We know it is important to live a well-balanced life. Yet, accompolishing it in today’s complex, high-tech, fast-paced, high-stress, world is a formidable challenge.
At times we feel that we are captured in the treadmill of life, so busy, stressed and overwhelmed, that we long to escape. Conversely, there were times in our lives that seemed so mundane and devoid of meaningful activity and accomplishments that we actually felt tired of the boredom and monotony of life.
Sometimes we vacillate and see ourselves conflicted and challenged between the extremes of over-activity and under-activity. That is because life is a continual challenge for balance. It is a continual challenge because each new day unfolds to us a myriad of conflicting thoughts, emotions, ideas, actions and distractions. Unchecked, human nature succumbs to these conflicts which may overwhelm and constrain us from accomplishing our plans, best intentions and goals.
Hard work and diligent effort, when properly balanced with a holistically healthy lifestyle of rest, fun, leisure and re-creation, are necessary ingredients for us to accomplish our goals. Constant striving and overworking devoid of balance, so that we neglect our health, loved ones and friends becomes a curse because “to over-do is to undue”. However, sustained inactivity without meaningful purpose, structure and work, leads us into indolence and boredom and is equally as detrimental to our well-being as over-activity.
To work hard and vigorously, to attain our goals and aspirations with a sense of pride, purpose and accomplishment without overworking…To make quality time and truly be “available” for ourselves, friends and loved-ones, without becoming overburdened…To take time out to treat ourselves well, to meaningfully experience some portion of each day as relaxing, healthy and enjoyable, without neglecting our responsibilities and commitments…To make even a minor contribution to society, our communities and “give back” to others without personal detriment…To successfully accomplish these challenges requires a well-balanced lifestyle because life is a continual challenge for balance.
To me, one of the most profound and relevant statements regarding the daunting challenges of a well-balanced life is marvelously and succinctly stated in a principle known throughout the world as the Serenity Prayer, paraphrased below:
“God grant me the serenity to ACCEPT the things I cannot change
The courage to CHANGE the things I can
And the wisdom to KNOW the difference”.
This principle proposes three simple, but not easy components:
Serenity to Accept
Courage to Change
Wisdom to Know
To truly and peacefully Accept requires serenity. It represents the passive. Suppose that we have worked hard and put forth massive effort to resolve a particular problem. Nonetheless, it eludes us and remains unsolved. We are cognizant of the great effort we have put forth and are at peace. We fully accept that we have done all we can within our human power, at least until new facts emerge or new circumstances develop. We say to ourselves with peace and assurance that we have put forth our best effort and now release it to an authority more powerful than ourselves.
To Change may take decisive action and great courage. Change represents the active. This is the realization that there is effectively more we can do to resolve a problem or circumstance.
Our challenge is to realistically know and truly understand how to apply and utilize the balancing point between the Passive (accepting) and the Active (changing) all throughout our life’s ever-evolving, constantly unfolding path.
Regarding the Passive, we may incorrectly rationalize that we do not have to take any action or expend any energy to resolve a problem or attain something we desire or need. We simply passively accept our lot in life and day-by-day accept what life serves us without any serious intention or effort to effect a positive change. We accept our lives no matter how dissatisfying, as if we are “predestined” without choice or the authentic power to change.
Suppose we are single and our heartfelt desire is to be coupled in a beautiful, interdependent, relationship in which giving and receiving true love flows as freely as an elegant, but mighty river. Most of us over the age of sixteen have felt the emotions of despair and broken-heartedness over a failed relationship. So, frightened by the prospect of a repeat scenario, we may adopt a safe, risk-free attitude that suggests that we need not take any action. Or, we may even avoid the possibility of a new relationship. We may erroneously believe that if and when the time is right, the love of our life will one day miraculously appear on our doorstep or perhaps under our next Christmas tree!
Regarding the Active in our search for the love of our life, we my obsessively and unceasingly try everything imaginable to find her or him. We may experience unrelenting thoughts that compulsively drive us like a locomotive, to DO more and more to fulfill this legitimate desire of our heart. Thus, we will experience little peace. Our most tireless efforts will likely be disheartening. The true and pure desire of our heart will remain unfulfilled. Such dilemmas are indeed real, because life is a continual challenge for balance.
So, wherein is the answer? Please carefully re-read the three-sentence, Serenity Prayer. The third component involves knowledge and Wisdom. Knowledge and wisdom to know the difference between the Active and the Passive is a prerequisite to sustainable happiness. It is by no means an easy or effortless task, because life is a continual challenge for balance.
One important aspect of a more rewarding and fulfilling life is to get to know ourselves and our loved ones more intimately. How we behave and react to events in our lives is often determined by our subconscious motivations. Greater insight, understanding and self-awareness of our deepest, often subconscious, motivations are important beginnings on our journey into self-discovery and a well-balanced life.
To facilitate lasting change, we must commitment to learn from mistakes/experiences and effectively apply our accumulated knowledge to solve life’s dynamic, constantly-evolving, problems and challenges. Thereby, we will achieve our most heartfelt goals. This involves learning to be truly wise, to acquire and internalize authentic wisdom. There is an inescapable coloration between happiness and authentic wisdom. Again, I invite you to re-read the three-sentence, Serenity Prayer to determine for yourself the source of authentic wisdom.
Life is a journey, never a destination. The journey is always a blend of pleasant and not-so-pleasant, ever changing events. From the Passive to the Active, from the Accepting to the Changing, the fundamental challenge is the wisdom to know when you are in authentic balance. Because life is an ever-changing dynamic, and a continual challenge for balance.
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