Sunday, October 3, 2010

In Quest of a Balanced Life


Like so many other people, most I suppose, I strive for a balanced life. Yet sometimes that quest seems to take the form of simply adding more things to my already crowded "to do" list.

For example, here is a list of things that I do (or try to do) every day:

- exercise
- eat 5 or more servings of fruit and vegetables
- cook a healthy dinner and sit down with my family to eat it
- tell my partner that I love him
- give my teenage son a hug
- drink a glass of milk
- drink 8 or more glasses of nonalcoholic beverages a day
- brush my teeth at least twice
- floss my teeth
- observe nature: the quality of the light, the pattern of leaves against the sky, the reflections in a puddle
- do one extra task, aside from the daily ones
- read something not work related
- talk with a distant friend or family member
- take a multivitamin
- take a calcium pill
- compost organic waste
- cuddle, pet, and give attention to the pets
- listen to or read the news
- take some time to daydream or muse
- write, or think about writing (writing emails related to work doesn't count!)
- spend time with my partner
- spend some time outdoors

Along with the daily things, there are the bigger goals, principles, and seasonal activities and weekly regular activities that are really too numerous to list, but here are some examples:

- grow, harvest, cook, and preserve my own organic fruits and vegetables
- play indoor soccer (twice weekly in season)
- ski (weekly in winter)
- journal (various types, including this blog)
- reflect on experiences and life goals, and plan for the future
- manage my finances in a planful way
- cook from scratch
- spend time with friends; e.g., host dinners
- spend time with my kids
- donate to worthy causes
- make "green" choices
- travel

And, in order to accomplish any of this, there are some things that I try not to do, or at least severely curtail the amount of time that I spend doing them:

- watch TV
- go to bars
- work overtime
- shop (aside from groceries)
- wait (in cars, airports, or doctors' offices; if I have to, I bring stuff to do and multitask)
- turn on background noise
- commute
- eat fast food
- use combustion engines (I do use them; I'm just trying to use them less)
- attend events that do not interest me because of a sense of obligation or politeness

I believe that the main reason that having a balanced life is so hard to achieve is that I work, and my work greedily eats up much of my time every day. Even when I am not at work, the problems of work intrude on my thoughts and use up my thinking time.

You probably have noticed that none of the things I am trying to do to be more balanced are work things. Work is what I am trying to balance against. Right now it tips the scales heavily in its own favour. It is not that I don't value my work. I do, and I'm very committed. It's just that work takes more than its share; it uses me up.

I wonder if I would have mental lists like this if I were retired? Maybe my life would automatically become balanced without work to use up so much of my time. Or maybe I would still have the same lists, only I would be balancing against sloth and ennui rather than work!

The photo was taken at Boya Lake Park, British Columbia, Canada, near the border with the Yukon Territory. Getting away on holidays is a wonderful way to re-balance.

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