you are too busy right now then that is ok. If you realize that you are spending an extra hour at work everyday because you are unproductive then you've found your running time.

Hoop said...

Hey Lee!

I think you're right about the 2 models of balance, and I'm definitely an "Almost to E" person too in a lot of ways. Often, it's not until I get to almost empty on some scale that I notice and try to recharge (most notably for me, sleep). I wonder if it's possible to become more "Top-off"-oriented, even in only certain areas of life, or whether you're stuck with what you are--although I guess this is the classic nature vs nurture debate where the answer is usually "both". My psych major roots are showing :)

Anyways, excellent blog and I look forward to following it. Good luck with the new company!