Thing-a-Day 08: Charted Life Balance Thoughts

Life Balance Rough Diagram

Today’s November “thing-a-day” project falls under the “process” category. The onset of cold weather has put me in a foul reflective mood as I itemize the accomplishments of the year, and weigh them against my feeling of irritation. This has driven me back into a hermit-like state of mind, which I recognize as not being healthy in the long run.

This got me thinking today, as I grouched around the house, about what the key elements of a good life for me (as in, the life I am not experiencing at the moment) would be. The result was a strange diagram that might be the key to something. It could be a new form, a piece of writing, or maybe a new direction. I just don’t know what it is yet. Details follow.

A terse ingredients list

I have had two recent insights:

  • I really dislike any inconvenience at all, to the point of ridiculousness, because I feel that I am so short on time and energy. In fact, it is my attitude toward time and time pressure that seems to contribute to a lot of my negative attitudes. I know this, but I nevertheless keep falling into the cycle of having them, because I continue to feel time pressure. These days, ANY demand on my time at all generates enormous clouds of toxic attitude. This is noteworthy.

  • I really have cast myself in the outsider role, and because of this I have a tendency to disconnect from community. A recent conversation with a Christian friend of mine opened up an interesting line of thought: I don’t like asking people for help, because I assume they don’t want to help me because it is an inconvenience. In the context of our conversation, it was me realizing that I didn’t want to inconvenience GOD by asking for anything, which was kind of mind-boggling. Of anyone to ask, you’d think God would have the resources to provide. Anyway, I think that I need to resolve this issue, because I think it is a kind of limit that prevents me from living a full life WITH OTHER PEOPLE.

Today, when I was in my foggy state of being grouchy and not wanting to work, I managed to pull myself to a standing position and write on a blank piece of paper some key balancing ideas: stuff that I thought might be important to live a “balanced” life that felt “good”, whatever that might mean. This is a very rough pass. Thoughts Here’s the text of each thought bubble, numbered in the order I wrote them down. They are elements of a kind of balance, I think…I’m still figuring out what it means:

  1. External Shared Positive Commitments with People (Connection) – A form of external motivation, a source of connectedness? This is important, I think, because I’m strongly motivated by the people around me. When I don’t have that, I don’t want to work. I want to work when I see people smile.

  2. Timelessness or Refined Time Awareness, not based on polling (Timeless Space) – Instead of being concerned about HOW LONG activities take to complete, I think I need to adjust my expectations to a realistic level. Watching the clock (what I called “polling” here) doesn’t help, and neither does management by reminding myself how fast I should be. I suspect using speed as a metric for creating “quality of life” is self-defeating, although I do love speed. I must remember speed is not everything.

  3. A Question to Resolve in Timeless Space (An Answer) – A single question is really all I need to have at any single time. In fact, it’s that reduced scope that finding the answer possible. I get caught up when I worry how LONG it will take to find the answer, or whether there are other Questions and Ill-Defined Uncertainties piling up in my in-box. I have noticed that not thinking about time seems to help me fall into the “flow state”.

  4. An Experience that anticipates Positive Motion, Reaction, Newness (Desire and Pursuit) – There are some things I look forward to and some things I don’t. Today I was feeling very anti-work, and life seemed to grind to a halt. Having something to “look forward to” might help. Or possibly learning to let go of the negative emotions…again, getting over my toxic attitude.

  5. An Accumulation of Desirable Accomplishments that support the Existence of the Self – This is about the need to accomplish and create, which feeds my sense of self-worth. It also is about actually HAVING stuff of worth, which is a currency of social interaction with creatives. Crass but true. Thanks, Cal Newport!


p>After writing this down, I noticed that four quadrants seemed to arise from them:

  • Quadrant A (1, 3, and 4) – Humanity? Community? God?
  • Quadrant B (2, 3, and 4) – Productivity? Competence? Desire? Drive? Will?
  • Quadrant C (1, 3, and 5) – The feeling of success? Material happiness?
  • Quadrant D (2, 3, and 5) – Wisdom? Perspective? Satisfaction?

I don’t know what this chart is, but I do recognize elements of it as themes that have bedeviled me for years. There is something about this that I think informs/limits the direction of my work. Perhaps it is the basis of a new Day Grid Balancer, or it is a particular answer to a particular question asked by people who are in my situation.

I think this is some kind of clue, so I am compelled to lay it out there to be seen to see what happens.


Upon waking this morning I had a number of new interpretations:

  • It’s an “attitude pacemaker” or “attitude stabilizer”.
  • It works by catalyzing negative emotions (e.g. feeling time stress for no logical reason) into fruitful reminders that good things are possible that contribute to material growth or human connection (e.g. one of the letter results).
  • This particular one is attuned to my current set of neuroses: time pressure, unresolved questions, isolation. There are likely other ones, which I could probably make into a cool board game!
  • OR it’s an “executive function spare”, for when my brain is particularly fuzzy.
  • It works by focusing attention on to a small subset of truths and desires, rather than let the brain run wild
  • It forces the selection of something simple to do, connecting the unruly brain with a single question to focus on, resulting in productive activity

About this Article Series

I'm challenging myself to create something new every day for the month of November 2014! The November Challenge Page lists everything in one place...check it out!