Balance, as it relates to harmony, is defined as “A state in which various parts form a satisfying and harmonious whole and nothing is out of proportion or unduly emphasized at the expense of the rest.” We could also add in “A state in which a body or being remains reasonably steadfast in a particular position or mindset.” Finally, we could say that emotional balance of an individual is “A state of emotional and mental stability in which someone in a family unit is calm and able to make rational decisions and judgments that benefit the whole.” I hear this word being tossed around quite a bit in the fitness industry, just as it probably is in many professions, as if it were simple to ‘maintain balance’ in one’s life. Balance, to me, means giving equal time, effort, and energy to ALL parts and aspects of one’s life. Unfortunately, from a philosophical perspective, balance is impossible to achieve. Now before ya’ll all go and get all up in my koolaid, let me explain.
We’d like to believe that we have ‘balance’ in our lives, but if you really look at it, we live in a world of ‘imbalanced balance’ or ‘balanced imbalance’ if you prefer. What I mean is, we’re constantly giving our time, effort, and energy to what’s most important to us at any given point in time. Whether it’s family, job, socialization, or competition, SOMETHING has our utmost attention for a few seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, and months. Balance, to me, means giving 33-1/3 to three parts, but if you think about that, that total only comes to 99.99. That means that as soon as you give just 1/100th of energy to one of those three parts, you’re no longer in – you guessed it – balance. In the perfect world, we’d give equal time, effort, and energy to our significant others, family members, friends, job, church, and anything else we’re involved in. But life doesn’t work that way. That’s why I like “balanced imbalance”, meaning that I give my energy to what’s most important TO ME at any given point in time. And you all do the same. Yes, we end up juggling all the pieces of our lives to where we FEEL we’re achieving balance, but actually, we’re not. We’re just fitting it all in to the best of our ability. And every now and then, something comes along in which we’ve gotta ‘drop’ something out for a short while so that something more important can be accomplished.
One of my future female competitors, Suzanne, recently posted a status to her Facebook page. “Announcement.. I’m moving into a new phase of life, and will be sacrificing some things and changing things. It will take discipline, dedication and time management. I foresee people saying or feeling as though “I’m not a good friend”. Let’s be honest, balance is elusive. I will fit things in where I can. So I’m asking for some grace and encouragement in this process as my availability to be present will be changing. In the past I’ve been guilty of not offering such grace. I thought friendship meant people had to talk regularly or be available regularly. I’m humbled to learn over time that, true friendships pick up where they left off.
Suzanne is one of those people who will do anything for her friends. But when she signed on to compete in 2015, I cautioned her that there will be times when something would have to fall by the wayside as she would have to give more of her time to ‘her’ instead of others. I was glad to see her post this, as I’ve told many competitors in the past, “Please tell your circle of influence what you’re getting ready to do so that they understand that you’ll temporarily be ‘out of balance’ during your contest prep.”
When it comes to prepping for a bodybuilding contest (meaning bodybuilding, physique, figure, fitness, and bikini), the closer we get to a show, the less ‘balance’ there is in our lives. This is neither good nor bad. It is what it is. Something has to give as we have to increase our cardio, our training, our posing, our food prep, our mental energy to the task at hand, and everything else that goes along with prepping for a show. We lose the perspective of balance for a short period of time. For some this could be just a couple of weeks. For others, this could be several months. For a few, they bury themselves so deep into this sport, that pretty much everything else outside of bodybuilding ceases to exist. Personally, I think that’s unhealthy, but hey, who am I to judge another. I know I’ve had my moments to where competing was the ‘singular focus’ of my existence. And I’ve heard the horror stories from others on how they had to ‘give up’ so much for this. All I can say to that is what I tell every single one of my competitors, “You choose this. Because you choose it, I expect you to be fully committed to seeing it through to the end, finding out what’s necessary to reach YOUR goal, and then doing the necessary WELL. If it reaches the point to where you cannot give your all – if life gets in the way – then I suggest you bag this show and pick another.” I know that’s harsh, but that’s me. We can all live to fight another day. I’ve never complained about my people losing as long as they were on task in their prep. But if they let THEMSELVES down…that’s another story. I wonder how the wise old mystic, SO WATT, would react to such a situation…let’s listen in…
The Philosophy of SO: Part VII – The Law of Balance
The wise old ancient mystic, SO WATT’S sixth law, the Law of Balance, states that whenever something of a higher priority enters our lives, something of lower priority will leave. He called this the ‘Teeter-Totter effect.” SO had learned through his many years of teaching and experience that he could not give 100% to everything in his life at all times and keep others happy. This was, as he said, “Pure foolishness”. SO knew that when he committed 100% to his training, other areas of his life suffered, which affected his circle of influence. SO called his commitment ‘Sacrifice’, which was described in a previous blog. Sacrifice and balance were closely related, but SO chose to create separate laws for them as students often confused them. Sacrifice, to SO, was an individual’s own choice. Balance had to do with other people’s perception of what the student was sacrificing. I wonder what a conversation would be like if SO were talking with a potential competitor. Perhaps something like this…
In the very ancient time in a land called The Hood, SO was approached by a man who desired to train under SO’s tutelage. The man had heard of SO’s knowledge and wisdom in his distant native land of Wannabe and traveled far and long to learn at the wise one’s feet. The man wanted to compete in a newly-created ‘Mankini’ contest and believed that SO was the only one to help him achieve the results he wanted. SO had the man stand in front of him, suit on (well…not really a suit…more like long pants cut off just above the knees. SO named these ‘Board Shorts’ because they bored him so – he could not see quads). SO walked slowly around the man with his hands clasped behind his back, taking in every inch of his upper body physique. SO looked him up and down, several times stopping and pinching crucial areas on the man’s physique, nodding his head, but expressionless other than that. Finally SO spoke.
“You have the makings of a magnificent physique, but you shall have to train long and hard to maximize your potential. You shall do heavy bench presses and dumbbell presses to build a magnificent chest, heavy rows and pull-ups to build a magnificent back, and especially heavy shoulder presses, upright rows, and lateral presses to build cannonball delts. But since I cannot see your legs, we shall ignore training them, as they are unimportant to your event (Heyyyy…settle down guys…I’m just playin’…lol). Is this agreeable to you, Weedhoppah?”
“Ain’t nuttin’ but a peanut!” replied the young man. “Bring it, old man!”
SO designed an intense training program – so intense that it took the young man away from his family and friends, caused him to miss time at work, and even his girlfriend complained that she wasn’t getting much attention anymore. After several weeks of following the plan, the young man came back to SO highly agitated.
“Yo, Homie…I need to holla at’cha! I can’t do this. My life is in shambles. I’ve been told I have no balance in my life. All of my time is spent training, doing cardio, prepping foods, and sleeping and recovering. My girlfriend constantly nags me saying that I’m not spending enough time with her, my family hates me because I don’t go to any family functions, my friends, who initially supported me, now hardly speak to me as they say I’ve ‘changed’, and my boss is mad at me for falling asleep on the job several times. WE GOTTA FIX THIS, HOMIE!”
Since SO was in the middle of a massage, he simply turned his head to one side, tossing his silver-white hair out of the way and replied, “So?”
The young man was flabbergasted! He’d heard that SO was the most skilled and knowledgeable of the skilled and knowledgeable, and this was all he got…a stinkin’ “So?” SO continued to look at the young man for another few seconds, shrugged his shoulders, and returned his face to the massage table cutout. The young man was just about to go off on SO when ZA-BAMMM – it hit him!
‘I get it,’ the man replied, nodding his head in complete agreement and approval. “So what you are saying SO, is that I must sacrifice many things to achieve this goal. But more importantly, I must get family, friends, co-workers, and others to understand that I’m not eliminating them from my life forever, but simply for a short time while I pursue my goal. I must tell them in advance what I’m doing, and that my life might be out of their perception of balance for a while. I must let them know that I haven’t cast them aside, and that every now and then I’ll do my absolute best to let them know how important they are to me.
The new pupil looked deep into SO’s ancient eyes. ‘Master,’ he said. ‘You have given me great wisdom and knowledge. I shall go forth and make it do what it do.’
‘Weedhoppah,’ SO replied, ‘You have discovered a great truth today – the truth of balanced imbalance. You have learned that even though you are disciplined and focused to achieve the task at hand, many of those around you perceive your life to be out of balance because they are no longer in it to the same degree they were before. You have learned that if you tell everyone what you are about to do, they will be more receptive and understanding, and more likely than not will whole-heartedly support you. But still be forewarned, Weedhoppah, that one’s chosen great sacrifice can cost one friendships, relationships, and jobs. Choose your battles wisely when you speak. Never talk to your significant other on an empty stomach. Never tell family they need to ‘get with the program’. Sometimes it is wiser to keep one’s mouth shut and let people think you to be an idiot than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt. You have learned well. Now go forth and be successful…and yes, make it do what it do.”
The new pupil left, realizing that his balanced imbalance life would be but a few more weeks, and then he could resume his normal imbalanced balanced life. To be continued…