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Center for Enlightened Leadership

Life: A Balancing Act

  Dr. Stephen L. Sokolow
  Dr. Stephen L. Sokolow
Executive Director and Founding Partner

The world is out of whack, and so are we. Many people have a sense that all is not right with the world. This sense pervades countless aspects of life, including our financial, economic, political, social, and environmental systems. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The middle class is hurting and shrinking. Environmental disasters like Katrina and the Gulf oil spill seem to be increasing and intensifying. Economies in entire countries are in danger of collapsing. Financial institutions with global reach need bailouts. Special interests are gaining more and more political power. The jobless rate remains stubbornly high and the housing market continues to decline while the number of people losing their homes through foreclosures increases. Some of these things are causes; others are consequences of imbalance. For example, when we fail to be good stewards of the environment, ecosystems become unbalanced and negative consequences ensue.

Life is a balancing act, on both a micro and a macro scale. Our world serves as a mirror of our collective behavior and consciousness. When world systems show signs of stress and distress, it is a sign that something, or many things, are out of balance. This is true in our personal and professional lives as well. We must continually strive to find balance within and between every sphere of our lives. We strive to find the right balance between the demands of our careers and those of our family life. We strive to find the right balance between work and play and rest. Allocating our resources is a balancing act, from balancing our checkbooks to balancing income and spending. We allocate our time among family, friends, and colleagues. We allocate our time among all aspects of our lives, including health, fitness, service, learning, professional growth, hobbies, travel, finances, entertainment, and so forth. The array of things we try to balance is both mind-boggling and even overwhelming at times.

So what are we mere mortals to do with so many tightropes to walk, plates spinning, and irons in the fire? You choose the metaphor. Here are a few suggestions that I’ve found useful. Continually adjust your timelines to optimize balance. Some things can be balanced in the short term—for a day, a week, or even a month or so. Other things can only be balanced over the course of several months or a year. And still other things can be balanced over the course of years, decades, or major stages of life.

Some people have an innate sense of how best to balance the many and varied aspects of life’s demands. For others, finding the proper balance—or any balance at all—is a significant challenge. The good news is that life continually gives us a heads-up when we are out of balance in an area to which we have been paying too much or too little attention. When my children were young, I failed to find the right balance between the demands of being a father and husband and those of my career as a superintendent. Consequently, our home life suffered. I needed to establish a better balance. I needed to shift my priorities and spend more time with my family. When I found the right balance, the problems we faced improved dramatically.

Look at the areas of your own life that are giving you trouble. There is a good chance that the area or areas of your life that are not working well are showing you an imbalance that needs attention. You may need to pay more attention to whatever it is or change the resources you are bringing to bear on the problem. Chronic imbalances often take a toll in terms of our health or sense of well-being. The imbalance may be due to our failure to pay attention to an area where we need to grow or change in some way. It may result from patterns in the way we think or feel about something that is no longer serving us. For example, we may be too self-centered or self-absorbed when circumstances need us to be more focused on the needs of others.

The same principles that apply to us as individuals apply to us collectively in the larger world. The bewildering number and variety of areas that are giving us trouble in our world point to a panoply of imbalances. At the national level, for instance, I see an imbalance between power and wisdom, i.e., too much power and too little wisdom. From my perspective, power is being used primarily in the service of special interests rather than for the common good. Short-term economic gain and short-term thinking are causing us to lose ground in many areas on the world stage.

If we fail to attend to and rectify the imbalances that are screaming for our attention, acute problems will become chronic and system after system will crash. We are living in the midst of a gigantic wake-up call. We need a shift in our collective thinking if we are to restore balance and health to the systems we rely on to sustain our lives and collective well-being.

Center for Empowered Leadership ®
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