Key Takeaway: It’s not always easy to remember that living a purposeful life entails balance. It’s all about balance, keeping yourself in check, and keeping yourself grounded in your purpose. Otherwise, you risk taking things too far at the expense of others or of yourself.
“It’s all about balance, so much easier to acquire in the kitchen than elsewhere.” (The Hon. Nigella Lawson, Nigellissima, 2012)
Now, the above statement might be more tongue-in-cheek than anything else – although I agree it does take less effort to balance taste in cooking than to balance my life – but Nigella Lawson has always had wise words for the world even outside the kitchen. Yes, it is all about balance – and you will see why in a moment.
Throughout the past two years, the message of this site has evolved from my personal “responsible” activities and opinions on such to an overall framework for my life I am inviting everyone else to stir into their own lives: a life of higher purpose, rooted in awareness and service – and lived with love. Sounds idyllic and idealistic, but I tell you that it is very real, very relevant, and very much possible for each and every one of us, as long as we know ourselves well.
(Read: Love is the cornerstone of purposeful living. Why?)
But that said, there are certain rules to follow, and perhaps the most important one is this. It’s all about balance. Purpose is in general good and noble. But it can also be misguided or taken too far – a painfully ubiquitous example of the latter is religious extremism, which is not rooted in awareness towards other, in particular if it involves killing.
Awareness is responsibility – towards yourself, towards others, towards the environment, towards society, towards things. But there is such a thing as being “too responsible” (and I’m not talking about things such as never using disposable plastic straws anymore – in fact, that’s quite a good thing). Being overly aware runs the risk of our becoming too “nosy” and/or arrogant, or simply spreading ourselves too thin.
The same goes for service. Though it is definitely better and more virtuous to serve than to be served, we don’t want to end up as people-pleasers or slaves. Or have others take advantage of our willingness to serve. In fact, the only one we should please is God, and from there everything else will flow.
Love, too, should be moderated. Now if you’re Christian, you may think that if God is love and he loves the world so much that he sent his only begotten Son to the world to die – die! – for our sins, then love is the one thing that shouldn’t be kept in check. Actually, it does: excessive love can be quite damaging – think greed, gluttony, and lust. Or even smothering other people (figuratively), when we become too clingy, controlling, or annoyingly persistent – even if they’re all out of love. Especially if they’re all out of love.
Now, when I talk about balance, I do not mean having an equal mix of good and evil within you or your actions. Certainly we should be free from all evil. But there are times when it may serve us and others better to withhold from doing a certain action, if only to do something else integrally better. We can only do so much, and an important part of living your purpose is to keep yourself grounded and focused on living out this personal mission.
The late Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, presents a similar train of thought, using the example of work versus family (always something for many to decide on). He advises that you use your being grounded in your principles to decide. The same goes when you’re looking at it from a purpose-oriented point of view: how will it contribute to your living your purpose? How will it contribute to awareness (would it greatly inconvenience you or those around you?)? To service? To love? You can also think about it from a marketing point of view: is it in line with your overall “brand” of yourself?
It’s okay to be selfish sometimes, if necessary (such as kindly but firmly declining an invitation to a party you’re very much wanted in, for the sake of resting because you’re fatigued). It’s okay to eat junk food sometimes. It’s okay to not completely be clean at times. These provide a healthy contrast that can even be good for you though you may not notice it at first.
(Read more: Beware of over-cleaning)
During his earthly life, Jesus practiced balance: He didn’t preach and heal every single moment. There were times when he would withdraw quietly to meditate and pray to the Father. The life of Jesus is an example of living with balance yet staying true to one’s purpose all the time.
At the end of the day, we want to be healthy, on so many levels: a healthy body, a healthy mind, a healthy portfolio, a healthy spirit, healthy relationships. Too much or too little of anything isn’t good for us, and striking the balance is an excellent point to start.
Have a purposeful weekend!