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Life balance, pursuit of meaningful leisure, risk and immune balance

Posted Jul 28 2011 11:44am

The headline for this post is to0 long and encompassing for its own good. But I’ve read some pearls of wisdom lately and reflected o n other similar life stratogems that all combine to make a lot of sense and paint a compelling picture on leading a healthy, satisfying life. And I’m also linking “satisfying” and “healthy,” and theorizing that the two go hand in hand. I’d even go so far as to speculate that (structural or hereditary/genetic deficiencies notwithstanding) long-term immune health is linked with a satisfying life as well.

The latest thing I’ve read on this are some very persuasive thoughts from Joe Robinson , an advocate for stress reduction and improved health through better work/life balance and more fulfillment at work.  He recently wrote a column that makes a lot of great points about vigorous participation in something as a leisure-focused, life balancing, life extending solution.  He writes:

“Passions and the active leisure skills that create them work wonders for your health and outlook because they satisfy core psychological needs for autonomy, competence and connection with others. This makeover show happens where it matters: inside. Yet this power of this health resource doesn’t filter down to us because of the ingrained notion that recreation and leisure are little removed from outright vagrancy, since they don’t produce anything (unless you want to call living a productive endeavor).

We concentrate all our skill-building and education on the work side, where we believe all the value is. Work skills — getting results, micromanaging, staying in the comfort zone — get you nowhere when it comes to activating your life, which is about input, not output, experience over results, letting go and getting out of the straitjacket of habit.”

This connects with something I’ve theorized about over the years but have never really spoken or written about: the idea that we are becoming a “spectator society.” After high school or college years, we tend to spend more time watching others do things, rather than doing things ourselves. Examples: parents who live for their kids’ recitals and games but don’t “perform” anything themselves. And relaxation. Today, most adults define relaxation as viewing or reading something in a sedentary position. Movies, TV, books, naps, Facebooking, etc. Too many don’t view walking, jogging, playing a few holes of golf, dancing, yard work, chopping woods, kickboxing class, etc. as relaxation or healthy diversions. If they do it, it’s more like, “quick, I need to get that pilates class out of the way so I get home in time for American Idol.”

Many times, people don’t initiate a new endeavor because they fear risk, as Robinson wrote in his essay. Risk of failure: “what if I’m no good at this?”  Risk of embarrassment “what if my friends or neighbors see me doing this?”  Risk of upsetting the routine and the comfort zone. “Do I really have time for this?”  Or, “How can I keep all my other obligations (America Idol watching, shopping, etc.) if I have to do this every other day?”

That takes me back to a quote by the Rev. Robert Schuller, whom I generally would not have much in common with (I’m not a televangelist fan). But I did read one quote from him I thought was right on the money. It pertains to risk, fear, and trying new things. “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”  His point was that nearly all the time, the fears that hold people back are self-imposed and imaginary, and not derived from reality. If people approached new challenges with the mindset that failure isn’t in the cards, we might have a far different life.

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