April Key of the Month: Balance
The Key of the Month is Balance—Live your best life. Be mindful of self and others while focusing on what’s meaningful and important in your life. Inner happiness and fulfillment come when your mind, body, and emotions are nurtured by the choices you make.
It’s the classic story about balance—one you may have run across before:
An American tourist traveled to a Mexican fishing village.
One day, the tourist noticed a fisherman unloading several tuna from his skiff. The tourist complimented the fisherman on his glistening catch, asking how long it took him to catch the fish.
“Only a little while,” replied the fisherman. “All I need is a few fish to support my family.”
The tourist looked baffled. “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”
The fisherman shrugged, “I sleep in every day, play with my grandkids, take a siesta, and spend time with my wife. In the evenings, I go out drinking and singing with my friends. I have a full life.”
The tourist scoffed, “I have an MBA from Harvard, and I can help you. You should spend more time catching fish. With the extra money, you can buy a bigger boat.”
“And after that?”
“With the extra money from the bigger boat, you can buy two or three boats and eventually hire more people to operate a fleet of fishing trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can start to negotiate directly with the processing plants. After a while you would be able to open your own plant. Then you could leave this little village for Mexico City and eventually, New York! From there you could operate the whole enterprise.”
“And after that?”
“Well my friend, that’s when the fun starts,” explained the tourist, “When the business gets really big, you can sell stock in the company and make millions!”
“Wow, millions. What happens after that?” asked the fisherman.
“Then you can retire to a small Mexican fishing village, where you can sleep in every day, fish a little, play with your grandkids, take a siesta, and spend time with you wife. In the evenings you can go out drinking and singing with your friends.”
The fisherman just shrugged his shoulders and walked away.
The fisherman is the hero of this story. He throws conventional wisdom about wealth and success to the wind in exchange for a simple, leisurely life with plenty of time to play.
But is that what a balanced life really looks like?
In the 8 Keys of Excellence framework, balance is about identifying your values and making choices that honor those values, your own well-being, and the well-being of others. It means saying “no” to certain opportunities so you can say “yes” to others.
Balance is also about being flexible. Balance makes room for the natural ebb and flow of life. For example, you may have to skip your workout session one week to finish an important work project. But maybe the next week your work load is lighter and you have time to squeeze in an extra cardio session.
That’s why it’s so hard to nail down exactly what a balanced life looks like. We’re all going to make different choices based on our unique values, and even within our individual lives, priorities are going to vary from day to day and year to year.
Perhaps the takeaway is not that we all need to give up our career ambitions and go live on a beach in Mexico. But rather that we need to clarify our values and honor them in the lives we create.
For some of us, honoring our values will lead us to something akin to the fisherman’s life. But for others, we may find ourselves living the life of the American tourist. Whatever our values are, let’s make Balance one of them.