The importance of living a balanced life is something that we become very accustomed to hearing about.
It’s OK to be dedicated to your job and career, as long as it doesn’t keep you away from your family too much. It’s OK to have some interest or pursuit that you’re passionate about, as long as doesn’t take away your social life. It’s OK to be into a lifestyle of health and fitness, as long as it doesn’t become an obsession. And so on.
Anything you want to do in your life is fine, as long as it still allows you to maintain a healthy balance. That supposedly means time for work, time for your interests, time for your family, time for socializing, and time for rest.
There are two problems with this balanced life ideal however.
Who defines what a balanced life is?
First of all, who decides what an appropriate balance is and what isn’t?
As a fitness enthusiast, you’ve no doubt experienced people questioning why you spend so much time in the gym, or why you make yourself miserable with such terrible food when life’s “too short”, or why you can’t go out drinking with them anymore, and so on.
These people all have a different idea of what a balanced life is to you. So who’s right and who’s wrong?
If you’ve reassessed your priorities in life, and decided that you’d rather focus on looking after your physical wellbeing by working out over and above socializing as much as you used to, is that being obsessed? If you’ve decided to start eating healthy and give up drinking alcohol, is that being fanatical?
Those who disagree with your choices would most likely talk about moderation. It’s OK to go to the gym, as long as it’s just two or three times a week. Once it becomes more than that, or when it cuts into your social time, then it’s gone too far. It’s ok to drink alcohol, as long as it’s in moderation. If you decide to quit altogether then you’ve lost the plot, because that simply isn’t necessary.
Of course, the argument could go on and on forever. The fact is, there is no definition of what a balanced life is. There are only opinions, and they’re based on perspective. So unfortunately, there are no right or wrong answers.
But what if your life actually is imbalanced?
That’s a pretty dangerous situation, however.
Because what if you actually are obsessed or you have in fact crossed the line of what’s sensible?
What if you’ve isolated yourself from all of your friends, no longer have a social life, but just live your entire life around fitness? And what if not just one or two people disagree with your choices, but just about everyone you know? Doesn’t that then tell you that you aren’t living a balanced life?
Well, usually, yes. But not always.
When that happens you should take it as a cue to take a good look at what you’re doing and decide for yourself whether you’re OK with it or not. Even if everyone seems to be against you, it doesn’t make them right and you wrong.
They may be totally unaware of what your goals are, so they might not be able to see the big picture.
They may also have an interest in keeping you where you are, where they feel most comfortable. It’s not uncommon for even the most well-meaning people in your life to try to hold you back when you’re on a journey of self-improvement because subconsciously, they feel as though they’re slowly losing you, and they don’t want that.
At the end of the day it’s your decision to make. You just need to be sure to make it objectively and with a level head. It can be very easy to just dismiss everyone’s protests believing that they simply can’t see the big picture like you can.
But think deeply about it, and consider whether they actually see something you don’t.
If your goal is to lose weight to improve your feelings of self-confidence and self-worth, for example, does it make sense that you isolate yourself from your friends and totally shut off your social life to achieve that? If your goal is to improve your physical health, does it make sense to go to such lengths that cause you to develop an unhealthy psychological relationship with food?
When you find yourself in a situation where everyone is against your life choices, often the best course of action is to seek the opinion of others who share the same passions and goals as you do. That way you can get a fresh perspective from somebody you can’t simply dismiss as someone who “doesn’t get it”.
When balance holds you back
A balanced life shouldn’t be something that fits a generally-accepted template. Because when something is generally agreed upon by everyone, it basically means it’s average. This is the second big problem with the idea of a balanced life.
Are you happy to lead an average life? Perhaps you are, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.
But what if you aren’t?
What if you’re not happy to have an average body composition, or an average physique, or an average income, or to reach an average level of accomplishment in some field? If that’s the case, you need to put in above-average effort, which will of course upset the so-called “balance”.
At the end of the day, the key point is to weigh up your goals and how important they are to you, with what you’re prepared to sacrifice to achieve them. That’s where the real balance needs to be found. That’s what defines your balance.
I was recently watching a video with four-time IFFB Figure Olympia champion Nicole Wilkins where she mentioned something that really struck a chord with me and that highlighted this point very nicely:
Do you think that Nicole, or any other champion in their field for that matter, would have achieved the heights that they did by having a balanced life? Not likely.
Extraordinary achievements call for extraordinary effort. And that simply isn’t possible with a “balanced”, ordinary life.
So while a balanced life may be acceptable for most people, you should never allow anyone to convince you that it’s right for you as well. If you too have set lofty goals for yourself then you should expect an “imbalance” somewhere in your life. It’s part of the deal. It’s just up to you to decide how much of an imbalance you’re OK with.
You should also expect people to not understand your choices. At the end of the day though, it’s not for them to understand, nor can they, really. Even if they know what your goals are, they have no idea about your motivations for having them and what they truly mean to you.
It’s just a part of life that you’ll always experience some level of opposition whenever you aim to rise above the rest in some way. But you can’t allow yourself to be held back and your goals suppressed by the opinions and expectations of others.
Unfortunately, sometimes people will force you to choose between your lifestyle and your relationship with them. If that’s the case, you have another important choice to make.
Have you ever been accused of not having a balanced life, and by whom? What kind of an impact did this have on your life and how did you deal with it. Please let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!