Finding Whole-Life Balance
Avoiding Myopia and Burnout, and Actively Finding Balance
According to the International Myopia Institute, nearly 50 percent of the world will suffer from myopia by 2050 if current trends continue. The prevalence of myopia in the U.S. increased from 25 percent in the early 1970s to nearly 42 percent in just three decades.
Those are staggering statistics, especially since rates of myopia used to be so low.
What has happened? According to most experts, the lack of sunlight is a primary cause. Bright light, especially sunlight, causes our eyes to stop elongating (which happens as we grow) and keeps us from becoming myopic.
But as kids have been spending more and more time indoors, they’ve been seeing less and less of the sun. And their eyes have continued to elongate faster than they should.
In some cultures, the competitive nature of education has pushed kids to spend more time indoors studying and doing school. In others, screen time (games and videos) has come to dominate free time.
There isn’t anything inherently bad about studying, school, games, or videos. But when they dominate all of our time, our lives get out of balance. The lives of our kids get out of balance, and the consequences become clear: myopia. Both the literal and figurative kind.
For the sake of our eyesight, and especially the eyesight of our kids, we need to better balance time outdoors and time indoors.
Just like every aspect of our lives, it’s about continually finding balance. And goes beyond time outdoors, though that is definitely a worthwhile piece of the puzzle.
For those following along for the past few years, you’ll know that burnout isn’t a new topic, but it’s an important one. I wrote about burnout previously since it is such an important topic:
We discussed burnout and balance on a recent podcast episode as well. Starting at the 44:00 minute mark, though the entire episode is great.
We often think of burnout as that final moment when we sputter to a stop. When everything either goes up in flames or simply grinds to a halt because we can’t go any further.
But if we think of burnout in a different way, it is really helpful to illustrate.
Burnout is the experience of burning fuel faster than you refuel. It begins the moment when your tank is lowering.
Burnout is a sign of imbalance.
There are so many ways our tanks can get drained quickly. In my previous job, I had a manager who consistently sucked the energy out of me. He was constantly negative about everything. Every meeting with him was a drain.
Over the space of a few short months, I felt myself burning out. His negativity about everything made it incredibly difficult to stay motivated to do anything. And it seeped into other areas of my life as work became increasingly stressful to try to mitigate my manager’s work style and ever-shifting expectations.
I soon realized almost all my energy was gone. And I couldn’t continue working like that or being constantly drained every day at work. Something had to change. I realized that during a sleepless night in November, as I resolved I was done.
Our lives are an energy balance. Some things fuel us and some things drain us. It’s often a slow process, though sometimes it can be faster like my case was.
But energy is more important than time. And the balance is critical. It’s not necessarily about the long hours. You can work long hours and not burn out. You can work short hours but still get burned out if your energy gets constantly depleted (by a bad boss or by unfulfilling work for example).
So how do we avoid burnout and find balance?
Work-life balance is a misleading term. It makes us think of a scale where we have to balance between work and life and keep them somewhere in the middle.
Work and life are not opposing things. Work is part of life, not a separate thing that exists outside of life.
In the podcast discussion I mentioned before, we talked about the idea of whole-life balance rather than work-life balance. Whole-life balance is about taking everything in our lives and ensuring we don’t let one area outweigh all the others in a way that throws our lives off balance.
We have careers, we have families, we have interests, and all these things are part of our whole life. Rather than trying to imagine a constant push and pull of work and the rest of our lives, we bring all of these ideas in and assess them as part of our whole life.
Finding Balance and Avoiding Burnout
Importantly, balance is not a destination. Balance is a way of being. It is an always-on behavior. We are constantly finding balance, not achieving balance.
When I was younger, I used to be caught in the bad mindset that I just needed to get to a certain milestone and then I could relax and be happy and take a minute for myself. When I was in school, that meant just getting past the next few exams and then I’d be able to relax a little and do something fun or spend some time with friends. When I began working, it meant getting past the next quarter-end cycle or next release cycle and then I’d be able to take a few days.
But this kind of thinking can be disastrous. I realized that. It never allows us to be happy because happiness is always just around the next corner. Living like that, I would never be happy or find time for fun or friends or family because there will always be another exam or another release or another quarter-end.
It is normal in our lives for our balance to constantly be shifting. So balance has to be active among all our parts. There may be times when one part of our life outweighs the others—where work takes on a higher priority—but that shouldn’t be the norm when look at our whole life.
Balance is about the whole picture of your life. We have to ensure we are maintaining our energy reserves to avoid burnout and actively finding balance each day. If we get out of balance or find we are spending too much of our energy without refueling, then we need to reassess where we’re at, what we’re doing, and what we need to do going forward.
If we find we are putting too much time and energy into a certain area for too long, it may be time to reassess. Or if a certain part of our lives is too much of a drain on our energy and is causing the rest to be out of balance. It isn’t worth becoming unbalanced simply because of one area of your life—a bad boss or a bad job.
Balance is an active process. We can’t wait until we’re older to play outside, because it will be too late then. We need the sun while we’re growing up. We can’t wait until mid-terms are over because there will always be some sort of mid-term in our life. We need to find balance each day and each phase of our life.