So many people want to be great, to drink deeply of life, to achieve their wildest dreams. Sadly, lots of people fail to attain the greatness they were meant for because they freak out and bail on their dreams when life gets complex.
If the word busy comes to mind when you’re asked to recount your week, then you are like majority of the first world population. The incessant busy-ness of modern society is probably why balance is touted as the holy grail of lifestyle accomplishments. I think balance is a nice idea, but it seems so at odds with ambition. I think that if you are truly chasing your dreams and the BIG life, you should feel tired at the end of the week. You should feel like you cashed in your allotted time and energy.
The choice is a personal one – some people want balance, some people want to blaze.
The thing is, each of us is given one life. Why are we saving it up, saving up energy, hoarding up time? In withholding these things are we also withholding love and kindness and generosity? You don’t get to spend any of that once your life is over.
On the other hand the more time and energy you give, the more time and energy you have to give. My step-father donates blood every three or so months. He’s done this for the 20 years that I’ve known him. He gives it freely without being reimbursed (unless you count the Red Cross juice and cookies). He can do this because the human body has this incredible ability to replenish it’s supply of blood that is lost (or given). I find the same to be true of time and energy. When you spend or give away from the stores of what you have, you find that you always have more to give. You actually have more than what you would have had (altogether)if you’d just saved it up. And now here’s the truly beautiful thing: not only do you have more time and energy, others have more of your time and energy too.
Of course, rest is important. Of course, blazing can sometimes lead to burn out. Many people think that when they’re tired that they need to stop doing things to save up on their energy. I think burn out happens not because you’re doing a lot, but because you’re not doing enough. Follow me on this one.
When I’m exhausted or feel like I’m burning out I sometimes have a cry and a big sleep. When I feel a little better I assess what I’m doing in my life that steals my energy and what I’m doing that energises me. Like most normal people I do things for a lot of different reasons. Some things I do are out of duty, some are out of obligation. Some are out of joy and passion, some are for the money and some things are just the straight up boring stuff that is common to all men and women. Most people don’t dump the whole lot as soon as they become unhappy or tired. But most people don’t ever assess what they need to increase their energy and capactiy.
I’ve learned that if I don’t put focussed time into the my “essentials” in any given week I instantly feel the drain. My essentials look like this:
- Quality time alone – to dream, laugh at my own jokes, read, sit, watch at the ocean…
- Quality time with my husband.
- Communing with God – prayer, reading the bible, admiring his creativity…
- Time to write.
- Expressing gratitude – privately and publicly.
- Quality time with family or close friends.
- Showing love and kindness to others – those close to me and total strangers.
Honestly, sometimes it’s impossible to fit all of that + work + my to-do list into a week. But if I go more than two weeks without just one of these essentials I start to hear VOICES. I’m not kidding. Negative thoughts, whiney complaints, frustration, anguish – it all oozes out of my deflated soul. So I may be doing a lot, but I’m not doing enough to keep myself strong and healthy and sane. The emotional ups and downs do not depend on how much or little I’m “doing” but on how much or little I’m investing into the things that are important to me.
A lot of people use the excuse of “I don’t have the capacity” to shrink back from life. Not having the capacity has little to do with how you’re made, it’s about what you’re willing to change and develop in yourself. If you’re too willing to give up in the heat of the battle, you won’t get very far with your dreams and what you believe in.
Socrates is said to have put it like this:
I would rather die having spoken in my manner, than speak in your manner and live. For neither in war nor yet in law ought any man use every way of escaping death. For often in battle there is no doubt that if a man will throw away his arms, and fall on his knees before his pursuers, he may escape death – if a man is willing to say or do anything. The difficulty is not in avoiding death, but in avoiding unrighteousness; for that runs deeper than death.
Sometimes we treat living as the most sacred thing, but it’s what we do with life that matters. Really, who wants “She lived” on their tombstone? (Especially if you’re not a female.)
If you’re doing things that hurt you, that make you miserable or keep you up at night, then yeah go ahead and dump that. But if you care about something, if you want to pursue a dream, if you are called or if you want a life that’s bigger and better than just being comfortable – you will have to learn to increase your capacity for complexity. You will have to get better at taking care of yourself and investing into the things that energise you.
And if you do things well, if you give to others and give to your passions and give to yourself, you’ll have more energy and capacity than if you’d saved it all up just for yourself. So forget balance. Don’t save up your life; spend it, give it away. That old fireball Socrates said “a life unexamined is not worth living.” I think a life unspent is no life at all.