This article was originally published on riskology.co
Most of the advice you get growing up is about how to live a well balanced life -- how to have a job, raise a family, get some friends, find a hobby. There's a lot of praise for the well rounded that seem to know something about everything and can do a little bit of a lot of things.
That's what a balanced life is, right? You make time for a little bit of everything and make sure nothing ever gets neglected.
At the same time, we frown on obsession. When you're obsessed with something, you neglect all other parts of your life in order to focus on one specific thing, one person, one place that captures all of your attention. We tend to think of the obsessed as unhealthy and missing out on important parts of life.
Balance = good. Obsession = bad.
I understand the concept, but I disagree. Obsession is not a bad word. In fact, obsession is a completely necessary part of a remarkable life because a remarkable life is filled with dreams and accomplishments that can't be achieved without it.
Learning to stand on one foot and lean forward is more important to a life of meaningful adventure than keeping both feet firmly planted on the ground. A balanced life, I say, is for the uncoordinated.
Balance is a coping mechanism for fear.
When you're balanced, there's nothing at risk. And nothing ventured is nothing gained. If you're passionate about something, nothing will drive you more crazy than trying to maintain balance. Every time you abandon your passion to pay attention to something else, you'll feel even more out of balance.
When you have that kind of tenacity for something, your balance is found in complete immersion.
Balance makes everything equal.
Equally boring, that is. If you spend too much time searching for the middle ground, you'll end up clipping off the most important parts of life.
Life is like a sine wave or a roller coaster. The soaring highs and the crashing lows are what make it worth living and you don't get to have one without the other.
Everything in the middle is just time spent waiting for the next adventure.
Balance is a safe bet.
We all know what safe bets get us. Safe returns. Risk is a required ingredient in the returns we really want from life. Without it, there's just the same 'ol same 'ol.
Of course, no one will criticize you for playing it safe, but they won't praise you either.
Obsession gets results.
If you're willing to step up to the plate and take the unpopular stance, living a life of obsession can reap all kinds of spectacular results.
Your remarkable ideas require obsession. Big ideas and plans don't execute themselves and they don't always wait until you're ready for them.
An intense focus and dedication is required to bring them to life. Don't think about all you might be missing out on, think about everything you're gaining instead. You're choosing to live a life that's an inch wide and a mile deep rather than a mile wide and an inch deep.
While we're on the topic, let's talk about "choosing."
A lot of people think the obsessed are mentally unstable -- that we can't help but feed our addiction. That couldn't be further from the truth. We're not zombies. We don't have to live like this. In fact, it would be easier not to. We were given the choice of the dull middle ground or the highs and lows of passion and fulfillment.
We made a decision.
Obsession requires exclusion.
When you make that conscious choice to pursue something obsessively, you also make a choice to exclude other things from your life in order to focus on it.
As long as you understand the consequences, that's okay. It's necessary to push things aside that don't matter in order to give what does all you've got. Just remember that what you're working on is incredibly important. If something important has to be pushed aside, remember that you can come back to it later.
Obsession is temporary.
What a lot of people don't realize is that obsession can be a temporary venture. People are dynamic creatures and their obsessions can and even should change with the seasons of their lives.
One obsession can lead to new discoveries, interests, and passions that widen your breadth of knowledge and exposure. That's a much more organic way to vary your experiences than trying to rotate a bunch of things in your life that you might not even care about.
Obsession is unpopular.
It's unpopular, but I suspect that's because it's a more difficult and intentional way to live than because a balanced life is simply "better for you." It's not. Leaning forward into life standing on one foot takes patience, persistence, and a lot of coordination.
Of course, there's always the balanced alternative filled with hobbies and things you don't really care about, but for some reason, I just don't see you being interested in that kind of compromise.