Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Life Under Construction: Finding Balance

"There's no such thing as a free lunch."  The origin of that common phrase is contested, but the veracity of the thought is not.  Dave, who has a degree in economics, calls that statement "all the theories of economics, simplified into one truth."  Everything costs someone something.  Even if it appears to be free to you, it is not free to the person who gave it to you.  

On a more personal level, even if we don't care about what it costs someone else, there is still a price to every choice - the "opportunity cost".  Everything we gain in life comes with a price - every choice we make costs us the "could haves".  When I order a corn dog, it costs me the opportunity to have a hamburger.  When I build a house on the beach, it costs me the view from the mountaintop.  Everything is a trade-off in some way.  

Google the phrase "finding balance" and you will get pages and pages of advice to help you balance your money, time, health, lifestyle, relationships and career, but they all boil down to give and take.  What are you willing to give up to have something else?

The dictionary defines balance as

  1. An even distribution of weight, enabling something to remain upright and steady. 
  2. A condition in which different elements are in the correct proportions.
  3. Keep or put something in a steady position so that it does not fall.
  4. To offset or compare the value of one thing with another.
That pretty much sums up life.  We weigh the benefits of each area against the costs until we find the combination that keeps us steady.  My job provides money which allows me to pay for "extras", such as books, hobby supplies, or travel; but at what cost?  I can afford a plane ticket to see my daughters in New Mexico, but I don't have enough vacation leave from my job to make the trip.  Spending my free time reading or sewing makes me happier than scrubbing floors or folding laundry, but it costs me the peace and convenience of an orderly home.  

The purchase of our own business has added a new element that needs to be balanced. I now have bookkeeping and clerical jobs for the construction company, as well as a full-time job and the usual responsibilities at home. There are more duties I would like to assume for our business, but not while working full-time.  We can adjust the budget to live without my income, but we would also give up the benefits.  When we went to Florida a few weeks ago, one of my goals was to spend some quiet time on the beach evaluating options and setting priorities - finding balance. It seemed so simple while we were there.  But in truth, balance is incredibly easy to find when other people are preparing your meals and cleaning up your messes.  It didn't translate well back to real life.

In reality, I spend 53 of the available 168 hours each week preparing for, traveling to and doing my job.  Subtract another 49 hours/week for sleep and I have 66 hours in each week to balance the "need to's" and the "want to's".

I know this is nothing new to any of you.  We all face the same challenges to find balance. In fact, it's not even a new topic for this blog.  Mainly, this is me talking out loud to work it out in my head.

I can hire someone to help with either the cleaning or the yard work.  It's a financial splurge that we can afford as long as I continue to work.  If I quit my job, I could handle the cleaning and yard work, plus the new business responsibilities, but would have less disposable income for hobbies and travel.  However, not working outside the home would cut the expenses of office wardrobe, gas and mileage, and eating out.  Everything seems to be tipping precariously at the moment as I struggle for that balancing point.

Free lunch anyone?

1 comment:

  1. Ah, good luck to you! I am stuggling with balance myselg right now. I splurge on someone cleaning the house every other week and even with that I can't seem to find the time I need. So, good luck to both of us I guess :)