There’s No Such Thing as Balance

by on May 9, 2014

My job allows me to chat with distinguished seminary professors every week. During one such conversation, I asked the professor what advice he would give to a young student trying to balance school, work, ministry, and family—i.e., me. His response?

“There’s no such thing as balance.”

He went on to explain that if a student were to balance every demanding area of life, he could only give a modicum of attention to each. For example, when you’re at your day job, do you balance it with family and ministry? Would you, while at your desk, be bouncing your child on your knee and inviting church members over for a spiritual talk or Bible study? No, you’re working. While at work, you work.

Instead of balance, this professor commends single-minded focus and devotion to each thing in its time. There will be times when you must skip dinner with your family for the sake of work. Or perhaps, for the sake of a final paper, you’ll be unable to take your kid to the park. Devote yourself to the task at hand, prioritizing it above the others. That is the only way to accomplish anything with excellence.

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might . . .” (Eccles. 9:10).

But don’t be mistaken—this philosophy of focus can be taken too far. We need discernment in large measure. You may have a final paper due, but you must carefully discern whether getting an A on that paper is worth missing an important church membership meeting or your kid’s recital. Another professor once told me, “Students need to be willing to say ‘good enough’ at times.” Sometimes a B− is good enough if you need to prioritize something more important.

Of course, this is a challenge because your professors will constantly push you to excel—and so they should! But as an adult with many competing responsibilities, it’s your job to examine your life, weigh your responsibilities, and make your decisions. When do you need to say, “I could spend eight hours on this, but five will have to be good enough”? When do you need to put aside all distraction and dedicate yourself to the task at hand?

So forget the idea of balance. Stop trying to juggle four things at once. Dedicate yourself to what’s in front of you. But know when to say “good enough.”