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A coaching process with which I am closely involved includes in its programme the concept of living a balanced life. Stephen Covey aficionados may stop reading here, expecting to read about time management and making sure that all roles get the appropriate attention at the appropriate time, but that is not what I’m going to write about. In this context, balanced living means making sure that your life is not wholly focused in one area or, to be more precise, that your life DOES try to encompass a broader range of ‘stuff’.


Last night I was watching the Robert Downey Jr. version of Sherlock Holmes and it occurred that here was an example of someone living just such a balanced life. I watched as Holmes studied bio-mechanics, chemistry, music, psychology, the arts, the martial arts, the culinary arts, and so on. He mastered understanding of the contexts of each, and occasionally the detail. In doing so he underpinned and reinforced his ability to do what he did best, his detecting. His balanced and broad studies supported his ability to carry out his vocation, while not interfering with it.

The Second Resolution, which invited us to focus on character and competence, does not restrict us in terms of that competence; it does not confine us to competence in only one area even if life makes it the most profitable route to professional success. The all-encompassing nature of this Resolution arguably encourages efforts to improve our competence by living a broader experience, reinforcing our character as we do so. By overcoming the Restraining Forces of Pride and Pretension we move past being ‘proud’ of the one thing we do well and seek to take steps* to be modestly content with being able to understand and explain concepts to the degree that we don’t need to pretend we understand things – we actually do understand.

I admit I am guilty of focussing too much in one area – personal development – but that is partly professional imposition and partly a desperate search for something spectacularly new and effective.~

But truly effective, Holmes-like living is better and worth working for. Broader study and experience feeds the ability to express ones-self to a degree that our friends, colleagues and peers understand and accept our ideas far more easily, instead of viewing them with suspicion and doubt.

Balance your competence by widening your understanding of ‘life’ – not just yours, life in general. Read broadly, use what you discover.

That is true balanced living.

*(Oops. Nearly wrote ‘take pride’ there.)

~(When the truth is that adherence to the 7 Habits is all that is needed – the principles serve the detail.)


Go on. I dare you. At Amazon, now.