Balance in life is an idea thrown around often. It is commonly thought to be the answer to fulfillment and happiness by way of maintaining an equilibrium between all of the demands that are put upon a person. Remaining balanced is seen as the way that a person keeps their life “in check”, so to speak, not allowing any one area of life to take up an unreasonable or unhealthy portion of their time.
Balance is compromise. Said another way – balance can only be achieved through compromise. When balance is the goal, compromise is the method by which one is able to reach that goal. Prioritizing balance is a symptom of one who does not have a larger goal in place nor a strategy to achieve it. Without a goal or strategy, a person is simply existing. There is likely a lack of drive to achieve anything beyond comfort and contentment and so balance becomes the default goal.
When there is a larger goal or purpose in a person’s life there is a drive to achieve a specific end. To achieve that specific end they will need a strategy. That strategy will specify the steps and actions needed to make progress toward the goal. Such a strategy will not focus on balance but rather on progress. Driving progress creates opportunity for unbalance and it is in an unbalanced state where real progress is made.
Unbalance will always beat balance when there is a real goal being worked toward. It is because the unbalance will allow a person to be selective in their pursuits – to say “no” to all things that don’t support or align with the goal being pursued. Focusing one’s resources and abilities toward a single end will increase the effectiveness of those efforts where spreading one’s limited resources across many pursuits serves to make the impacts of those same efforts less potent.
Below are the tactics and considerations needed to make an unbalanced strategy work effectively:
1. Have a clear, specific goal and know the strategy.
Strategy was discussed in the introduction but is important enough to be repeated as the first consideration. Unbalance is to be used for a specific purpose and that specific purpose must be known and understood in order to keep efforts in alignment with achievement.
The idea of balance is thrown around in response to those who do not use unbalance as a tool but rather those that are too far unbalanced without having a larger strategy in play. Consider the advice given to workaholics – those that live and breathe their work while other aspects of their lives are left in disrepair. Often the workaholic does not have great relationships and their health is in need of work. Their work is their addiction and their addiction negatively impacts other areas of their lives. This subset of the population is extremely unbalanced and it is not a healthy existence. The problem is not simply that they work too much, though, it is that they work too much to the detriment of everything else around them. Said differently, it is not the amount of work they subject themselves to, it is that their work does not support anything outside of simply working more.
2. Understand the degree of unbalance to be pursued.
Think of unbalance as a circle within which someone operates. The center of the circle is perfect balance and each step away from the center is a radius increasing the level of unbalance in any one direction. There should be a specific number of “steps” that one is comfortable taking away from perfect balance before they cross a threshold into an area that works against their goals. This is the threshold of strategic unbalance to harmful unbalance.
The degree of strategic unbalance is defined by the goals and strategy put in place by any one person. There is no standard deviation from the center that is applicable to all people but rather the deviation must be defined by each individual.
Going back to the workaholic discussed in point 1, let’s take another look at their habits. We discussed that the problem is not the amount of work that said workaholic subjects themselves to; rather, the issue is that work is an addiction that controls them. Work is often done at the expense of other things like health and relationships.
Now, what if a certain person’s strategy is established to be that unbalanced? What if a person has very aggressive goals and their strategy to achieve their goals is to be extremely off-balance to the point that they resemble a workaholic? Would that change anything?
It would. In this instance, the workload taken on is intentional and supporting a larger goal. An extremely unbalanced strategy can be effective if there are very specific goals being pursued and the timeframe of such extreme unbalance is defined. I wouldn’t recommend sacrificing health and relationships to achieve a goal, but I cannot speak in definitive terms for all.
3. Make focus cyclical and put other disciplines in maintenance mode temporarily.
Humans cannot focus on too many things at the same time without performance slipping and so we must decide what few disciplines of our strategy we will focus on at any given time. When it is decided that one will focus on a select few disciplines, the others must go into maintenance mode while the chosen disciplines are built. This will allow progress made elsewhere to be maintained while building specific areas of focus.
It must be understood that maintenance mode must be temporary. Maintenance is not progress and so one cannot allow certain disciplines to go into maintenance mode for too long or else that area will start to atrophy and begin to regress. It is important that one’s focus in an unbalanced strategy be cyclical – focus must shift on a chosen interval in order to ensure that all areas are being developed without losing ground in any one area.
Cyclical focus is how one is able to grow in many areas while benefiting from the focus afforded by an unbalanced strategy. Whereas prioritizing balance will make everything of the same priority, cycling focus in an unbalanced strategy allows for a defined and meaningful level of priority and; therefore, the ability to truly excel in many areas.
This Transmission is an important part of the Initiated Lifestyle to understand. It is one thing to be motivated to do more and work harder, but one must also prioritize and understand how to work smart to get the most impact from their efforts.
The ideas of an unbalanced strategy – having and understanding goals and strategy, defining a degree of unbalance, and cycling focus – are all basic ideas needing to be understood to lead both oneself and to lead a team. As a leader one must be able to see the larger goals and strategy and understand how the tactics being employed work to support that larger mission. Cycling focus, prioritizing efforts, and unbalancing resources to address specific issues are all tactics used by effective leaders, people, and teams to make the most efficient and effective use of resources.
Unbalance will always beat balance. It is the difference between being effective in a few areas at a time and being ineffective in all areas at once.
Set a plan and keep resources fluid enough that they can be shifted into those areas that need them. Cycle through the different areas of focus until all areas are built to where they need to be. It is a process. Meaningful change is not quick but takes discipline and time to build.
Yours in strength,
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