I generally seek a life of balance. I find great value in knowing that my life is more than just going back and forth to work. Some of the happiest times of my life have usually been where there was a healthy balance between work, play, family, fun, and hobbies. It is within this delicate balance that a calmness is achieved.
Calmness being a mostly relative term. My wife and I both have demanding full-time jobs and equally share in raising our 8-year-old daughter. Oh yah, and we have a dog. So calmness still involves a little bit of mess and frustration on most given days.
But overall life balance is good.
Are short periods of time with no balance needed to achieve growth?
Short Periods of Great Focus
Contrary to my desire for balance, I believe that some of the most rewarding times of my life are ones where there is exactly no balance. That is, periods of time where one aspect of my life takes over from all others. The other areas are left strained, but within that strain comes tremendous growth in the one area that is being focused on. So I’m left wondering if my pursuit of finding balance really a hindrance to my growth.
Question: Is maintaining balance inadvertently keeping you from growing?
In my normal balanced life, it is not unusual for me to train about 6-8 hours a week for one of my most passionate hobbies, i.e. the sport of Triathlon. This is a really silly, serious race during which you swim, bike, and then run. I usually train 6 out of 7 days a week. This is normal and routine for me. I’ve been doing this since about 2010. Prior to 2010, I was a more ‘normal’ go to the gym 3-4 times a week kind of guy.
In 2010, I trained for my first triathlon. It was a shorter distance sprint. I few months later I did a slightly longer race called an “Olympic distance.” In 2011 I signed up for my first Ironman Triathlon. This is not an article about Ironman but let’s just say it’s a long race. 140.6 miles of Swimming, Biking, and Running. I told you it was
For about 14 weeks prior to my first Ironman, I was training 12-15 hours every week. Life was completely unbalanced. I must admit, doing an Ironman will completely ruin you in terms of what you think is ‘normal’ for working out. For me, it redefined what was achievable. After doing 15-hour training weeks, going back to a 6-8 hour week feels like you’re sitting on the couch eating cookies.
Several years later and I have completed a total of 4 Ironman races and 2 more Half Ironman (70.3) races – all of which required short periods of great focus and a life unbalanced. I wouldn’t trade these races for anything.
During every train-up there was a point where I thought about how I couldn’t wait for life to get back into balance. And as the training weeks ticked by, I knew that the time would come soon enough. Over the years, the growth from these intense periods of training has defined a new normal of what fitness means to me and what I can accomplish every week balancing a full-time job and a family. I am a better person because of this.
What’s the Right Choice?
Spending a great deal of time thinking about having balance in my life, I am left wondering if that is the right choice. Or is it more about finding balance between work and everything else? Is it more about finding balance among the areas of life that are less desirable so that I can choose to focus on areas that provide pleasure (although at times challenging)? I would be less inclined to want my life to become unbalanced in the area of work for example. This is an area more out of my control than signing up for an Ironman.
Ways to Keep Things Balanced
1. Identify areas of your life that are no longer balanced. Short periods of time of intense focus can lead to tremendous growth personally and professionally. A constant state of an unbalanced life can be a burden.
2. Fight to bring balance back into your life. Guard it. Even if your schedule is completely maxed out, find ways to bring back long forgotten passions into your life.
Action > Enjoy listening to podcasts but can’t find the time? Drop the music and find a podcast to listen to while you commute, work out, or eat breakfast.
3. Become more efficient.
Action > While at work, do work. Less fooling around and more getting stuff done so that you can walk out the door from work on time. Being productive will become contagious. Leaving work on time will allow you to enjoy more time for your passions.
How do other high performers out there find balance? What are your tricks?