The necessity of balance…

Are you stepping back or stepping forward?

Safety can be a good thing. It motivates us to earn money so we can have a home, food, and security. It cautions us not to put ourselves in harmful or dangerous situations. Conversely, it can also hold us back, from exploring experiences outside of our comfort zone, learning new skills or topics, and generally living a more fulfilled life.

Safety can become the antithesis of growth

Safety can mean complacency, not striving to be healthier or happier. The couch becomes safer than a run in the rain, the TV becomes safer than challenging yourself to learn a new topic, and the cubicle becomes safer than challenging the status quo and asking for a role we really love. Safety takes over and takes hold. And nothing changes, nothing improves, and life remains the same. Why? Because…

Safety can be a convenient guise to mask our fears

Fear of failure, of not being good enough, or looking like an idiot in the growth process can stop us from pursuing growth. It can make us want to retreat to the couch, watch the latest episode of our favourite show, and stay put! Don’t get me wrong, sometimes a little downtime is necessary to regenerate, but I also recognize that none of these choices will lead to growth as a human being.

Safety is what has prevented me from learning how to speak German fluently. I understand German quite well, but my spoken German is abysmal. Is it because I can’t learn it? No. Anyone can learn a new language if properly motivated. It is my own fear that stops me. Fear of sounding like an idiot. (Which I did. Any time I spoke German.) However by not stepping out of safety and being willing to sound like an idiot periodically, I stunted my own growth, and any improvements I could otherwise achieve.

“Every person is, in part, ‘his own project’ and makes himself.”

– Abraham Maslow

Stepping forward into growth – “The Four Pillars”

I have had reconstructive surgery to my left orbit and have an artificial heart valve, from a car accident and aneurysm respectively. One fundamental learning from my experiences was that I didn’t just want to survive, I wanted to thrive. I had to break out of the safety zone. I didn’t want to feel weak in any fashion, so gradually, over time I have striven to achieve balance in each of the four pillars, the physical, emotional, mental, and the spiritual. Here’s why –

  1. Physical – enables us to maintain power, endurance, and energy
  2. Emotional – inspires healthy relationships, tolerance, bonding
  3. Mental – increases our ability to learn, concentrate, and focus
  4. Spiritual – encourages us to pursue a personal mission, orientation, journey

The Four Pillars have crossed my path many times, in university leadership courses, therapist or naturopath recommendations, books, James Altucher often writes about them, and there seems to be an unspoken agreement that these are the pillars that make up each individual being, and can help us achieve happiness. Similar to Maslow’s hierarchy, I find that the Spiritual pillar is next to impossible without a strong foundation in the other three.

Leveraging one to compensate for another however, can help regain energy and create balance again. For example, if someone feels mentally and emotionally stressed throughout their day, they might compensate by: going for a long rigorous workout or run after work; read a book in the comfort of their home; write about it to a friend; or speak about it with a loved one. Finding balance and being healthy in each pillar is the real challenge. However they can all be improved simultaneously, a little at a time, by building strong habits.

Only you, can improve you.

What has worked for me is to keep these four pillars top of mind every day, and to imbed habits from each into my mornings. Every day I ensure I complete the following at a minimum –

  1. Physical – stretching
    • using previously learned yoga postures, at a minimum the back bends to compensate for siting at the computer all day
  2. Emotional – journaling
    • clearing my mind by completing the morning pages (from The Artists Way) and contacting at least one friend during the day
  3. Mental – learning
    • something new every day through reading, research, writing or discussion
  4. Spiritual – meditation
    • personally I use a mantra from my stay at an ashram years ago, I go through one mala (prayer beads) cycle

“If you improve 1% a day, the ‘compounded abundance’ of those four pillars would make me improve 3800% a year

– James Altucher

Conducting even 20 minutes – 5 minutes of each – every morning helps me maintain balance and enables me to grow, learn, and expand my possibilities. Mix it up if you prefer, climb the stairs instead of taking an escalator, talk to a loved one, learn a new skill, and if you have a faith then add a church visit. Any combination of activity works as long as it resonates with you and creates balance in each pillar.

Nobody is perfect. We all fall out of balance sometimes, but its up to us to shake it off, step out of the safety zone, and step forward into growth. Whatever that growth might be.

Wishing you a balanced day ahead.

Do you dread going in to work every day? Do you feel disengaged and undervalued? Do you worry that your personal life is starting to suffer as well? Feeling stuck and not knowing what to do next…

Don’t worry, I know how that feels. Fill in your email address below and I’ll send you increasingly action oriented information, tactics and tools that I wish I had known when I was struggling to figure out my next career move. 

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