Keeping Life in Balance

Home Columns Books Talks About me Contact me

Midland Daily News, 6/24/05

June is the month of graduations. People finish a level of education and are graduated to the next level. There are even kindergarten graduations! But the one I am writing about today is graduation from high school. What a momentous moment this is for all of the graduates and their families.

One of the graduation events is Commencement. Whereas the word graduation impliessomething ending, the word commencement points to a beginning. Simply put, it is the beginning of the rest of their lives. Itís hard to appreciate that fully at age 18, but it is so easy to appreciate that at my age, near retirement.


I remember being rather naÔve when I was 18, having lived a somewhat sheltered life up to that point. I thought I could live in an unchanging world for the rest of my life. Then I would be happy.


In contrast to that, I have learned over the years one incontrovertible and paradoxical truth:, the only constant in life is change. Trying to hold on without changing is like staying on board a boat that is headed for the Niagara Falls. You have to change directions sometimes.

Changes come in all sizes and shapes. Some changes are foisted upon us without us having any say about it at all. They could be something as simple as a minor accident that causes us to think differently about our lives or as challenging as the death of a spouse or child. As much as we would like to think we have control over the events of our lives, many events just happen. In fact, someone once said that life is what happens when things donít go they way you planned.

Other changes come about through choices we make during our lives. Only time tells for sure whether those choices were good or bad or perhaps a mixture of both.

These choices revolve around the way we live. The way we live incorporates physical, mental, intellectual, vocational, emotional, and spiritual aspects. It is important to keep all these in balance.

For an 18 year old full of energy and enthusiastic about the future that lies ahead, it may be difficult to think about balance, because much of their energy and enthusiasm is directed toward a career, either advanced schooling or entering the job market right away. Putting balance in life usually comes with experience.

Yet it is this very energy that can put a personís life out of balance. The focus can be so directed towarda job or career that one forgets to seek a fulfilling vocation Ė a job or career that utilizes a personís gifts and is rewarding.Worst of all, a person with too much focus on a job will be devastated when the job is lost through downsizing, outsourcing, or firing.

A proper emphasis on the physical aspect of life will result in perhaps averting health problemslike obesity from eating too much, cirrhosis of the liver from drinking too much alcohol, or heart problems from not enough exercise.

Stimulating our mental skills through reading for work and pleasure enhances our ability to engage in political and civil discourse. A democratic society requires the participation of everyone.

Emotional maturity doesnít just happen for most people. It requires regular examination of our emotions and feelings to see if we are in touch with them and handling them adequately. Many adults are emotional cripples, unable to express their feelings even to their spouses and children.

Spiritual development doesnít end in childhood when we quit any formal religious education. In fact, what we learned as a child helped us as a child, but as adults we need to seek out opportunities to enhance our spiritual growth. Without this, lifeís challenging moments will be especially difficult.

I didnít learn about keeping these all in balance until just a few years ago. Iím still working at it, but these are all much more prominent in my life than they used to be. I wish the new graduates a life time of balance and opportunity for enrichment in all aspects of life, no matter what comes up.