Over the years, I have been taught that balancing all aspects of your life is a critical step in avoiding burnout. The concept is that we need to allocate our time and energy in accordance with our roles in life. By making sure the time and energy we give to each of our roles is in accordance with the predetermined allocations, we ensure our lives are in balance.
This helps keep us present and focused. It also helps keep us from neglecting important areas that can create major problems over time. But there is a problem with this line of thinking: life happens!
What I mean by this is that things happen which require our allocations to be dynamic, not static.
- If a close relative was in the hospital, would you tell her you can’t visit because you already met your weekly allocation for family time?
- Would you miss your child’s performance at school because that time was allocated to your personal development?
I hope the answer is obvious. Of course not.
Life is complex and the future is unknown. The concept of having perfect balance in our lives will ultimately cause us more stress, not less.
So what do we do?
“You are never actually balanced, nor should you try to be… The key is being purposeful, having sound reasons for everything you do.”
— Todd Duncan in Life on the Wire: Avoid Burnout and Succeed in Work and Life
We should be striving for purposeful imbalance instead of perfect balance.
One of my favorite books on burnout is Life on the Wire: Avoid Burnout and Succeed in Work and Life by Todd Duncan. He claims imbalance is natural and by making our actions purposeful, we can be as flexible as life requires us to be.
Throughout his book he discusses ten tensions that we might struggle with and how we can deliberately respond to them. Some examples of tensions he discusses are:
- Taking risks vs. taking responsibility
- Helping yourself vs. helping others
- Getting serious vs. having fun
As you continue on your life journey, as your life changes, know that living in purposeful imbalance will allow you to get through the tensions (stresses) that will certainly come your way. Don’t become powerless by allowing a static allocation of time define how you react. Choose how to get through the stressful times by fully understanding your opportunities and making a deliberate choice on the direction to move forward.
Get a copy of Todd Duncan’s book and address life’s stresses head on.