The Myth of a Balanced Life

with guest Jonathan Keyser #MakingBankS4E40

One of the common maxims that ‘gurus’ and life coaches love to stress is the need to create a balanced life. But what does that even mean? Life vs. work? Eating healthy vs. treating yourself to a little extra ice cream? Time with friends vs. time alone? The very notion of living a balanced life includes endless possibilities, and at the same time doesn’t really tell us anything at all. 

If you really start to think about all the different ways in which this advice could be taken, you realize that trying to create a balanced life is something you could spend all your waking hours on, which isn’t what any of us should be aiming for. 

Life advice should be concrete and specific, something that is easily understood and can be applied to our daily routines and goals. Vague, generalized advice leaves so much room for interpretation that it can actually do more harm than good by giving us an unachievable goal that we then feel bad about not being able to accomplish. A goal like creating a balanced life is so open-ended that it can actually be overwhelming. 

As a result, there are many myths and misunderstandings about what ‘a balanced life’ actually means. Here are a few of them.

1. You Need to Balance the Good With the Bad

The very concept of ‘balance’ makes a subtle insinuation that we need to balance the bad with the good. It’s no fun staying fit and eating healthy, so we need to give ourselves a break! Work is drainingso you have to balance it out by knowing how to relax and have fun in your free time! 

The truth is, there is no balance. It’s all just life, and you should be living all areas of your life in a way that you can be proud of, a way that you are happy to show up for. Furthermore, it’s perfectly ok to value some areas of your life more than others. You simply can’t do it all; in this life, you are going to benefit far more from choosing what is most important to you and what deserves your focus. We all have to make sacrifices in our lives, but that is ok if we are intelligent and intentional about what we sacrifice in favor of what we value. 

2. ‘Balance’ Leads to Better Mental Health

It would be nice if we could all be experts across a broad spectrum of fields. It would be nice if we could always eat the best, tastiest, and healthiest foods, spend 2 hours per day exercising, devote several hours to friends, and still get all our work and errands done. Unfortunately, that’s just not a realistic goal for most of us, and if we hold ourselves to a standard we are unable to meet, it’s going to eventually lead to burnout, a bad self-image, and poor mental health. That doesn’t sound like a balanced person, does it? 

If, on the other hand, we set achievable goals for ourselves and build in time every day to stop worrying about whether we’re perfect or not, we become much happier, healthier people. Knowing which areas are most important to us and giving ourselves a break on not being at the top of our peer group in every category is much better for us than being spread too thin. 

This leads us to our next myth… 

3. You Need to Spend Energy in Many Places

You need to focus on your health, you need to be knowledgeable about art, you need to have your finances in order, you need to have an active, thrilling love life, a great wardrobe, etc. The list goes on forever. Some of these things are far more important than others, and if you spend too much time and energy on the things that are less important, you’re going to end up sacrificing in the areas that are more important. 

What’s better than creating a balanced life? Creating a focused life. A life where you know what is important to you and dedicate time to those things. A life where you choose a job that you are happy to pour your energy into, that doesn’t feel like something you have to recover from during your free time. A life where you know who you are closest to and give those people as much time as you can. A life where you know how to take care of yourself, both mentally and physically, and don’t have so much on your plate you need to sacrifice doing so. 

If you want to do all of these things, you’re likely going to have to give up a little bit of balance, because the truth is that if you have too many areas to attend to, you’re going to be spread too thin to achieve meaningful results where they matter most. 

Aim to do a few things, but do them really well. If you know that your main priorities are being a good entrepreneur who cares about your employees, being a good parent, and being a good spouse, you can devote time every single day to each one of those things and excel at all of them. 

When you think about balance, it doesn’t actually imply that we need to be spread out. A tripod is able to balance perfectly with only 3 legs. It has a clear purpose, and it achieves it with a simple yet strong structure. Being a tripod is enough. 

Ironically, by trying too hard to become balanced, we can throw ourselves out of whack, but by instead focusing our time and energy in a few key areas, we can actually achieve a different kind of balance, one that makes us dependable individuals that others can rely on. Isn’t that what it truly means to be balanced in the first place? 

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