The journey towards ‘balance’ seems to come up often as I work with leaders and young professionals.  Early on, I always assumed balance meant that we gave parts of our lives equal attention, especially with the on-going, ambiguous, and somewhat unhelpful “work/life” balance discussion.   Recently though, I’ve come to find that balance is more a state of mind, and it has to do with how you perceive and feel about the rhythm of your life, your work, and your service. Balance is an individualized pursuit and a science of one. 

So to that end, I thought I would offer a second mini-series exploring the eight areas identified by the ‘Wheel of Life’ as I’ve had some new insights about the topic for leaders and individuals. 

Is trying to have fun adding stress?

When the question of balance arises, I think many leaders find themselves feeling like they don’t have enough time for family with not enough time for relaxation as a close second. Relaxation is of course critical to rejuvenating to ensure we can keep going with everything else; it’s why most places of work offer some sort of vacation or the ability to take time off, even if it never feels like it’s quite enough. That question of how much is enough is often the challenging one.

As a hiker and runner, I read about athletes who log more than 60 miles a week on their feet, with the higher weeks reaching 100 miles, if not more. 60 miles in a week is my absolute peak training, and I’ve only hit that mark three times. on an average week, I pull out just over 30 miles of running and walking. Now, I don’t actually have any desire to run 60 miles a week (let alone 100). But after a 25-mile week I definitely find myself thinking “gee, I wish I could have gotten out for one more walk in the mountains.”

And for me, that’s the sticking point in the conversation of balance as it relates to fun and recreation … except for at a very high ceiling, we always want more. Who doesn’t come back from a beach vacation and wish they could have stayed for a couple more days? And though the ski season eventually starts to wind down in Colorado, traffic on I70 doesn’t really get better, because that skiing energy turns into a myriad of other outdoor pursuits almost immediately and people are still headed out on their next adventure.

Always wanting more and never feeling like there has been quite enough time to recreate and vacate, leads to its own stress, frustration and energy drain. It can turn that first week back from vacation into a miserable time of re-entry, making whatever we just enjoyed seem like a distant dream. The responsibilities of work, managing a household, and the demands of real life just aren’t as fun as being out on the road wandering.

So I didn’t exactly know I was going to arrive at this conclusion when writing on the topic of fun and recreation, but I think there’s a healthy and worthy pursuit of considering what our ceiling is for recreation. What are reasonable goals we can set of how much time is a good amount of time for fun? What will make us feel satisfied and satiated without compromising the other areas in life that need our time and presence?

A 30-mile week of hiking and running is my baseline, and it’s generally obtainable during the average week. And 40 miles (or a bit over) is a great treat. While I might still want more, I begin sacrificing other parts of my life that really matter to me if I go too much farther (not to mention the aches and pains that begin developing).

What’s your baseline of the amount of time you spend on your passion, hobby, or fun on any given day? Week? Month? When you have a little bit of extra time, how much more recreating is a treat? But how much more begins to threaten your balance elsewhere? If you get a week vacation, how well can you set yourself up to celebrate that time off without being miserable when you return?