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Working to find balance in an unbalanced world

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Gregory Volkman
  • 60th Air Mobility Wing Director of Staff first sergeant
Whether you are a "glass half empty" or "glass half full" individual, American culture can quickly create unbalanced lives.

Stress, whether financial, work related, family, relationship or sickness-related, can create an imbalance. Our culture doesn't promote healthy whole persons, instead it promotes quick fixes, emotionally numbing activities and empty entertainment. You may wonder why I am writing about living a balanced life. It's simple. Many people today aren't balanced and
many people are unaware their lives are out of kilter.

On my first tour in Iraq, I had the opportunity to travel and experience the culture. In Southern Iraq, the Bedouin people are largely nomadic, living much the way they did thousands of years ago. Although they had nothing, I was always surprised by their joyful attitudes. These people lead tough lives where physical pain, discomfort and threats are real. Dealing with these threats is just a part of their accepted life. I always smile when I recall the absolute joy a young boy displayed as I handed him a soccer ball and compare it to the ho-hum reaction I got from my 12-year-old daughter when I purchased a game console for her. We have so much, yet nothing makes us happy.

We've complicated our lives with things that don't make us feel whole or that simply numb us. Some of the happiest people I know are people who live to serve others; they've given up on "the next goal" or "the next want, need, desire" and simply live to serve others.

Conversely, some of the unhappiest people I have seen spend their time in meaningless activities that gain them, their friends and the world nothing when completed. Henry David Thoreau said it best when he wrote, "It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?"

The next time you engage in an activity, ask yourself - does it make you, your family, friends, the community, the country or the world better? If not, then why are you doing it?

A personal hero of mine, Meriwether Lewis, of Lewis and Clark fame, reflected on the occasion of his 31st birthday and said "I had as yet done but little, very little, indeed, to further the happiness of the human race, or to advance the information of the succeeding generation. I viewed with regret the many hours I have spent in indolence and now sorely feel the want of that information which those hours would have given me had they been judiciously expended. But, since they are past and cannot be recalled, I dash from me the gloomy thought and resolved in future to redouble my exertions and at least endeavor to live for mankind, as I have heretofore lived for myself."

I use that quote as a personal challenge to each of us to double our efforts and recommit to the things that make a difference. I choose to find balance in things that are meaningful such as growing as a person, in knowledge and caring for those around me. When we live lives filled with meaning, balance is a byproduct, even amid turmoil. I challenge each of you to decide what is meaningful in your life and let it lead you to making the world a better place.