Friday, April 30, 2010

Balancing the Essential Elements

Leonardo DaVinci's Vitruvian Man illustrates the ideal proportions of Man and their relationship to the workings of the universe.  The five points of Man- head, hands and feet are also reflected in the pentagram or five-pointed star, which Pythagoras described as "mathematical perfection".  At the root of both of these depictions is balance and proportion.

Life is a delicate balance.  Nature demands it.  The slightest imbalance in a person's body chemistry or in the ecosystem of a meadow or a pond can have catastrophic, even fatal consequences.  Yet occasionally our lives go out of balance.  Sometimes with intent, other times we lose our way without knowing it...until it is too late.

Like the Vitruvian Man and the pentagram, there are five critical elements of balance in our lives:

  1. Spiritual
  2. Physical
  3. Intellectual
  4. Emotional
  5. Economic
Spiritual:  Christian, Jew or Muslim; Hindu, Buddhist or Taoist, it is important that we establish a spiritual base in our lives.  Spirituality creates the moral boundaries of our existence.  It is what separates right from wrong in society.  It is the foundation for law and the antidote to lawlessness.  Spirituality exists only in human kind.  It is the element which contains our animal instincts and which separates humans from the rest of the living world.

Physical:  Our physical state of well-being is what allows us to function every day.  People who lead a healthy lifestyle, who moderate what they eat and drink and who exercise regularly have more energy, greater mental alertness and they live longer lives than those who do not.  Loosing our physical health can detract significantly from our ability to effectively manage the other four elements.

Intellectual:  It isn't just about being smart, but perhaps more importantly it is about how we use the intelligence we have been given.  Intelligence comes in many forms.  Harvard University Professor Howard Gardner has dedicated his life's work to multiple intelligence theory.  Simply put, each of us has an innate ability to understand particular elements, or combinations of elements in the world around us better than others.  We all know people who are brilliant in math or who excel in music, but those same people can get lost walking around the block.  Others are able to accurately assess a person's character in a brief meeting or seem to have a deeper connection to the spiritual world, but they don't know a screw from a nail.   We must work to enhance our intellectual capacity and put to use the intellect we have.  If we don't, it really doesn't matter how smart we are.

Emotional:  Just as we must take care of our physical health, we must also dedicate part of our lives to maintaining our emotional health and increasing our emotional intelligence.  This includes placing emphasis on creating positive relationships with others and improving our own internal state of mind.  Healthy relationships with our families, our co-workers and friends are essential.  We must also spend time nurturing our self esteem and defining our aspirations.

Economic:  This is perhaps the element where most of us are at risk of spinning our lives out of balance.  How many people toss some or all of the other four elements out the window in pursuit of wealth?  Financial stability is important, but it can't stand alone in our lives.  I contend that the greater the balance in our lives, the greater will be the potential for economic reward.

Balancing these five essential elements in our lives isn't easy.  Sometimes life demands that we focus on one element more than another, usually to make up for a period of deficiency.  But on average, in the course of every day, each of these five elements requires attention.  Think of your life as a wheel and these five elements of balance as spokes on that wheel.  If one of the spokes is shorter than the others, or is missing altogether, the ride will be bumpy.  But if all the spokes are there and they are all the same length, imagine the difference in how smoothly your wheel will roll.

Roll on!

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