A friend shared something he wrote 1 year ago today (12/30/12) about trying to find a balanced life. He was responding to my thoughts on the idea that I have shared for several years now, here’s what he wrote:
“I’ve been a small business owner now since 1998. As 2012 comes to an end, I feel like it’s time to finally give up on an idea I’ve now had for 15 years. I have always thought there would be this perfect harmony between work life and personal life… if I just got the business to where I thought it needed to be…. Ahhhh…. Balance!!! The perfect work and personal balance is something that we all dream about as small business owners. I think a lot of people start small businesses because they want freedom and before you realize it will never happen, you think a business owner can just do nothing and make a lot of money. So I gave up on sitting on a beach, doing nothing, and making a lot of money about a decade ago. But the push towards a perfect balance has now after 15 years gotten me nowhere closer to a balanced personal and work life, and this is with success… So I am giving up and publically admitting to one of my two best friends, Gary, that he has always been right. There is no such thing as a balanced life when you’re a small business owner. Dangit Gary!!! You’re freaking right, you grumpy pessimistic bastard.”
I won’t share everything, although it was interesting to see what he wrote a year ago and put it in context to the conversation we had sitting at the bar until 2am in Montana this past summer.
He did share a couple more thoughts that I also agree with strongly, so I wanted to put my own thoughts to the three points he shared.
1. Being focused is more valuable and attainable than “balance”. Let’s face it, how many times are you on your weekly date night and checking your email, facebook or twitter more than you are actually listening to your significant other? How often are you at work, day dreaming about something you would rather be doing? Or checking facebook and twitter. Even worse, how often will you find yourself very busy at work or home and start to feel overwhelmed, when in reality you are just good at staying busy for the sake of being busy.
Focused time > Balanced time
Being present > Being busy
2. The idea of the “perfectly balanced life” is total garbage and the only thing it does is make us feel guilty if we can not somehow obtain it ourselves. There are all kinds of ways we are sold the idea that to be happy we have to obtain perfect balance, but the reality is it doesn’t exist. It only exists in the minds of people, the same way unicorns, bigfoot and the idea that Duck Dynasty is an actual representation of reality within a television show.
We really want to believe all those things exist, because it gives us something to think about. The ideas excite us, entertain us and potentially make us feel guilty when we can’t find it.
What is actually true > What is true in television shows and movies
3. When you are trying to find that balance you so deeply crave, stop playing tetris and start playing chess. To be open and honest, I suck at both games – so excuse me if the example is not perfect. But in tetris, the game is usually quite easy at first. You get pieces and fitting them together just right is easy to do, but eventually more pieces come and they come faster. It gets difficult quickly and I always end up losing.
In chess, things need to be a little more strategic and thought out. But one of the best things a good chess player can do is understand when it is advantageous to sacrifice a piece or two, if it ultimately allows them to save the king. Start playing chess! Make decisions based upon what the most important things are – the things you need to protect. Then take note of what you may need to sacrifice to do that.
It’s the sacrifice that many individuals are unwilling to try. We want it all. Here is a short status update from a friend on Facebook today (I have not asked permission to share this, so I’m removing the son’s name):
So we’re putting together a donation of outgrown and unused toys, and [son] eventually realized what was going on. He got quite upset, sat down, spread his arms, palms up, and cried, “Daddy! I want more, not less!”
When I hear people talk about how they want to have a balanced life, frustrated they have not found it yet, even angry at circumstances or themselves about their lack of balance. I envision them sitting there in sadness because they don’t know why they just can not have more; why does the answer have to be less?
Less Crap > More Crap
A final thought on why I could be completely wrong.
I am fully aware that having the perfectly balanced life might exist. If it does, I have not found the person that exhibits and lives fully into that reality yet. But, it also means that I have not achieved it; therefore maybe I just lack a framework, developed necessarily from experience, to lay out the steps to obtain that mythical unicorn.
My concepts and ideas are purely theoretical also. I often (and I mean daily) find myself struggling to “want less” not more, so maybe the completely satisfied life with less is also a similar mythical creature?
The other reason that I want to be wrong is that I like the idea of finding Big Foot and I’m completely entertained by Duck Dynasty and wish that someday I might find out both of them are true.
Hope > Guilt