How to Live a Balanced Life: Part OneFebruary 06, 2019
It’s no secret that life – while full of wonder, beauty and joy – can also be scary and confusing. The existential questions that have plagued people for centuries remain unchanged: Why are we here? What is the purpose of life? Is there a right way or wrong way to live? Those questions remain in large part because the answers are elusive, debateable and wildly subjective. There is no single answer, but as I’ve grown older, I have developed some strategies that have at least brought me peace of mind.
Through years of trial and error, I have developed a pretty good idea of what doesn’t work. One litmus test is to imagine your final day on earth, asking the people around you what Augustus Caesar asked on his death bed: “Have I played the part well? Then applaud as I exit.” Caesar was being typically self-important, but in some way, we all ask ourselves the same thing. Did I live my life in the best possible way?
My approach to life is not always perfect, but generally speaking, I live a good, balanced life. Balance being the operative word. I have come to the realization that there is no one thing that will bring you peace of mind. Many people find peace through their faith, and I get it. But to me, that’s not living the life you have been given. It seems more like going through the motions with the belief that the rewards come after you are gone. I don’t think it needs to be that way. Why not live a “good life” while living life to the fullest? They are not mutually exclusive. You can do both.
In my mind, there are five secrets to living a balanced life. One of them I will reveal today, and the rest I will share over the next few months.
While it may not be the most important of the five, seeking adventure is an integral part of the mix. After all, it’s one of the best ways to feel alive. Get out there and do stuff even if it scares you. I aim to do at least two things a year that challenge or scare me.
One favourite is trekking at high altitude. Friends and I have gone on two such adventures: Kilimanjaro and Everest base camp. We are now planning a third trek to a higher summit than the first two. This type of adventure falls into the challenging category. It’s not easy trekking at high altitude: It can wreak havoc on your body, it’s uncomfortable, it’s cold, and you are never sure what to expect. But there is no more exhilarating feeling than when you reach your destination.
Then there’s the scary category, where jumping out of a plane is perhaps the most obvious option. In my experience, however, the only scary part is the ascent to jumping altitude. You can’t think about it too much or you will freak yourself out. But the second you jump from the plane, any fear you may have had quickly turns to sheer thrill.
If a normal altitude jump doesn’t move the dial on your thrill meter, try a HALO jump. It’s a military jump from a very high altitude – 30,000 feet. We have gone three times in the past few years, including a very memorable jump during the total eclipse of the sun on Aug 21, 2017. We were so distracted by the eclipse that we lost sight of the airfield and landed eight miles away, on the front lawn of some shocked Nashville residents.
You would think someone who has done three HALO jumps wouldn’t bat an eye at the thought of bungee jumping. But the idea alone has freaked me out for years, meaning it’s been repeatedly pushed to the bottom of my adventure to-do list. For me, jumping out of a plane into what essentially looks like a distant map of the world is far less scary than standing on a bridge, staring down at sharp rocks and raging rapids waiting to destroy you.
But when my son challenged me last month to join him for a bungee jump, I couldn’t say no. Much like skydiving, the trick is to not think about it. I insisted on going first so I would have less time to think about it. Again, the scariest part was the preparation leading up to the jump. But once I had flung myself off the platform, any fear I had was overshadowed by exhilaration.
My friends and I are always looking for new adventures, and I hope to continue challenging myself until the day I am physically unable. When regular adventures are given priority among the things that are good and important to you, the results can be extremely fulfilling. And once you overcome fear, you not only feel more alive, but you also realize that Roosevelt was right: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Stay tuned for my four additional secrets to living a balanced life, which I will share over the next few months.