Balance and the Big Picture

TAGS: meet goals, athlete balance, no balance, life balance, training goals, chad aichs

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I seem to constantly learn more and more how about balance is intertwined with my life. It has also become a word I hear more and more, in ways that just seem to irritate me — not unlike the feeling of hearing people say they give 110% when that, very simply, is not possible. In fact, very few people ever even give a 100% to anything. I know these words or sayings should not have any effect on me, but I can’t help but think that maybe if people had a better understanding of them then they could better see the bigger picture. Maybe that would allow them to better achieve their goals and have better lives.

There are two big misconceptions I hear about balance in life. The first is that balance is impossible and that in order to be amazing at something you cannot have balance in your life. The second is that we need perfect and equal balance in our lives. In my opinion, both of these ideals are completely incorrect. I curiously looked up the definition of balance and saw there are many definitions. Most of them say something similar to "even or equal distribution of weight" and go onto talk about having something remain upright or steady. When I think about balance I think about scales, such as the scales of justice: a standing frame with an arm balance in the center and hanging scales on each side. In this case, those scales can be at different heights and still be balanced. Yes, if they were at the same height you would have exactly equal balance, which means each scale has equal weight on it. If one scale is so much heavier that it rests on the ground or even tips the whole scale over then there is no balance at all.


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It reminds me of these little fishermen I made in shop class in school. They were wood carvings of a man with dowel rods for legs and a dowel rod fishing pole. There was a long wire with a weight on the end for fishing line and lure. If the length of the wire and weight were right, the fisherman would balance on the end of the table. He would rock back and forth for a bit then balance out there, neither falling back nor falling forward to the floor. Perfect balance is rare in life from what I can tell, but balance itself is essential.

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In my own powerlifting career and life, I have had balance, but I have also ended up tipping the scale completely over. As I started my lifting career, I had a good balance in my life. As I progressed and got closer to my goal of the all-time total, one side of the scale kept rising while the other side kept dropping. I was still balanced at this time and managed to maintain life. Around 2008 or 2009, I hit the lowest point in my life. This was my deepest depression and when I had the most suicidal issues. I put more and more of my lifting life on one side of the scale while paying less and less attention to everything else. Eventually, I tipped the whole scale over and almost checked out of the game completely. Luckily, I found what I needed in order to stand the scale back up and rebalance. Understand that this was not an equal balance, but at least the scale was standing upright again. I began a slow journey to try to get an equal balance but have since realized a perfect equal balance is not maintainable. In my opinion, it is unrealistic to think we can maintain that. There are just too many things on our scales in real life to think we can always keep a perfect equal balance.

Everything in the world has some level of balance. Nature itself is balance. I once watched a video about how the eradication of the grey wolves in Yellowstone actually changed the flow of the rivers. The last of the wolves were eliminated in the '20s. This had a huge effect on the herd and grazing animals in the park. The wolves were the biggest predators to these animals, and with them gone it changed their habits. They no longer had to fear these predators or being out in the open fields. They began to graze down by the rivers more often and for longer. Their numbers also began to grow. Eventually, they began to overgraze the areas by the rivers. They would eat the grasses to the ground and do lots of damage to the trees. This allowed the rivers to easily erode the banks and actually changed the flow of the rivers, which became wider and changed paths. Once they reintroduced the grey wolf back into the park in 1995, it changed everything again. Now those grazing animals had predators and didn’t have free reign of the park. They could not graze the land by the river like they had been. The vegetation and trees began to grow back, which in turn began to stabilize the riverbanks again. There was still balance in the park with and without the wolves. Without the wolves, the scales were just tipped more to one side. With the wolves, they were closely balanced.

We need balance in our lives no matter what. Without some level of balance, the scale falls over and our lives go to complete shit or end altogether. We must maintain some balance, but this balance will change throughout our lives. It will depend on what is happening in our lives and what our goals are. I think we tend to forget the big picture: the ideal that our lives are a whole of many different parts and all these parts are intertwined. They all reach out to touch and affect each other. We can and often do try to compartmentalize things, but it doesn’t really work that way. We may not think, see, or understand it, but everything in our lives affects everything else, no matter how much we try to make it not so. We must be conscious of where our scales are balanced and conscious of the effect of adding or subtracting things from the scales. We should be always making sure to keep them balanced in a way that helps us achieve the goals and lives we want.

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I think a lot about the balance in my life during my powerlifting career. As I said, when I started I had a good balance between everything. As I got better and set my sights on higher goals, things began to get more and more out of balance. This was actually fine for a while. If you want to be the best in the world or excel at something, your scales are not going to be perfectly balanced. As I got better, I did sacrifice some things to get them off the scales. The problem for me was that the better I got and the closer to my goal I became, the more I put into it. I pushed harder and became even more focused. I believe there comes a point that it is just too much and we all need an outlet. We are not designed to be absolutely 100% on one thing. My scale was tipping over because everything was all on one side and it outweighed anything else in my life. I truly feel I would have been much better off having more life on the other side of the scale — having other things to keep me out of the gym so much and keep my mind on other things. I went too far into my goal and forgot the need for balance.

The scale analogy only goes so far for this subject. The thing is, we are humans and not robots. We have many needs on many different levels. Our bodies and minds are so complex that often there isn’t one answer. I truly do not believe we are designed to go 100% at any one thing. I would love to say I gave 100% to powerlifting, but in truth, there were always other things in my life. If I had given a true 100%, there would have been nothing in my life but lifting and work to pay for lifting. I would have lived the cheapest possible way with only the bare necessities. I can say I stayed at a job I hated because it worked with my competing. I can say there were lots of times I did not buy things I wanted because I needed that money for lifting. I can say I stayed away from relationships for a very long time because I knew I could not dedicate the time, energy, or feelings to it that would be fair to the other person.


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I gave a lot to powerlifting and almost gave my life too. Was it 100%, though? No. At the same time, I can say I took it too far and gave too much to the sport. If I had been more balanced I would have accomplished even greater things in the sport. If I had realized I needed to give myself a break and had other outlets or understood it was okay to have other outlets, I would not have pushed myself into the dark place I did. Maybe it is not that we need to give 100% to something to give it the best we can at it. Maybe there is an optimal percent, like 80%, that gives the best outcome. Maybe giving 100% means that it only takes up 80% of our lives. I don’t really know the exact numbers, but I am betting this will need to change over time.

I admit I do not have all the answers and that I am still trying to figure life out. What I do know is that to be our very best at anything, there must be some balance. This balance will definitely not be equal or perfect because it takes a lot of time and effort to be the very best at something. Still, we are humans and we need many things. It is about finding those things to keep us happy, healthy, and sane — and then balancing them with what it takes to meet our goals. This has a lot to do with seeing the big picture of who we are and what we want our lives to be. It also has to do with the idea that we will eventually meet that goal or realize we want to go after another goal. Goals can be very tricky things that can cloud our ability to see the forest through the trees. They can make it very hard for us to see that sometimes taking a step back is the best thing for us. It is balance in our lives that allows us to have some time away from that goal so we can step back to see the clear vision of the big picture, allowing us to be outside the pursuit of our goal so we can see clearly what it will take to achieve it. Often times in the battle, it is hard to see what it will take to win the war.

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