At times, we may have experienced juggling too many balls in our lives.
Bryan Dyson’s analogy of glass and rubber balls is a wonderful way to reflect on what is important.
“Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them – work, family, health, friends and spirit … and you’re keeping all of these in the air.
You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls – family, health, friends and spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.” ~ Bryan Dyson, Former CEO for Coca Cola
What are your glass balls? What are those aspects of your life that you take care not to drop? What are your rubber balls?
For many of us, work and career is a large ball. We spend a lot of time and attention on our job and career path. But as Dyson’s metaphor tells us, there’s more to us than work. We are holistic beings, and we thrive when we have community, health, and spirit. And as Dyson suggests, we thrive when we have a balanced life.
How do we know when we’re living in balance? Fortunately, we are wired to maintain a stable, balanced state. This wiring is called homeostasis, the mechanism that all organisms rely on for survival. We naturally want to and are equipped to live a balanced life.
A very simple example of homeostasis is body temperature regulation. When we exercise, our body temperature rises. This “system change” signals our body to respond by sweating, which brings our temperature back down to 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, our body temperature’s normal set point.
Sweating is an example of an automatic homeostatic response, but we are also conscious participants in the balancing process. A common experience with both novice and veteran runners is overtraining. The system feedback may look like an elevated resting heart rate when you wake up in the morning; feeling tired or sluggish even when you’ve been sleeping well; or your race times slow down even though your training seems to be going okay.
The body’s response, unlike sweating, is subtle.
If you notice one or more of these feedback experiences… great! What is your response? Do you pull back and incorporate more rest and recovery time into your training plan or power through the plan as-is? Do you return to your original set point, such as your pre-training routine, or do you tweak your training plan to establish a new and improved normal set point?
Homeostasis occurs not only in biological systems like the human body, but in ecological and social systems as well. Starting a new job, getting married, or the start of a new school year are all changes that can affect the household, which is its own social system.
New empty nesters, for example, may experience feelings of loss, loneliness, and emptiness, until they settle into new routines, hobbies, interests, and a new set point emerges. Homeostasis always detects change and sends feedback to the brain and does this regardless of whether the change is a positive one, such as weight loss for better health, or a negative one, such as getting dehydrated while exercising in hot climate.
It’s up to you to listen to your body and decide if the feedback you’re receiving is a warning sign or an indicator that an intended or expected change is happening.
And back to those juggling balls… you and the balls are all part of your own unique system, encompassing mind, body, emotions, and spirit. A change in one area will affect the whole.