I recently struck up a conversation with a new acquaintance at the gym.
The guy sported a mustache without a beard, most familiar with military guys, and the old Army physical training uniform shorts. Being someone who enjoys talking to soldiers, I couldn’t help but ask him if he served in the military. He revealed that he was an Army reservist.
As an Army retiree, my curiosity piqued, and I asked if he planned on making it a long-term career. His response wasn’t a straightforward yes or no.
Instead, he shared that it depended on balancing his career ambitions and his family’s needs. He explained that in his younger years it was easier to be singularly focused on his military path. Now, with family responsibilities, finding equilibrium among these seemingly competing interests was a challenge.
His rationale resonated with me. Having retired from the Army after 20 years, I’ve experienced those same shifts in military dynamics firsthand. For 13 years while in service, I was unmarried, and for 19 years, I didn’t have children. Over time and through experience, I understood how military work commitments required updates when married and with or without children.
As a single officer, I devoted countless hours after work to ensure the completion of my and my soldiers’ tasks for the following day. However, when I married and attempted the same routine, my wife swiftly reminded me that family should always come first, and she would be there long after my Army days were over. (As it turns out, she was right, even four years post-military retirement.)
Finding balance is a universal struggle in today’s society. We strive to give 100 percent to everything in our lives, including our jobs, families, and hobbies. We rarely have the luxury of being partially engaged without facing the consequences of being deemed uncommitted or disinterested.
While these situations often force us to decide where to focus, they also present an opportunity to discover what captures our attention most of the time. We often struggle to balance the demands of making ends meet and fulfilling family obligations. And our lack of self-knowledge can lead us to believe that we must either sacrifice all of our family or all of our work ethic in a zero-sum game.
However, this misconception highlights the importance of integrating our authentic selves into every activity and aspect of our lives. Some activities and mindsets we hold onto may not serve us. But through self-knowledge, we learn to let go of those weights and hone in on qualities aligned with our more authentic present selves.
In Ayurveda, an ancient Indian lifestyle practice, individuals structure their lives based on their unique personal energy, or dosha. By understanding our dosha type and implementing daily activities that nourish it, we can cultivate the energy to engage in multiple pursuits without feeling overwhelmed or depleted. Like Ayurveda, we can embrace the idea that finding balance involves aligning our various responsibilities and interests into a singular selfhood.
Reflecting on my journey, I realize that finding equilibrium doesn’t mean sacrificing one area of life for another. It’s about discovering the synergy when all elements of our lives harmonize.
As the great poet Rumi once said:
“Let the beauty we love be what we do.”
We can live with purpose and balance by identifying what truly matters to us and integrating it into our daily lives.
So, my practical advice to those seeking balance amidst life’s demands is simple: Embrace the counterintuitive notion that balance doesn’t mean choosing one thing over another but finding a way to integrate and honor all aspects of yourself into every area of your life. Nurture your energy, understand your priorities, and allow your passions to guide your decisions. In doing so, you’ll discover a fulfilling and harmonious existence where all the pieces come together seamlessly.
Remember, life’s demands may be daunting, but finding balance is within your grasp.