“Well-roundedness is over-rated.”
Updated: Feb 16
This statement goes pretty much against most accepted norms in leadership, education, performance and development. But hear me out first…
I am not referring to the principle of being well-rounded in the sense of balancing your work with relaxation, or your health with having fun. I am referring to the idea, and often the perspective and approach to life, that in order to be happy and successful, you need to become great at many things, or at least good at most things you do. It is the perspective that a “good student” is the one that has straight A’s in all his or her subjects, and also perform at the top level in sport, culture and basically everything they do.
I am also referring to the perspective that the best performers are the ones who perform well on all things visible and measurable. And if you cannot see it or measure it, then it may as well not exist.
I am a believer in a “life well played.” A life that you hold in your own hands, a future you determine for yourself, a career you are excited about, relationships you treasure and enjoy, and the type of engagement with your surroundings and your community that aligns well with who you are – not necessarily with what society expects you to be in order to be successful or to be happy. This is a life lived only once in all time and in any place. It is a life made up of completely unique thoughts, feelings, experiences and contributions. A life well played is a life that cannot be duplicated ever, and is also not an effort to duplicate any other life.
The word “balance” could be misleading. A balanced life, if measured against the true meaning of the word, is basically impossible to create or to live. Do this: take something small like a pen or your cell phone, and balance it on your outstretched index finger as best you can. You can only do this if you make sure it has equal weight distribution on all sides.
Now, think about your life. Is it even possible to maintain these equal distributions of the challenges and requirements in life in the times we live in? It is impossible. You simply cannot divide your life into equal parts of activities, emotions or experiences in a sustainable manner.
When it comes to the idea of living in balance, I prefer the approach of the Jewish culture – even though I am not Jewish. I prefer “Shalom”.
The word “Shalom” literally means, “to be safe in mind, body, or estate.” It speaks of completeness, fullness, or a type of wholeness that encourages you to give back — to generously re-pay something in some way.
True shalom refers to an inward sense of completeness or wholeness. Although it can describe the absence of war, a majority of references refer to inner completeness and tranquillity. In Israel, when you greet someone or say goodbye, you say, “Shalom!”. You are literally saying, “may you be full of well-being” or, “may health and prosperity be upon you.”
“Shalom” is therefore not merely the absence of conflict, but the presence of wholeness.
A chair has “shalom” the moment you sit on it. A pen has “shalom” the moment you write with it. A key has “shalom “the moment you turn it in the lock it was made to open or close.
You have shalom the moment you are the person you were created to be.
Then you have wholeness, purpose and… you are in balance.
The point here is that me being whole, and living to my unique purpose, is unique only to me. You experiencing a life of wholeness and purpose is unique only to you.
We can transfer ideas of health and wealth towards a social or cultural norm, but when it comes to every person individually, your balance lies in being who you were meant to be.
And in this, lies one of the ultimate challenges that humanity has struggled for since the dawn of time: “What is my purpose?” This is a question that philosophers, theologians, psychologists and the like devoted centuries and much of their lives finding the answer.
For more on this and other related subjects, go check out my new book, "Launch your Brilliance"