Monday, April 23, 2012

On the balance beam

The health experts encourage all of us to find balance in our lives. Don’t work so many hours that you have no time for family, friends and for yourself. Find something you like to do other than work. Recharge your batteries. Have some down time. Don’t wait until your friend is facing a health crisis to find time to spend with him or her. And don’t neglect your spiritual side. A lack of balance could result in a nasty fall. The impression is that Americans work too much. Some people attribute it to materialism. Some think it’s due to a fear of losing your job if you’re seen as the kind of slacker who takes vacations. That may be true for some people, but it’s not just that. I know people who simply find it easier to work every day than to face the pile of work that will be waiting for them when they get back. From so much worry about productivity and cost-cutting, their employers have no cushion in the staff. If you’re not there to do the job, it doesn’t get done and there’s just that much more when you get back. I think there’s another reason. I don’t have the research in front of me to back it up. I was not able to find any citations in a quick search, but I’m sure somewhere in the social science journals, there’s evidence that work is our new community. I don’t mean it as a negative idea. Some people don’t live near family. Some people don’t have lots of friends outside of work. They are not all sad, lonely people. It’s that the job is in a career they worked hard to achieve and that they get real satisfaction from. They may have moved across the country for the career opportunity. It’s only natural that their career would then be their community. Still, there is that balance thing. Work, even work at a job that you like, that is very satisfying, that makes you positively giddy when you think about the fact that you get paid to do something so great, should still be just one dimension of the multi-dimensional creature that is you. If you can’t quite get away for several days at a time, at least get away to some place long enough to calm your mind and allow non-work thoughts to simmer upwards. Find your thoughtful spot. Find where you feel a sense of place. If you’re lucky, someone else has, either through their very cool career or through their avocation, help create or conserve such a place in your area. And if you need to make a business case for your downtime, if nothing else you rationalize it as an investment in time that make your more productive when you get back to work. No, on second thought, don’t do that. Find your thoughtful spot for your own health, not to enhance your productivity.

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