It’s all about balance

  • Published
  • By Col. Jennifer Moore
  • 21st Operations Group commander
If you're anything like me, you probably spent two weeks this summer glued to the TV, watching and cheering on our Olympic athletes as they competed in London.

When I was younger (much younger) I competed in gymnastics, so I always enjoy watching the Olympic gymnastics events. This year was no different. The "Fab Five," as we came to know them, delivered phenomenal results in the face of all the hype. I am amazed by all of the gymnastics apparatus, but the balance beam in particular fascinates me, particularly because I know from my own experience just how hard it really is. Those young ladies perform amazing feats on the beam (only 4 inches - yes, inches - wide) that most of us couldn't execute on the ground in our wildest dreams. What is it that they rely on to perform and stay on the beam? Strength, certainly. Flexibility, without a doubt. But most importantly, they count on outstanding balance.

Balance is a concept that applies to more than just gymnastics. It applies to our lives as well. Wing leadership recently came together to participate in Resiliency Training, and one of the key topics of the day was the importance of balance in our lives. One of the images that comes to mind when we think of balance is a pie chart where each slice of the pie represents something of significant important to us - family, friends, community activities, spiritual endeavors, fitness, hobbies, etc. We often draw those pie pieces so that each one is exactly the same size, implying that each is of equal importance. That often leads us to think that each then deserves an equal amount of time and that people who seem to spend an inordinate amount of their time on any one slice of the pie are not living balanced lives. Personally, I don't think that's what balance means at all. Allow me to explain by way of a story.

When I was a young captain, I worked as an executive officer for an O-6 who absolutely loved to work. He always flew the red-eye when he travelled so that he could get in a full day of work wherever he was going. He would shoo me out of the office in the evening and I would leave knowing he would be there for many hours after I left. I would often pass him on my way in to work as he was finally headed home having spent the entire night in the office. He would often say, "I'm going home to get cleaned up and take a nap. I'll be back in a few hours." Just about everyone who knew him called him a workaholic and most who knew him would have said his life was unbalanced - to say the least.

When I think back on that now, I realize to my surprise that he was likely living a more balanced life than I ever imagined. He balanced his life in terms of the intentional way we spend our time versus the simple calculus of how many hours we spend on one thing in particular. In his case, he loved his work, so he allowed himself to truly enjoy what he did and spend the time he wanted to in the office. But he also raised amazing kids and to this day is happily married. He made time not just for the work that he loved, but for the people that he loved as well. As a result, he was successful as an officer and as a husband and a father. His choices were always intentional and as a result, he was a success. His kind of balance was unique and there aren't many who could imitate it, but he found a way to make the most of everything he counted as important.

So, what's the take away? I'm certainly not telling you to work harder and stay in the office longer. I'm only asking that you spend your time wisely. In the end, only you can know what balance looks like in your life. The trick is not to spend equal time doing all the things you find important, but to meet your own expectations for each part of your life. You'll find yourself unbalanced when you focus on any one aspect to the detriment of the others. Don't be fooled, though. Finding and maintaining balance is hard work. Just like you see gymnasts fighting to stay on the beam and not fall off, you'll have to fight to keep balance in your life. That balance will come with consistent, deliberate choices. I challenge you to take a close look at the choices you're making every day and commit yourself to finding and maintaining the healthy life balance that's right for you.