How does one create and sustain balance in life? And what does it really mean to live a “balanced” life? Is it merely existing in a state of moderation in what you choose, or does it require something more? And do ALL things in life require balance, i.e. be “Fair and Balanced” like Fox News claims to be (please…don’t get me started on that mockery), or are there aspects to life that require absolute commitment and faith that puts aside balance to achieve excellence? How does one choose “sides” in such a situation, assuming a side “must” be chosen? Is balance even possible given the myriad forces pulling us in every direction in the 21st century?
To be precise (this is important – it’s impossible to truly discuss ideas unless they’re clearly defined and agreed upon), let’s grab the definitions from Dictionary.com and begin:
- a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth.
- a state of equilibrium or equipoise;
- counterpoise. mental steadiness or emotional stability; habit of calm behavior, judgment, etc.
What is My Balance?
As we all seek our own way in the world, let me clearly state that everything I express here is meant exclusively as my OPINION and BELIEF. Let no one think that I am preaching or trying to TELL anyone what to think. Everything that I believe and think has developed through my own life experiences, which are necessarily different from yours, dear reader.
I am admittedly an odd bird:
- I am a man of science, an atheist, and I find Zen Buddhism to be helpful in finding a place of inner peace and stability
- I am deeply introspective AND love learning from others
- I am philosophical by nature AND believe that philosophy ultimately has no meaning
- I love the drive and ambition of the West AND admire the simplicity and discipline of the East
- I love learning AND believe that knowledge ultimately has nothing to do with Being
- I love the exhaustion of a serious workout that pushes me to my physical limit AND I love the absolute calm of meditation
- I am driven to be a financial success, AND believe that money has nothing to do with happiness in life
So how do I reconcile all these disparate interests and beliefs? Good question, and when I figure out the answer, I’ll let you know! LOL 😀
In all seriousness, though, I think this is one of the primary challenges humanity faces in the 21st century and beyond. How we maintain our foundations and principles in the face of rapidly changing understandings, technologies, cultural, political, and religious confrontations will be the core challenge we must not only engage, but embrace, and really , this is my answer….
Embrace the Paradoxes, Don’t Choose Just One Side
Example 1: Wealth OR Happiness…..or…. Wealth AND Happiness?
Like most of us, I’d heard the old saying of “Money can’t buy happiness.” However, I’d somehow misunderstood that saying and thought that it meant, “Since money can’t buy happiness, what’s the point of having it?” So what did I do? I spent all the money I had, and then some! Let me tell you, I spent way more than I had and earned, to the point that I was literally on the verge of bankruptcy. It was AWFUL, and I can tell you from personal experience, “Sure, money can’t buy happiness, but it does pay the bills and keep you less stressed!” It wasn’t until I began reading Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, by T. Harv. Eker, that I started learning just how badly I’d misunderstood…..you can have money AND happiness!
Example 2: Family Man OR Businessman….or….Family Man AND Businessman?
I was blessed to have grown up with parents who always seemed to put our family first. My parents were encouraging, loving, supportive, and challenging; they were always there for youth soccer games, drove us to music lessons and swim practice, never missed a band or choir concert, etc. And until I went off to college, I never realized just how hard my Dad worked! Turns out, he was always up earlier than everyone, and up later than everyone, working hard to support our family and “bring home the bacon,” which allowed us to take some terrific family vacations around the USA and Europe. My Mom was a stay-at-home, hard-working mom until my sister and I were in high school, when she went back to work, too. They were wonderful examples of how you can be very successful in business AND still be awesome role models and parents for my sister and me. Having my own business for the last 15 years, i have learned how difficult this balance can be, but I’m grateful for the example my parents set, and hopefully my 2 daughters will say the same about my wife and me after they’re grown and off on their own.
Example 3: Scientist OR Man of Faith….or…Scientist AND Man of Faith?
Having studied science and been fascinated by Science Fiction stories growing up (Start Trek, Star Wars among others), I am absolutely in love with science. To me, science is the practical foundation for how we live, and it frustrates me no end to see so many people in the USA have a problem with science, largely due to Christian fundamentalism. Without science, our world would be a much poorer place to live, IMO. Physics, astronomy, biology, chemistry….these disciplines and those who devote their lives to them, have been found to describe our world and universe so amazingly well, they allow us to fly across the ocean in mere hours, rather than sail for weeks; we can communicate instantly with people all over the world via text, FaceTime, Google Hangouts; our cars get lighter, stronger, and safer; solar energy is proving to be an abundant source of energy without all the pollution…none of these would exist without science.
And yet, science alone does not provide all answers. Somehow, within our deepest being, there is a longing for more, for something greater, something more profound. Throughout history, religions and philosophy have sought answers for profound questions, such as “Why are we here?” or “What is the Meaning of Life?” or “Are we alone in this vast universe; if we are or aren’t, what does that mean?” I grew up Roman Catholic and had a profound belief in God; but now I have left Christianity and all organized religion, yet Zen Buddhism has offered me a path to peace and contentment that science can not.
Having read the Bible from cover-to-cover, quite frankly, I don’t understand why people think it’s supposed to tell us how the Universe actually works. It’s about how to live, not about cell mitosis, star birth and death, black holes, electrical fields, etc; so why is it taken that way? Every one of the world’s great religions was formed during a time when understanding of these issues was either supremely limited or not even imagined; if we wouldn’t use a science textbook from even 25 years ago because it is so outdated, why use a religious text that is hundreds or thousands of years old for that purpose?
Quite literally, there could be an almost infinite number of examples of such dichotomies, except they really aren’t dichotomies at all. They are all different sides of the same coin, hence the need to find the balance and acceptance of BOTH sides.
Such is the paradox….to live in balance requires one to learn from, and live, both sides of the coin.