I find it interesting that we, as human beings, know to rest our car engine after driving hundreds of miles non-stop, plug our phones to recharge the battery, power down our computers at the end of a day of work, yet we often neglect to do the same with our own body. We bulldoze through life in pursuit of material comfort and in the process, we start confusing the means with the end goal.
Take work for instance; how many times have we come across colleagues who seem to eat, sleep and breath work? When you arrive at work in the morning they are already there, when you leave in the evening they are still there, they work through their lunch break, they always have weeks, if not months, of untaken leave and when they are forced to take a few days off, they continue to check their emails and attend to work.
I admire strong professional ethics and commitment to work as much as the next person, but I am also a firm opponent of the one-dimensional life. Many will fight me on this, but I strongly disagree with the principle of giving 110% or more at work for the following reason:
First of all, I understand that giving a 110% is simply an hyperbolic expression to illustrate the idea of going beyond the call of duty, going the extra mile, ‘doing our absolute best’. However, this choice of words creates a mindset that has a strong psychological impact on how people live their lives; an impact that is mostly negative. Let us analyse this analogy for a moment; warning: it might take a while to sink in. If 110% of anything is a physical impossibility, which it is; for you to achieve it, you have to take the 10% from somewhere else, therefore making that somewhere else less than 100.
A balanced human life can be summed in four broad categories: Body (physical health and appearance), Mind (career, business, any activity aimed at enhancing our economic well-being), Social (relationships with friends and family, intimate relations etc.) and spirit (religious and spiritual well-being). People’s goals in each of these areas vary from one individual to another, but we all seek to be fulfilled in each of them. To do that, we have to commit 100% to each. So as we give 110% at work for instance, we should always be mindful that we are taking 10% from our social, spiritual or physical life. Without knowing it, we are sacrificing one part of our life to the benefit of another.
It is not easy, but we should constantly be aware of this. Living a balanced life is about committing equally to each one of the above aspects. When we excessively dedicate to one, we negatively affect the others. It is as simple as that.
This is why some work insanely hard throughout the first half of their lives only to spend the rest of it spending their hard-earned money in hospitals trying to fix the years of neglect of their physical body. Or by the time they achieve their career objectives, their partner have left them and taken the kids along, if they had any at all. They have ostracised themselves from family and friends, they are basically lonely.
Life is not one-dimensional folks. Although achieving 100% in all four areas of our lives is simply an ideal, giving each its fair share of commitment is definitely possible and in fact, necessary, in order to live a balanced life.