In this article I would like to touch on the importance of balance – not only work/life balance, but being balanced in every area of life. I see so many people living unbalanced lives today, resulting in emotional, psychological and physical illnesses. I look at businesses and I see the same thing – unbalanced management practices leading to unbalanced businesses that do not have the ability to run and operate as they should.
It is most of the time the small things in life, when left unattended, that create the most damage. When I talk to people in the business world about the importance of maintaining balance in everything they do, they look at me with puzzled expressions and I read a message in their eyes that says: “what are you talking about?”
Most people have forgotten how important balance is – when we were toddlers learning to walk, we understood it. But somehow during the process of growing up and living life, we forgot about its importance. In the same manner that we cannot deny gravity, for what goes up must come down, we also cannot deny the importance of living balanced lives.
Let us examine what the definition of balance is in the physical world. In this regard, I would like to mention the following two definitions, i.e. (1) balance is an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady; and (2) balance is the ability to maintain equilibrium against the force of gravity. It therefore means that if something were to interfere with your body’s ability to maintain its physical balance, your body would not be able to remain upright. This in turn will severely affect every area of your life, i.e. you will not be able to work, pick up and carry your children, make food, go for a walk on the beach, etc. Everything that is very normal to do and we almost take for granted, now becomes difficult to do. We learn from the medical science that every system in the human body has been masterfully created to function in balance and harmony. If one aspect is out of balance, the rest of the body works harder to try and correct the imbalance and to restore equilibrium. If it is unable to restore equilibrium, the effect of this imbalance is manifested in various illnesses.
Taking this as context, let us use the same principle in general life. Life is made up of various elements or areas which also demand balance – without balance the state of equilibrium which results in happiness and peace, cannot be achieved. But what are the factors that influence our ability to maintain balance in the issues of life? Our environment definitely plays a big role, but so does other factors such as employment/work, demography, being part of a community and “feeling that you belong”, the provision of health and social services (both preventative and curative), technical advances in medicine, proper educational systems, pace of life, trust, poverty & a lack of resources, our social lives (i.e. marriage, family, friends), etc.
It is impossible to be an overall healthy human being; living a fulfilled and happy life if the following elements are not in balance, i.e. (i) financial health, (ii) social health, (iii) physical health, (iv) spiritual & emotional health, (v) family health as well as (vi) work & career health. As all of these elements are interdependent; the imbalance of one or more will negatively affect the entire state of equilibrium, manifesting stress indicators which if not managed effectively will lead to various physical, mental and psychological illnesses over time. The degree of the imbalance as well as the period that it was left unattended (ignored) determine the severity of the illness and the associated solutions/treatments.
Let us unpack each of these elements in order to create deeper understanding:
(1) Financial Health:
Financial health is extremely important as the absence of it has the ability to create enormous anxiety and stress, spilling over to other areas of life. It is in essence the ability to satisfy material and non-material needs through monetary stability and resources. Financial well-being is measured by the characteristics and problems of the following 5 areas, i.e. (i) credit management, (ii) cash management, (iii) income adequacy, (iv) personal financial management and (v) consumer shopping skills.
It is important for any individual to equip himself with the necessary skills and knowledge in order to ensure financial health. Basic financial education in the following areas is crucial: (i) financial planning, (ii) how to budget and manage your money, (iii) managing your net worth, (iv) managing your bank statements and checking account deposits/withdrawals, (v) how to manage credit, (vi) insurance, (vii) debt reduction planning, (viii) retirement planning, (ix) investments, (x) tertiary education planning, (xi) estate planning, etc.
(2) Social Health:
Human beings are social beings; we were created with an intrinsic need for affiliation. To have healthy and meaningful relationships contribute significantly to an overall sense of happiness and a feeling of belonging. Our ability to develop and maintain healthy relationships with other people, whether it is a narrow circle of family and close friends, or a wider circle of acquaintances and colleagues, depends on our personalities, respect for people and social skills. Selfish and prideful people usually have less meaningful relationships as it takes humbleness and a true sense of interest in other people to build these kinds of relationships.
(3) Physical Health
Physical well-being means that the body is looked after properly. A person that is well-educated in this area understands that prevention is better than cure, values physical activity and its contribution to a healthy lifestyle, and does not indulge in body abusive habits such as excessive smoking; alcohol, drug and food abuse; overwork; too little sleep; too much stress; etc.
(4) Spiritual & Emotional Health:
Spiritual Health: There is one question which, beyond any doubt, everybody at least once in their lifetime asks, “Why am I here on planet earth?” The answer to this question determines how we live our daily lives. It shapes our whole outlook on life. Consciously or unconsciously it forms our beliefs, our morals and our reasons for living and wanting to achieve. It is impossible to live a balanced life and experience life to the fullest if this element of one’s life is neglected. Even people who claim that they do not belief in God, seek meaning to life.
Most people do not consciously realize that they are looking for answers, and consequently they search in all the wrong places, seeking satisfaction and fulfillment, sometimes at great cost to themselves and others.
The majority of humanity, from the earliest of times, has believed in a supernatural being, a creator who brought the universe into existence. The whole of nature and the universe cries out to the fact that there is a masterful and loving Designer and Creator, an Almighty God. Human beings have been created with an inherent longing for meaning and purpose. People that ignore this longing, that do not develop their spirits, and do not understand the grace of God cannot live fulfilled lives, i.e. they will always feel as though they are missing something. This is in my opinion the most important element of all.
This element is the most important element of all as it sits at the core of the human ability to achieve goodness/greatness and experience a sense of satisfaction and happiness. Without a personal relationship with God, nothing else in your life will be in the correct perspective and will not make long-lasting sense.
Emotional Health: A person that is emotionally mature is someone who is able to effectively control his emotions rather than allowing his emotions to control him. That does however not imply the hiding or repressing of emotions but rather the full understanding of how emotions compliment and strengthen one’s ability to function holistically.
The process of learning how to control one’s emotions (or feelings), starts by understanding that thoughts affect emotions and that we therefore control emotions through a mental process (thinking). In other words, if you want to change a negative emotion, you first have to start by changing the negative thoughts that created the emotion in the first place.
Negative emotions/feelings such as anger, revenge, bitterness, pride, selfishness, lack of self worth, etc. have a devastating impact on a person’s ability to perform effectively. I am of the opinion, as I have seen this countless times in business environments, that people’s intellectual capacity drop significantly when they allow these negative emotions to control them. In other words, they cannot think clearly when these negative emotions are flared up.
Characteristics of emotionally mature people are as follows:
- Accepts criticism gratefully, seeing it as an opportunity to improve,
- Does not indulge in self-pity,
- Does not expect special consideration from anyone,
- Controls his temper,
- Meets emergencies with poise,
- Feelings are not easily hurt,
- Accepts the responsibility of his own actions without trying to “alibi”,
- Has outgrown the “all or nothing” stage. He recognizes that no person or situation is wholly good or wholly bad, and he begins to appreciate the Golden Mean,
- Is not impatient at reasonable delays. He has learned that he is not the arbiter or the universe and that he must often adjust himself to other people and their convenience,
- Is a good loser. He can endure defeat and disappointment without whining or complaining,
- Does not worry about things he cannot help,
- Is not given to boasting or “showing off” in socially unacceptable ways,
- Is honestly glad when others enjoy success or good fortune. He has outgrown envy and jealousy,
- Is open-minded enough to listen thoughtfully to the opinions of others,
- Is not a chronic “fault-finder”,
- Plans things/events in advance rather than only trusting the inspiration of the moment.
(5) Family Health:
The health of society depends largely upon the health of family life. The family should be the deepest source of affection and emotional support. It is in the family context that the moral character of the next generation is formed, and we learn vital truths about the shape of a good and balanced life.
The spiritual aspect of family wellness means looking outside the self and tuning in to the feelings, needs and welfare of others. It means going beyond the self and becoming part of something larger in the world. A family’s spiritual strength comes from sharing similar values and finding a guiding force. Families may interpret and express their beliefs in different ways.
Strong families share common characteristics such as (i) commitment to each other, (ii) physical, spiritual and emotional wellness, (iii) effective family communication, (iv) appreciation of all family members, (v) meaningful and sufficient time together, and (vi) effective strategies to deal with stress.
These family strengths create a sense of togetherness and belonging. At the same time, individual family members develop their own personality, self-esteem and potential. These strengths help families solve problems and adapt to change. It is more important for families to move toward these strengths than to try to achieve all strengths simultaneously.
Many people struggle to juggle the balance between family and work, i.e. having a full time career and spending enough quality time with their families. It is very easy for work demands to take over in a person’s life. Individuals who do not attain balance between family and work responsibilities, have found to suffer from pretty devastating effects such as (i) increased levels of stress and stress-related illnesses, (ii) lower life satisfaction, (iii) higher rates of family strife, domestic violence and divorce, (iv) rising incidence of substance abuse, and (v) parenting difficulties.
Attaining balance requires one to be clear about one’s life priorities and then to act upon them consistently. Yet, this is far easier said than done. Most people’s values do not fall into clear distinctions that lend themselves to trade-offs or prioritization. Work places are also full of temptations to compromise family priorities for the lure of getting a promotion or a bonus.
(6) Work and Career Health
Individuals who are equipped with the knowledge of who they are, what their talents are, what they desire, how to deal with change and able to build and manage their own careers, are best able to deal with the constant speed of change that we find in today’s business environment.
It has become more important than ever to manage your career, i.e. to be aware of your personal vision, how to set and achieve goals to reach that vision, as well as understanding the best role for you in order to achieve productivity and success.
When we live balanced lives, we are not only more capable of effectively dealing with the onslaughts and stresses of life, but also to live purposeful and meaningful lives. I hope this article has achieved its goal in creating a higher level of understanding as well as challenging you to live a balanced life. Without balance, falling is just a matter of time. Keep your balance.