I recently released an interview on Passion Struck with John R. Miles with the author Susan Cain where we discussed the importance of balancing joy and sorrow, bitter and sweet, and work and life. It got me thinking about what a healthy and balanced life really means.
Today, much in our world demands our constant time and attention. We are a culture that is so focused on status and possessions that we concentrate our lives on its pursuit at the expense of everything else, leading to a life that is out of balance and out of control.
Here’s what many people don’t understand: the opposite of joy is not unhappiness. The opposite of joy is feeling helpless to our surroundings. It is the apathy and surrender to the belief that we have to spend so much time in pretense faking our lives that we forget who we are to begin with, leading to burnout, fatigue, lassitude, and emotional exhaustion.
Preserving a balanced life is becoming increasingly more challenging as we let ourselves be consumed by where society says we should focus our time instead of focusing our time on our personal health and well-being. Living a well-balanced life is essential for wholeness, personal effectiveness, and peace of mind.
This article is based on a recent episode from Passion Struck with John R. Miles. Listen to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Podcast Addict, Pocket Casts, Stitcher, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, or on your favorite podcast platform.
What happens when we live life out of balance?
Andrew Peterson was a well-accomplished musician in his late thirties. He was a very talented singer and instrumentalist who, as a teen, became captivated by the idea of being a star. Andrew began releasing albums and performed worldwide on the largest stages in his early twenties. He raked in tons of money from the tours, merchandise sales, several lucrative licensing deals, and partnerships.
Due to the demands of his musical profession and the lifestyle he was leading, he paid little attention to having a family for many years. However, when he turned forty, he fell in love with a beautiful lady named Amanda. After a short courtship, they decided to marry and start a family. This led him to take a break from music to focus on raising a family.
Things started well for them, and shortly after their second anniversary, they had a daughter named Emily. Andrew loved his wife and daughter dearly and tried his best to be there for them, but he desperately missed his music and performing on stage. So, a few months after the birth of his daughter, he decided to go back to re-launch his career.
With time, his music career picked up where it had been. He was faced with the pressure of writing new albums and constant worldwide tours. His health began to suffer, and his time away from home caused a massive strain on his family.
Andrew was also getting older, which meant he couldn’t handle stress as much as he could while he was much younger. To make his body cope and stay stimulated, he consumed many drugs while abusing alcohol and caffeine. Sadly, these took a toll on his health.
Several months and eventually, years passed, and Andrew continued this lifestyle. Then one day, as he was performing on stage, he was gyrating when suddenly he paused and slowly collapsed. In a hurry, crew members called in an ambulance, and he was promptly taken to the hospital.
Hours after he had collapsed, Andrew regained consciousness. While in the hospital, he was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, a life-threatening heart disease caused by years of alcohol and drug use. He was put on compulsory bed rest and had to change his lifestyle.
During the period of this bed rest, it dawned on him just how out of balance his life had been. He thought about what would have happened had he died.
He then began to understand why he felt a sense of emptiness despite all the money and fame he had from his successful career. He was no longer spending enough time with his family and wasn’t taking care of his health. He had become indifferent to his life and everything in it. Even the music career he so cherished felt meaningless to him.
From that moment, he made a conscious decision to pay more attention to finding a balanced lifestyle. After the period of his bed rest, he began to consciously put his thoughts and decisions into action. He spent more time with his family, went for regular medical checkups, became sober, volunteered for social programs, and participated in new activities.
He did this all while still keeping his music career. He simply found a more suitable way to perform his music and drastically altered his schedule and touring commitments. With these changes, Andrew began to feel whole again, and life felt balanced and again worthwhile to live.
Like Andrew here, most of us can relate to the feeling of being out of balance with life. We chase certain things at the expense of other aspects of our lives, and due to this, we feel incomplete and face the threat of really dire consequences. But as Andrew learned his lesson and changed for the better, we all can.
Let us now go into the details of why most people find it challenging to maintain a balanced lifestyle, the consequences of living life out of balance, and how you can begin to live a well-balanced life.
Why don’t people live a balanced life?
Today, we live in a fast-paced, modern world that demands our time and attention constantly. We have a host of different activities to carry out each day; some of them are musts, whether we enjoy them or not, while some are based on poor personal choices.
A 2021 report from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) showed a 1.5-year decline in life expectancy from 2019 to 2020 in the United States to the lowest level since 2003. This drop is the largest one-year decline since World War II.
In 2011, the Journal of Gerontology published a disturbing analysis indicating our life is made up of fewer healthy years now than we did in the past.
Additionally, in 2005, an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that “The steady rise in life expectancy observed in the modern era may soon come to an end, and the youth of today may, on average, live less healthy and possibly even shorter lives than their parents.”
How we possibly be facing the prospect of living shorter lives with all of our technological, healthcare, and standard of living increases?
The crisis is that our lives are increasingly becoming imbalanced.
We prioritize career, status, money, partying, and notoriety over personal fitness, mental and emotional health, family, and relationships.
And this trend isn’t just occurring in the United States. Developed nations, influenced by a Western lifestyle, are also amidst a health crisis, resulting predominantly from poor lifestyle choices. Health experts from both Western and Eastern medicine disciplines confirm that if we lived a more healthy and balanced lifestyle, it would prevent most of today’s chronic diseases.
The American College of Lifestyle Medicine recently recommended the replacement of standard acute care vital signs with six “lifestyle vital signs” that contribute to a longer, healthier life:
· Healthy Diet
· Stress Management
· Tobacco Cessation
A good way to think about this is to picture a bar stool. When life is out of balance it has one large support underneath it. When things are in balance it has multiple leg stools balancing you.
You may also find it surprising that “work” is missing from the list. While most of us devote the bulk of our waking hours to our careers, our work-life is not providing reciprocal health benefits. To attain proper health, we must re-focus our priorities to align with what will deliver emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical health.
What are the consequences of living an unbalanced life?
When people have an unhealthy lifestyle that is out of balance, they experience far-reaching consequences that extend beyond themselves that also impact those around them. These include:
Decline in productivity
For any of us to perform at our peak productivity, we must be mentally and emotionally present. However, we often fall into the trap of thinking that we can be present all the time or that a productive day at work equates to eight-plus hours of actual work output. However, it is simply not accurate. Research shows that after a certain number of hours, employees’ work productivity declines while the impact on their health increases dramatically.
Decline in relationships
An improperly balanced life also causes relationships both inside and outside of work — to suffer. This can range from feelings of irritation with coworkers to being distant from loved ones. Additionally, prioritizing your career over other areas of your life can lead to missing some of life’s most important events and milestones.
When you are constantly experiencing stress and don’t give enough attention to your well-being, you are bound to fall ill and suffer health challenges such as high blood pressure, insomnia, obesity, diabetes, anxiety, and depression. This ultimately makes you unable to function well as a person and leads to a poorer quality of life.
Lack of Adult Play
Life becomes mundane and repetitive when you spend all your time chasing work, status, and money. You’ll be missing out on enjoying the best part of life and creating beautiful memories with your loved ones.
How can I live a balanced lifestyle?
The truth is, living a balanced lifestyle in today’s world doesn’t come easy. However, here are some helpful tips that can help:
You might have many interests, but realize that you can’t cram everything into your one life. The definition of balance is different for all of us depending on our responsibilities, relationships, hobbies, and jobs. So, define your life priorities and put first things first so that all aspects are given their required time and attention. If you want to understand how to create healthier habits, check out episode 108 where I discuss their science.
Practice better time management by giving yourself enough time to get things done. Don’t overschedule yourself. Learn to organize, plan, and use available digital apps like Calendly, Engross, and Everhour to help you manage your time more effectively. By doing so, you will be able to maximize the time you have each day to meet the demands of all the critical aspects of your life. For more on this topic, check out episode 38 with Abigail Barnes on turning your time into productivity.
Find a support system.
Surround yourself with people who encourage and support you, who inspire you to be a better version of yourself and overall add value to your life. Try to avoid people who have unhealthy life balance and add or create more tension for you. It is important to remember that stress affects you physically, so, within reason, consider conducting an auditing out the influences in your life that may be causing your stress or imbalance.
Be Proactive in dealing with issues.
Being proactive means acting in advance to deal with an expected change or difficulty. When you do this, you will be able to promptly handle issues that could potentially get your life out of balance and prevent them from doing so.
Know when to say ‘No.’
Many people handle more than they can afford, and this is because they don’t know when to stop taking on more work, activities, and responsibilities. When someone asks them to help with something, they oblige, regardless of how convenient or not it is for them. This subsequently causes a strain on their lives and potentially gets them out of balance.
So, you need to be able to politely decline a request when it doesn’t fit into your plan or threatens your balance.
Value, nurture and protect your relationships.
You need to constantly invest in your relationships with family and friends to keep them thriving. You do this by spending quality time with them, providing a listening ear, a shoulder to lean on, and a helping hand in times of need. You can be sure that they will reciprocate in kind when it is your turn, making your life more colorful and whole.
Try out new things
Variety, they say, is the spice of life. Spend time participating in new activities. Go hiking or mountaineering, attend a music concert, learn to dance, skydive, and what have you. These new activities will reignite the spark in you and reinvigorate you for more productivity, ultimately helping you to get the balance you seek.
Meditation is the act of transcending our immediate environment to a state of peace and calmness. It goes a long way in helping you get an overview of your life and see the places where things could get better for you and yours. The best part of meditation is that it allows you to see how things could be better and empowers you to take appropriate action to improve your situation. For more on this topic, refer to my interview with Dr. David Vago episode 123.
Get adequate sleep
Lack of sleep is associated with many adverse health effects, including increased risk of heart disease, depression, weight gain, inflammation, and sickness. You must get enough rest each day to remain healthy and active during your waking hours.
Avoid excessive caffeine intake or understand when you need to cut it off to sleep well. Focus on your stress and anxiety, and habits that could induce poor sleep. In case you’re suffering from any sleep-related problems, seek medical help.
What are the benefits of a well-balanced life?
Living a well-balanced life offers numerous benefits. Here are some;
- It alleviates stress
- Enriches your life
- Improves your general health
- Helps prevent depression
- Boosts your energy level
- Brightens your mood
- Helps you remain consistently productive
Among so many others.
The criticality of finding the right urgency vs. importance equation
In his book, The seven habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey talks about the need to spend time doing things that are not urgent but important. He calls this the heart of effective personal management and emphasizes how these activities provide us with vision, perspective, control, and balance. When we find the right urgency vs. importance equation, we take charge of our lives instead of letting them control us.
It is critically important to understand how vital finding balance in all areas of your life is. Without balance, you will eventually burn out, negatively affecting yourself and those around you. The important thing is to act and not wait until you are faced with a situation like Andrew’s medical condition before you start focusing on changes to your lifestyle.
Recognize that finding balance is an individual pursuit that depends on what stage and phase you are in life. Do some soul-searching, come to terms with what needs to be done away with, and follow through with diligence.
I hope you find your balance and begin to live a wholesome and healthy life.
- Are you having trouble prioritizing yourself? I discuss where you invest your love; you invest your life in Episode 104
- I explain why materialism is impacting your success and happiness in episode 96.
- Do you know the science of healthy habits? I explore this in-depth in Episode 108.
- Suppose you missed my interview with Jen Bricker-Bauer on Everything is Possible. Don’t panic! You can catch up by downloading it here.
- How do you strengthen your relationship with your best self? Explore episode 110.