My experiences as a physician have reinforced one essential truth: to be happy, to enjoy optimal health and achieve our potential, each of us must strive for balance in our lives.
This means tapping into our strengths but shoring up our weaknesses as well. If we are masters of one domain and completely deficient in others, we will feel the negative effects of imbalance.
Where do we begin to try to assess the balance/imbalance in our lives and take corrective measures?
I have identified six areas that I call the Core Assets for Optimal Living. These are aspects of life that everyone on Earth shares and that together define our individual experience for better or for worse. Neglect one and all the others are affected.
A good place to begin to assess the balance in your life -- or lack of it -- is to consider how much attention we give to each of our Core Assets:
Safety is an often overlooked and underrated aspect of the Core Assets. It deserves much more attention. Think about it: you could be doing everything right in life. You could have a great marriage, beautiful children and a lucrative, rewarding job. Tragically, one split second of stupidity or simple bad luck can wipe it all away. Safety is therefore a state of awareness and prevention that binds the other aspects of our lives together in order for us to thrive fully.
Physical health and well-being involve a multitude of factors, including genetic predispositions, biochemical disposition and many other factors you can't control. However, it also includes factors you can control, such as exercise, nutrition and your cholesterol, blood sugar and blood-pressure levels. We all want to feel well, and to do that we must decide how best to prioritize physical health among all of the things we do and care about.
Fulfilling the mind falls in the domain of intellectual health. Education is a big part of that, and it can be broken down into three parts: basic academic learning; vocational learning (through which you can acquire the skills of a trade and valuable real-life experience); and continuing lifelong education. All of these forms of education ultimately help you build your career.
However, intellectual well-being does not rely only on education. Your overall mental state needs to be taken into account. Do you suffer from depression? Is your self-esteem intact? Are there any underlying psychiatric conditions? Do you have problems with concentration and focus?
Last is leisure -- a completely valid aspect of intellectual health. Sometimes a day on the golf course or at the beach is the best thing you can do for yourself to destress from all that's going on in your life.
You have some sort of relationship with everyone of any significance in your life: friends, family, colleagues, fellow students.
You also have relationships within larger groups, from the crowd you hang out with to the culture in which you were raised, all of which play a role in shaping your identify.
Each type of relationship presents its own set of potential joys and challenges. The health of your relationships may change depending how you and the other parties involved work together on maintaining them.
Economic health has to do with your cash flow. The overall strength of your financial situation is based on all the factors that bring you money.
This is one Core Asset that commonly gets too much priority or too little, throwing us entirely out of balance. Financial health directly affects how we spend much of our time, which colors all of our experiences. We must give careful consideration to how we prioritize this asset. For example, some people choose careers that provide economic well-being, but squash the joy out of everything else. Others give financial health too little priority and spend most of their time scrambling simply to keep their head above water.
Your spiritual health and well-being are most vibrant when your worldly outlook keeps you feeling positive and connected. It gives you hope, guidance and a sense of purpose, as well as comfort in difficult times.
Spirituality is a state of mind commonly confused with religion, although you can be spiritual without being religious.
Take stock of each of your Core Assets and evaluate whether you're giving it the attention and priority required to maintain balance. If the answer is no, don't feel you must address and correct every deficiency immediately. Choose one area to build up or tamp down.
That is, after all, part of the journey!
ABOUT DR. SANJAY JAIN Known as the ''Balance Guy,'' Dr. Sanjay Jain is a US-trained, board-certified physician with more than fifteen years of clinical experience. He holds an MBA from Ohio State University and certifications in Diagnostic Radiology, Integrative Medicine, and Healthcare Quality and Management. A domestic and international speaker, he has served on numerous committees and belongs to medical associations. His new book, Optimal Living 360: Smart Decision Making for a Balanced Life, will be published in February 2014.
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