Leading Blog


Seeking Balance

I wanted to share some of the commencement remarks by Columbia University president Lee Bollinger as I found them valuable to life and leadership.
He is speaking of the importance of seeking balance in our life. He says, “Life is always a matter of seeking a balance, a balance that’s right for the world and a balance that’s right in our personal lives. Life is almost never perfect, only in balance or out of balance.

Bollinger stresses the role imagination plays in finding and maintaining that balance. Here are some edited excerpts to provide a little food for thought:
[Imagination] is something different from knowing things and being able to reason. It’s the part of the mind that creates stories, that feels what it’s like to be someone else (and so much so that for a moment you become that other person), that grasps the essence of a human dilemma, that eagerly absorbs the complexities of complex matters, that can see how people change in different circumstances, that is always trying to improve on things, that can conceive of a world different from the one we are living in.

We hear it from our Nobel Prize-winning economist Edmund Phelps, who teaches us that mental stimulation, problem-solving, and personal growth are the sine qua non of a thriving economy.

This is the key point: Our imaginations have trouble seeing their potential, and can do so only when we try ourselves and then compare our achievement against a greater achievement, and then repeat the process again and again.

Our New Age is so very much in need of imagination. The potential, as we have said, is so high now at the beginning, yet the problems ahead are already so massive, too. When the Arctic sea loses a chunk of ice the size of Texas, we have a sense things are not in balance.

When a billion people still have none of the benefits of modernity and face premature death and a life of squalor, we know things are not yet in balance.

When millions of people have stagnant incomes or face the dislocations of loss of employment, because of the shifting patterns of trade, we know there is still much too much imbalance.

When we barely understand the history, religious and cultural beliefs, and aspirations of other major societies around the globe, we know we have an imbalance of trade in knowledge.

And if the world — or our own lives — seem out of balance, it may be because the temptation to see things in a simple binary form — up or down, good or evil, right or wrong — is stoked every day by a culture that wants us to do anything but think too hard about the issues that matter so much.
Seeking balance too, requires keeping a long term view and personal integrity with our values and beliefs. Even in thinking about today’s big issues, it’s all too easy to jump on the band wagon of the latest speech, the newest study, or an organization’s well-rehearsed agenda. These issues are complex and need to be thought through in a well-ordered manner.

Leader’s need to encourage balance in those they lead too. Lack of balance in the workplace leads to many of the hidden costs organizations face—sick days, mistakes and burnout. On a personal level, it’s important to step back and ask yourself if in your drive for personal “success,” if you are paying too big a price in your relationships with those around you, your family, friends, your health and your own personal development.

Posted by Michael McKinney at 01:04 PM
| Comments (0) | This post is about Personal Development



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