Saturday, April 24, 2010

Achieving Balance

A year or so ago I was awakened in the middle of the night by such horrible bedspins I thought I was having a stroke.  I was diagnosed with BPPV, a temporary condition caused by the dislocation of crystals in the inner ear which regulate a person's balance. Although this is the physical explanation of BPPV, many people believe it is a warning sign that your life is out of balance.

Balance is the buzzword of this young millennium.  We are encouraged to eat a balanced diet and achieve inner balance through yoga.  Children are expected to balance school and extracurricular activities, college students want to balance classes and social life, and as adults we feel obligated to balance a career and family.  So when do we find time to balance our tires and balance our checkbooks?

The fact is, most of us are leading unbalanced lives.  Some of us sacrifice pleasure to do the dumb things we've got to do; others postpone the really important things to do the trivial; still others give themselves over to pleasure first, sacrificing all responsibilities.  The result is often a routine but unfulfilling existence with no sense of accomplishment or advancement.  We just go through the motions, thinking that imbalance is the norm.  But if your unbalanced washing machine is left unattended, it will spin out of control and go on a rampage.  Catch my drift?

Practical hedonism is all about balance.  It is a philosophy, a system of checks and rewards which leads to the ultimate satisfaction of a balanced life.  In short, we practical hedonists work hard so we can play hard.

My first experience with practical hedonism came when I was writing my dissertation.  With a deadline looming, I needed to convince myself that all that hard work was going to pay off.  I made a calendar defined by two rewards:  On March 14 one of my favorite performers who rarely makes tours was giving a concert nearby and on April 14 friends from Europe were due to arrive.  I allowed myself to enjoy the concert thoroughly.  Then like a woman possessed I wrote on the diss 10-12 hours a day for the next month.  There were sacrifices along the way (no television, no socializing, all while keeping one lesson ahead of my classes),   but the morning of April 14 I put the finished dissertation into the mail and picked up my friends at the airport that afternoon.  For the next ten days I had no other responsibilities.  The satisfaction of accomplishment coupled with the feeling of freedom made my time off that much sweeter.

Of course, this sort of thing does not happen on its own.  It involves the identification of goals, the setting of priorities, self-awareness and self-discipline.  That's what this blog, Practical Hedonism, is all about:  providing the resources and support to help you live a full and balanced life -- with no regrets.