Optimal Balance is my personal theory relating to human happiness, health, and productivity. The theory was developed over the course of my career working in mental health, and is an approach to human development that can be used by men and women, young and old. By studying the variables most closely associated with what I consider fully-functioning people, I have assembled an approach to life that allows individuals to engage in activities and endeavors that best match their values, while simultaneously learning important stress-coping responses needed to re-direct when life goes out-of-balance. People who maintain an optimal balance in their lives often achieve great success because they become empowered by the control they have over their lives.
What would you plant in your garden today?
It may be easier to understand Optimal Balance in terms of planting a garden. Think of the most important four or five values in your life right now (i.e., physical health, spending time with your spouse, career) and look at these as plants you want to thrive. Obviously, if you water one plant too much (i.e., spend too much time at work), you will eventually drown the plant. Likewise, completely ignoring a plant (i.e., not spending enough time taking care of your physical health) will lead to problems as well. When we lose balance in life, we are forced to spend time and energy coping with stress and burnout — instead of using our healthy energy toward achieving peak performance.
Interestingly, simply taking the first step to identify the most important values in your life at this moment is actually therapeutic in that control has been consistently inversely related to stress (meaning the more control of your life you take, the less stress you experience). Additionally, after identifying your values, you can then set future specific, measurable goals that will give you the best chance to reach new heights in your personal life. It’s also important to note that you should identify values that you find important, not necessarily values you think you should prioritize, or that others have ascribed to you.
Nurture your values
Similar to a garden, you have to regularly perform maintenance in your life so that distractions (weeds) don’t take over. For example, if you want to improve your grades at school, then it’s imperative that you dedicate time to studying and seeking tutoring help when needed. In addition, when distractions (“weeds”) like playing video games steal attention, it’s important to develop the discipline needed to remain committed to studying. As you can see form this example it’s important to not only identify future targets for goals, but to also regularly work to push back on temptations and distractions that prevent us from becoming our best selves.
How stress occurs
The stress we experience in life often occurs when we are “out of balance,” meaning we are doing too much of one thing (i.e. working) and not enough of another (i.e. spending time with family). This stress, if not recognized and addressed, will ultimately rear its ugly head at some point (i.e. perhaps as displaced aggression when we become short-tempered with an innocent friend). We have an internal set-point that longs for homeostasis, and when we feel unbalanced we naturally (and sometimes unknowingly) work to regain control and balance. This work to regain balance is stressful in the sense that we must take pause, recognize the imbalance in our life, and develop coping responses that allow us to move back to our healthy, unique balanced lives.
Take control of your life by identifying where you want to spend your time, and hold true to your findings by learning how to successfully respond to the things that steal your attention from the things you value. Optimal Balance is finding your unique homeostatic condition that allows you to proportion your values against life obligations and responsibilities, thereby allowing you better control of your life – and happiness.