You can’t win at life only sections of it

Every time I see my Facebook feed I am reminded that many of my friends have won at this game called life. Dreams are being constantly materialised; “crushed that presentation”, “bucketlist-tick”, “to my lover and best friend…” it’s all rather nauseating.

In reality social media is only mirroring that which we see in the enormous literature lining our shelves, invading our playlists and populating our screens.

Self-help books, of every variety, offer advice on how to be happy, successful, confident and resilient, each with a set of techniques that contradict each other.

The gurus of success offer inspiring guidelines on how to evolve into the heroes that they are. “Be more like me and you’ll achieve your dreams.” This one dimensional view of life; that achievement in one sphere translates into happiness and success in all spheres; is not only disingenuous,  it is outright impossible.

The balanced life refers not to one where time and effort are successfully divided across all sectors, but rather it is a management strategy that budgets limited personal resources, accepting that sacrifices are needed in one area of life in order to achieve success in another.

We can divide up a person’s life into 5 areas:

  • Professional Success
  • Personal Wellbeing (Physical, mental, emotional)
  • Family Relationships
  • Social Relationships
  • Contribution to Society (non-professional Leadership, volunteering)

A balanced life will have elements covering all of the above areas. We can invest time and effort into developing each of these areas, but despite the desire to be a 10/10 in every area, we are lmitied by our time and energy budgets. Some of us only have 20 points to distribute, others 30, but no-one can have all 50. Managing that budget but accepting that success in one area of life will come at a cost to others. Success in multiple areas necessitates relative failure, if not outright failure, in others.

Mandela, Clinton and Kennedy were known for their political leadership, not their fidelity. Devoted mothers who held their families together through traumatic times don’t boast about their post-natal bodies.

There is a well know saying in the world of Iron-man triathlons; “There is family, work and iron-man. You can only have two of the three.”

Winning at life means learning to accepting that  you can’t win; you can only budget for partial victories.

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