At every playground, you can identify two types of parents. The hands-on parents hover over their little ones, ready to catch them as they climb up ladders and ropes, and wait at the bottom of the slide. The free-range parents read their books, chat with friends and sip coffee as their kids run wild.
I was hands-on when my children were toddlers. Being a doctor, I knew that playgrounds are the sites of some of the worst childhood injuries. But as each of my kids developed sufficient strength, confidence and balance, I unhooked my tether, relaxed and enjoyed the time with them.
Physical balance is important at the other extreme of our lives. A person’s likelihood of falling is as important as bone density in predicting the risk of breaking a bone.
My two teenaged sons are learning the value of balance in their lives. If they stay up too late studying and they’ll be too tired to write a good exam. Devoting more time to sports and games can affect their academic performance.
Balance is crucial in my conception of health and my sense of well-being. Health is not the absence of disease and it is more than being physically fit. I define it as the balance of the important areas of our lives and the achievement of our positive potential in each of them.
It’s easy to lose our balance with the busyness and urgency of everyday life. We can overwork and neglect our important relationships. We can lose ourselves in our favourite activities as our debts mount. The crisis of the day deflects our attention from the rest of our lives.
As we grow up and our lives become more complicated, it’s more challenging to juggle the important areas of our lives. Often we don’t recognize our lives are out of balance until we’re in a crisis and the balls come tumbling down.
My life has become more complicated with each decade. I’ve found the easiest way to maintain balance is to reflect on how I’m doing in the important areas of my life every day. I’ve set key goals in each of the spheres of my life: my social life, my physical health, my environment, my financial wellbeing, my work life, my family life, my mind, my emotions, my spiritual life, rest and play. Of course, my goals have changed at different stages in my life.
Because my wife is also my office manager, I am master of my domain when I lock the washroom door. In my sanctuary, I have posted a mandala – a great circle within which are ten spheres each representing the important areas of my life. It is the tool with which I balance my life on a daily and weekly basis.
My boys share a bathroom between their two bedrooms. I think I’ll put a mandala there. It’s never too early to strive for balance. They could also use it to improve their aim.
Tomorrow: Setting goals in the important areas of your life.