“The moon does not fight. It attacks no one. It does not worry. It does not try to crush others. It keeps to its course, but by its very nature, it gently influences. What other body could pull an entire ocean from shore to shore? The moon is faithful to its nature and its power is never diminished.”
I’ve been in recruitment and management work for a long time now. I’ve encountered people who are successful not only career-wise, but in their family and non-work relationships as well. Unfortunately, I’ve also seen the other side: the executive with health issues about to get divorce #2; the family man with a bit of a drinking problem that is slowly eroding his career and friendships; the materialist who tries to fill the spiritual void in her heart with designer clothes and jewellery.
Like most people, I’ve struggled with finding balance in my life. I’ve stayed in roles that made me miserable and affected my health, my family, and my peace of mind. I’d like to share a few things I’ve discovered. Some of the ideas may resonate with you, some may not, but I think just stopping a moment to consider the main four aspects of your life (outlined below), you may end up on a path that leads to a little more balance and thereby a little more happiness.
No, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all perfect solution for everybody. I’ve visited Buddhist temples, Catholic cathedrals, Hindu shrines, Muslim mosques and lectures on atheism. The important thing when on a search is to listen to your own sense of direction. One of the great teachings of the world found a home in my heart is Taoism. You don’t have to be a Taoist or even understand some of the deeper teachings to find tools out of it that can help you find balance in a hectic world.
In Taoism there are four key aspects to life: Public, Private, Domestic, and Spiritual. Taoism teaches that all four of these dimensions have to be attended to in order to have a full, balanced life. They are all connected, and when one of these aspects takes over, grows out of control, cancerously, and the other parts shrink, you may just find yourself… rich, successful, and having two years to live unless you retire and change your diet and fitness levels!
In my current line of work, one of my key aims is to help people become more successful by revolutionising their CVs and helping them move up the ladder, but what about—if, like me, you’ve often felt unbalanced between work and family and private time—revolutionising your life? What good is a fantastic resume and career advancement if you end up divorced, you don’t know your own kids, and you worship at the plastic altar of materialism? How do you find true life-work… self balance?
Start small. An avalanche can be set off by a snowflake. Make a list of what is important to you in each of the four areas: work, home, self, and spiritual (however you define that). Are the quadrants balanced? Are you actually doing what is important to you in each area? Has one taken over your life? Negatively affecting your health? Coming between you and your family?
The next step is to take stock of your current situation, look at it objectively, identify what you’re doing well and where you need to improve, and start incrementally making small changes in your life. It may start with joining a gym, or taking a special walk through a park on your lunch break; maybe it’s developing a new schedule with your partner so you don’t have to pick up the kids and make dinner every day, freeing up time for your landscape gardening; maybe it’s joining a church or a meditation centre; picking one day a week to eat out as a family at your favourite restaurant; taking that course to improve your job and finally get that promotion.
Be specific. Where do you find real meaning in your everyday life? Yes, it’s great to parachute over volcanoes in Hawaii—it would be a fantastic experience and probably change your perspective on things… for a time. Real change is small, though. Not flashy. Not superficial. It stems from a humble space. Taoism stresses finding happiness in the everyday: washing the dishes, fetching that morning coffee, patting your dog on the head. It’s OK to start there. Try finding the extraordinary in the ordinary… and you’ll soon discover it’s all extraordinary already!
For me, I take time every day to take a walk or ride and try and do everything that needs to be done around the home. Meaning doesn’t just fall into your lap; you have to purposefully seek out those little moments that make you happy and can balance out the stressful parts of your day. It may seem silly to someone else, but without my little coffee and my big walk, I’d have a miserable time at work. It breaks things up, gives me time to think. Without those little rituals, I’d be much less happy during the day. And since everything is connected, I’d take that misery home and toss it on my family; and now that the entire household is out of balance and unhappy, I’d have no peace of mind to pursue anything spiritual or personally meaningful. Taoism teaches everything connects, and we need to seek harmony between those connections.
Today, we are so career and money-oriented that all other aspects of our lives twist off-kilter, and our happiness and health can suffer, affecting friends and family. Yes, you can improve your CV and it can help you climb the corporate ladder, but it’s up to you to recognise that career progression, bonuses, and prestige come with a price if the other three domains of your life are not in balance.
This article is important to me because I encountered a gentleman whom was an executive, very successful and beloved by his staff, but was suffering. Over the decades, he had become obese, developed heart problems, and was forced into semi-retirement. I’m not here to judge anyone, but he himself, addressing us during his going away send off, admitted that he was so obsessed with work, he let his health go. The stress, food and drink on the road between meetings, and smoking, all took a toll on him. He no longer could do what he loved, doctor’s orders.
He has made some dramatic changes and has lost weight, is getting his health back, and is working a few days a week to help as much as he can, workhorse that he is. In terms of Taoism, one can see, as he himself admitted, his public life, his work life, was brilliant, but his private life—namely his health—suffered for it. We all have to slow down sometimes. It’s hard to do in this fast-paced world, but, at least according to Taoism, to be the best leader you can be, you need to be rich in all four aspects of your life, not just one. We’re aiming to be fully dimensional people so we are equipped to best help others, through balance, virtue, and seeing that everything and everyone is connected.
Right now, what can you do to make your day a little more peaceful and meaningful? A five-minute phone call to see how your spouse is doing? A walk around the block? Stopping at the bookstore after work just to browse for an hour? Balance can be found in the smallest things, following your own path, subtly influencing the world. Like the moon.