Most people strive for a balanced life. Balancing work, family, time for self. I think most of us also apply this to how much of ourselves we share with the world, keeping our emotions and thoughts in check. Everything in moderation, right?
Pop culture advocates this lifestyle. Just take a look at Oprah Magazine or the lifestyle section of any news website. There’s a lot of logic behind it living a balanced life. It feels better. And it’s comforting to know that there’s a time for every piece of our lives. On a personal level, if we balance ourselves, we can fit in easily. It is nice to live a life where everything reinforces that we are entitled to time for our dreams, time for those we love, time for rest.
But the truth is, the people who really have an impact on our world live in extremes.
There’s plenty of examples for this. But I’ll share just one.
I’m reading Mountains Beyond Mountains right now. It tells the story of Paul Farmer, a doctor who has dedicated his life to improving the lives of those who live in Haiti. He’s been doing this for decades, long before it was a trendy cause. Even while in medical school, he actually worked in Haiti most of the time, studying when he could and returning to school only for exams and other required graded materials. His residency was split between time at his hospital and time in Haiti–and choses specifically for this reason. He spends so much time in Haiti and traveling the world to see patients that his time with his daughter and wife is extremely limited.
Reading Mountains Beyond Mountains has been really inspiring so far. It’s also unsettling.
It’s unsettling because it begs the question, What could each of us do, if we didn’t justify our comfortable lives with moderation? Who would we be? Not just in terms of philanthropy, though that’s certainly a big piece of it. But what about our personalities and our creativity? Sometimes it feels like this life-of-balance mentality does nothing but keep us in our place. But maybe we’re meant to live big.
I don’t know what to do with it, to be honest. I don’t know if Paul Farmer is a fair measuring stick to use, for myself or anyone else. But it has me thinking in new ways about how I should live.