“Balance” is Overrated
In a culture where most of us are over-committed, over-scheduled, and over-friended (at least in the virtual sense), I hear a great deal of talk about balance. This emphasis on balance strikes me as important because it is an attempt to answer the charges that busy-ness makes against us. That being said, here are some observations I’ve made about balance:
Balance is often an excuse to juggle even more things on our to-do list. I add a few moments of self-care or in order to “balance” out my ever-lengthening to-do list, but it only grows my list – it does not re-prioritize my list.
Balance is often an excuse to be lazy in our decision-making. It’s a through-the-back-door attempt at “having it all.” It pulls us toward mediocrity in many things rather than expertise in one or two.
Balance implies that there is room for the not-so-good or even downright bad as long as there is an equalizing amount of good. But why would we settle for even a little of what is not best?
David Whyte, the uber-successful poet and author, relates a personal story in his excellent book on work and vocation called Crossing the Unknown Sea. In the story, Whyte is seated across from his spiritual director, his life aimless and in shambles, feeling the deep pain of emotional burnout. “Brother,” Whyte began, “Tell me about exhaustion.” His spiritual director looked at him with compassion and said, “You know that the antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest?” Whyte was curious. “What is it then?” he asked. Whyte’s spiritual director looked him square in the eye and said, “The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness.”
“You are so tired,” continued the director, “because a good half of what you are doing has nothing to do with your true powers, or the place you have reached in your life. You are only half here, and half here will kill you after a while. You need something to which you can give your full powers.”
In a hyperconnected, hyperdistracted world, the move toward balance is often just an attempt to answer the question that only wholeheartedness can actually resolve. “Half here” cannot bring balance to the half that is “not here.”
Where is “a good half of you” missing that needs something to which you can give your “full powers” with laser-like focus and whole-hearted commitment?