by David B. Bohl
Turn on the TV or the radio, or pick up any newspaper or magazine, and you’ll fall prey to a form of systematic and repeated societal conditioning posing in one corner as promotional marketing (commercial advertising and infomercials) and popular culture in the other (in the case of morning “news” shows and Hollywood tabloid programs).
You’ll be told what you should look like – what to wear, what to eat, and what to use on your body for personal hygiene and attraction. You’ll be instructed on what to drive, where to live, and where to be seen. You’ll be trained on what is expected of you and what to fear.
Taken individually, we all recognize these to be unrealistic, empty promises. When bombarded on every front, however, we begin to believe the notion that we can have everything we want and that we can do everything we want to if only we accomplish what’s expected of us. We become increasingly convinced that we can have our cake and eat it, too. On top of all this, we’re sold on the idea that this is what a balanced life should look like.
But this is a myth. We’ve been sold a bill of goods, and we bought it willingly.
The reality is this: We simply can’t have it all and do it all. We aren’t superheroes. We cannot give ourselves to everything we want to, nor can we give ourselves at all times to each and every part of our lives. We can’t give all of ourselves to our careers (working 9, 10, or more hours a day) and expect to be full of energy and attention in our private lives for our families, our friends, and ourselves.
Many of us go further than that, feeling that we have to contribute our time to virtually everything (further believing what we’ve come to believe is expected of us), trusting that we’re achieving something only when we’re running from one responsibility to the next, only to come up for a breath of air on the weekends. We feel that we have to be valued contributors at work, home, with friends, and in our communities, and all at the same time!
What inevitably happens is that we get so busy doing things that we lose sight of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. We run from one commitment or obligation to the next attempting to have it all and do it all and we forget to look after our own needs and the needs of those around us. We become so all-consumed by doing things that we fail to experience life itself. We forget that we’re human beings, not human doings.
We’ll all be better off if we do ourselves a simple favor by disavowing ourselves of the perception that we can achieve everything if only we labor hard enough and long enough. Once we’ve accepted that, we can get on with the business at hand, that of creating a lifestyle for ourselves that is balanced, or if you prefer, choosing the life that we want.
Sounds overly simplistic, you say? On the contrary – in its simplicity lies its beauty. The key is to create a lifestyle we want that doesn’t necessitate the monstrous expenditures of time, energy, and effort that we used trying to fulfill someone else’s ideal of balance. The goal is to choose to define what our lives should look like – a way of life that doesn’t require all of our strength and ability to maintain.
How do we go about designing this new life for ourselves? First, we step back and objectively look at what’s going on in our lives. Second, we define what a balanced life looks like to us. Third, we determine what’s most important to us and find ways to attain those things.