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Achieving Balance

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Achieving Balance

by Lt. Col. Mary Ann Garbowski, 30th Medical Support Squadron commander.

Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony--Thomas Merton

Most people will find the term "achieving balance" somewhat odd. In our goal oriented lives balance does not readily appear to be an achievement. We revere those who have a single focus, but only when they succeed. We ignore the problems that may occur as a result of attaching one's happiness or satisfaction to only one outcome. This is true whether that "only" goal is either personal or professional. We must accept that there are numerous outcomes that can bring us satisfaction and success. In the process, we must learn to balance our physical health, intellectual pursuits, professional goals and personal relationships. The Air Force teaches the 4 pillars: physical, emotional, spiritual and professional. If we don't achieve balance we are often likely to treat change, disappointment and stress in unhealthy ways. I know that I have been guilty of this singular focus, putting all of my energies into that finish line, only to realize that sometimes the finish line may move in many ways that are completely beyond our control. I have a friend who always understood this point and reminded me to be mindful of it.

As an example of what I mean, let me tell you about the experience of a friend of mine. From the moment he started thinking about, "what will I be when I grow-up," he wanted to broadcast major league baseball games. He practiced in the quiet of his room on a tape recorder he received for Christmas and in front of the television, when his parents purchased one in 1951, with the sound turned down. He went to a university, majored in Communications and became the Sports Director of the campus radio station, which gave him the opportunity to broadcast his school's football, basketball and baseball games. He was so absorbed in pursuing his life's singular goal that he didn't have much time for anything else. Being a sports broadcaster was the only thing that would make him happy. He was sure of it.

He pursued his singular passion after college. His only friends were pretty much those who shared his passion. They weren't always the nicest people. They didn't necessarily share his same values. He didn't care about much of anything else. He once told a classmate his life goal was to have people stare at him walking down the street and know he was the best sports broadcaster in the world.

My friend thought he had identified true happiness for himself, but then something happened. He found that he could not sustain his new family on the meager salary offered at the various radio jobs he was able to get. When it came to moving to small towns to find a broadcasting job, my friend discovered that he really didn't want to move away from his family, not even to pursue what he thought would be his dream job. Although his new wife was willing to relocate, he didn't think she would really be happy about that either. My friend realized there were other things that made him happy too.
It took my friend a long time to discover that he needed the right balance in his life to be happy. He not only needed a fulfilling career, he needed to be close to family, friends and the cultural offerings of the big city. He found that his happiness did not depend on only one thing. As my friend reflects back on a long life, he realizes that he met his future wife while working as a social worker, not a broadcaster. He made lasting friends working for the Department of Defense. He discovered a writing skill he never knew he had and has continued to write a column for a weekly newspaper for the last 48 years. He became a part-time sports radio talk show host and still does a show even today. My friend found happiness in all the right places in balancing his life and achievements. Find balance, stay healthy and enjoy the journey.