I went to a Phillips-Brooks House Association Leadership Intensive this past weekend. It wasn’t particularly fun, though I did somehow manage to learn a lot, especially about myself. Among many things, I have discovered that I am a North personality (read: major pain in the butt to work with), have an odd passion for efficiency (I am now considering an MBA), and really do not care if anyone has fun in the process of getting a job done (sadly enough, that’s true, and I apply that standard to myself as well).
During the workshop, we did an activity called the “Wheel of Health.” It was essentially a pie chart divided into six equal parts—“Mental Health,” “Physical Health,” “Personal Growth,” “Intellectual Growth,” “Creativity,” and “Social Health.” The idea is that you do a something in each area with the aim of keeping yourself happy and, well, sane. Like most Harvard students, I was severely lacking in the Physical Health and Mental Health categories; I willingly sacrifice sleep for my work (again, not a particularly unique quality) and usually get a little defensive when people tell me to slow down, even when I know they’re right. I dislike all forms of inactivity, and thus willingly throw myself under the bus if it means I get the job done, and done well.
Despite knowing these flaws, as people were going around the table and naming their areas for improvement, I was giving myself a pat on the back. I thought that I was perfectly healthy in all the other areas, and actually thought that I had managed to strike a balance in my life. Sleep definitely needs fixing, but that habit’s not too difficult to change. Otherwise, I’m just fine. My life is perfectly healthy and balanced.
Turns out, the last laugh was on me.
In an attempt to focus more on the Physical Health section of my Health Wheel, I went for a three-and-a-half mile run on Monday. It’s my time to relax—I leave my phone at home, turn on my iPod and literally run away from Harvard’s campus, and I often find myself running around Boston University. At the end of an awful day, a run is always the perfect remedy for a bad mood.
As I was running, tuned out to some soothing house music, I realized just how unhealthy I was—not so much in terms of physical or intellectual health, but in terms of spiritual wholeness. I realized that I could not name the last time I actively sat down and prayed, or even the last time I thought about God. I had become so wrapped up in my personal success, my constant quest for self-improvement, and day-to-day life that I consistently failed to pay attention to the most neglected “slice” of the Wheel of Health—my relationship with God.
Paul was particularly helpful, and I turned to Philippians for some guidance. The passage resonated with me because Paul said exactly what I needed to hear, and expressed a precise understanding of just what I was going through. I read through Philippians 3 and 4, and this is the passage that I liked most:
Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal. There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them… All they want is easy street…
But there’s far more to life for us… [Christ] will make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him. (Philippians 3:17-21, The Message)
I realized that, in a way, I’ve been taking the path of most resistance. The balance I try to achieve on a daily basis takes a superhuman effort, and I’m only human. I will never find the balanced life if an entire slice of my “Wheel of Health” is missing. As Paul says, I need to lose the Type-A entitlement and arrogance, and let God guide me toward a balanced life. That’s not to say that balance won’t ever cease to be an illusive goal, but it should be a lot easier to get there if my life is truly in God’s hands. Balance is not something I can run enough miles, do enough crunches, complete enough projects, lead enough organizations to find. I have to make myself let go, and, as someone who really likes being in control, that’s really, really difficult. Really. But God is the ultimate Type-A, and He can do a much better job at organizing my life than I can.
And who wants to compete with that, especially when happiness is at stake?