You are a rocket ship: My mentor's wise perspective on life balance
Graduating college is a pretty notable time in a person's life: it becomes real. Up until graduation, as students and young adults, we have mostly lived our lives in a dream state.
Through high school and college, we are still kind of part of the system, living with parents, and lacking freedom leaves us dreaming for 20+ years about how great life will be when we graduate and have control of our world.
As young scholars, we dream of worlds deep in our career, living in spectacular cities, finding love, buying a dog companion, playing sober puzzles on Friday and going to see comedy shows.
We create wonderful dreams, but there's a flaw in this thinking: whether we get it or not, it never lives up to the hype.
Right after college, a lot of us don't start living the dream we dreamt. We do not move cities, work in the jobs we want, find love, buy a dog, go to comedy shows or play sober puzzles on Friday.
More importantly, though, is that a lot of us DO get a good majority of what we dreamt about in college. While no one gets the whole dream immediately, a lot of us DO get the love, the city, the job or the lifestyle. Usually two or three out of the four.
The thing is that whether or not we are living with mom n' dad or the love of our life in a new city, it never checks out. We still have dreams of living that life with the dog, racing triathlons, learning languages and just killing it all around. We dream of that perfect balance and the things missing from it.
If we have three out of the four, we crave that fourth piece believing that if we get that dog all will reach perfect homeostasis. However, compared to the college version of us, we have it all. Yet we are still dreaming about that perfect life, that perfect balance where everything is rosy.
But the thing is, I invite you today to consider something with me.
There is no perfect balance.
I like to call this the Rocket Ship Theory. A mentor of mine told me about it. He said, "imagine life is a rocket ship in space. As the ship drifts through space, you'll drift a little bit to the left. So, you fire up the left engine to re-correct. Eventually, that left engine corrects you but you get a little too far to the right. So you turn off the left engine and fire up the right engine to re-correct. And so on"
The thing is, my mentor is right.
In my life, I have always swayed back and forth between super strict routines or a really laissez-faire life style. You might have experienced the same thing.
You know what I mean:
- The super strict life routine where you go to bed early, hit the gym, turn down drinks on Tuesday, read a ton of books and just kill it for months!
- Or... the laissez-faire life style where you are spontaneous, have crazy fun adventures, have incredible stories with friends and see the world.
The thing is, I've always lived in a recursive series of super strict routines or laissez-faire spontaneity, and I've always beat myself up asking "why can't I just find that perfect balance."
But that's the whole thing: there is no perfect balance.
That's what the Rocket Ship Theory argues: there is no perfect balance and adopting this perspective to life grants a few freedoms.
Freedom #1: your quality of life will improve drastically. Think about the post-college example again. How many people reading this have the job, the love, and the city and are still wondering why things aren't perfect, wishing for that dog? It won't be. The dog won't make your life perfect. Your love and your job might be demanding, and getting the dog might seem ideal. But once you get the dog, you now have dog, job, and love. That's a lot of time demand. Soon, you'll want freedom. Which is okay. If you want the dog, get the dog, but the whole premise here is that the dog isn't the answer. There is no perfect balance and once we realize we are the rocket ship that never reaches the perfect drift our quality of life improves.
Freedom #2: In the rocket ship example, when the ship drifts to the left, it now needs to fire up the left engine to correct itself. In other words, the rocket ship fills whatever needs it has right now. There is no right or wrong for the rocket ship, it's a simple question: "what do I need to stay my course?" Our life is the same way. There is no right or wrong decision. Life is about turning on the rocket engine you need at the time you need it. This comes down to trusting your gut. Sometimes we need a few months of heavy structure and other times we need some spontaneous drifting.
To help, I have slapped together this rocket ship slideshow.
[do note: routine and spontaneity are examples.]
The important take away about the Rocket Ship Theory is understanding that we don't see ourselves drift. If I am putting myself through a super strict routine for 6 months, my subconscious mind by the end is probably tired of the routine and wants freedom. If I break my routine and start saying yes to spontaneity, I should accept it. Unfortunately, our gut reaction is to taint our experiences with guilt or shame for breaking the routine.
Instead, let's just think about the rocket ship. Our hardcore routine is going to put our rocket ship a little off. Eventually, we will notice and at that point, all we need to do is turn on the spontaneity engine and correct a bit.
Just remember. There's no perfect state! If you keep both engines running, you'll run out of gas and there is no refueling in space ;-)