Tag Archives: Balance

No-Vacation Nation: What Kind of Balance Do You Want?

Way back in February, I wrote a post about a 25-hour workweek that used data from the OECD. This data showed the paid vacation and paid holidays for OECD nations. In particular, this data showed the requirements for paid vacations and paid holidays for some of the OECD countries. There’s been an update to the data, so I’ve included the graphic below:

You may notice a couple of things. First, it looks very similar to the first one that I embedded back in February. The second thing you may notice… the United States continues its perseverance in not mandating paid vacation. Every time I see data like this, I’m astonished that one of the wealthiest countries in the history of the world doesn’t see fit to require that its people are required to have vacation. Of course, the lack of vacation probably contributed to the US becoming one of the wealthiest countries in the history of the world, but what good is all that wealth if you can’t enjoy it? What good is money if you’re took sick to spend it?

The declining state of health probably had something to do with the separation of one’s mental health from one’s body’s health, but the lack of vacation has probably accelerated it. Of course, just because vacation isn’t mandated by the government doesn’t mean that companies don’t offer it. In order to stay competitive, companies have to offer their employees vacation or they’ll work elsewhere. That being said, there’s a pervasive culture of overworking yourself in the US. Not only on a national-level (lack of holidays), but also at the employee-level.

Take a peak inside a big firm and you’ll often hear about employees who participate in the game of one-upmanship in trying to see who’s worked more in a given week. “I worked 60 hours last week trying to get this report finished for a client.” “Yeah, well I worked 65 hours last week finishing a report…”

~

At first, one may say that this is putting people and the culture way out of balance. Well, one would be wrong. Balance has a way of maintaining an equilibrium. That is, balance will always be balance. Confused? Think about it like this: stand up from your chair. Are you standing? Good. Right now, you’re balanced. You have some of your weight on your left foot and some of your weight on your right foot. Balanced. Now, shift your weight to right. You’ll notice that you didn’t fall over, right? You simply have more weight on your right side than on your left side. Balanced. Now, lift your left foot off the ground. All of your weight is currently on your right foot. You’re still balanced, right? Now, begin to bend at the waist to outstretch your right arm forwards… while stretching your left leg backwards. At some point, you may fall over in attempting to do this. That’s okay because I’m sure you get the picture by now.

At each stage of this exercise, you’re body was balanced. You were balanced when you were standing straight, you were balanced when your weight was on your right foot, you were balanced when you lifted your left foot, and you would have been balanced had you been able to outstretch your right arm and left foot. It’s simply a question of what kind of balance do you want. Do you prefer the balance where you’re standing comfortable with both feet on the ground? How about the balance where you’re lifting one foot off of the ground?

While the lack of mandated vacation in the US may seem like there’s no balance, there has to be. It just might be manifesting itself in different ways. You have a choice — what kind of balance do you want?

~

Note: if you’re looking for a creative way to add more vacation days to the US, how about making every religious holiday a national holiday?

The Never-Ending Quest for Balance

As part of the for the PhD program I was in a few years back, I had the pleasure of learning a martial art – . I’d already done quite a bit of training in martial arts when I was younger, but Aikido is quite different from . Not to descend too far down a tangent, but, in my understanding, Aikido is much more about blending whereas karate’s primary focus, again, in my understanding, is not blending.

One of the exercises we would often do to practice this sense of blending involved our partner (or partners as it was usually in groups of three or more!) to approach us as if they were attacking us. It was our job to then move out of the way, whilst staying centered. [Note: I couldn’t find any video of this particular exercise, as I think it’s quite basic. However, I was able to find of some of the basic Aikido exercises that are similar to the one I’m describing.] The tempo of this exercise usually started out really slow (intentionally). Though, as time passed, our partners would then speed up. You can imagine how it might be challenging to stay centered in this kind of an activity.

During these times of practice, I remember having a bit of an epiphany.

As my partner would approach me and I would step out of the way, I noticed that the quicker (and the more out of balance!) I was, the more out of balance I would be when stepping out of the way for the next partner who was approaching. Think about that for a second: as I stepped out of the way of one partner and I was off-balance, I was that much more off-balance when stepping out of the way for the next partner. It’s almost akin to the .

This may seem like a small thing to notice, but we can apply this lesson to a much broader (macro!) scope. Let’s think about this in terms of our own lives. When I am faced with one problem or issue and I “lose my center,” I will be that much more out of balance when approaching the next problem that comes my way. This sense of being out of balance seems to grow exponentially (see: the Bullwhip Effect).

We can apply this to an even broader scope (communities or countries). When a community/country reacts to a problem they are faced with, and they aren’t approaching the problem from a sense of balance (and they don’t maintain a sense of balance throughout the problem-solving process), there will usually be a sense of being out of balance at the end of the solution. Furthermore, by being out of balance at the end state, when the next problem approaches, there will be even more “out of balance.”

There’s just two more things I want to mention about my experience during this Aikido exercise. First, when I noticed myself starting to get out of balance during the exercise, I would often try really hard to get myself back in balance. This only made it worst. As I would try to get back to a sense of balance, I would often swing the other way, causing more imbalance, etc. And second, eventually, by being out of balance, I would fail the exercise. That is, by being so out of balance, I might not see one of my partners who was behind me.

The consequence of being out of balance in this exercise illustrates the inherent narrow-minded focus of one who is not centered.