Life is a balancing act

By Capt. Ryan Jennings.  Capt. Jennings is the Commander of Battery B, 1/129th Field Artillery and Administrative Officer for the 1/129th.  He has served 12 years with the Artillery Battalion including three state emergency duty missions and one deployment to Afghanistan.

As Guardsmen, we have to find balance in our lives to accomplish the mission.  How we allocate our time between family, community, work, the Guard and the numerous other demands in our lives contributes to our effectiveness as Soldiers.  There is never enough time, and finding balance is a very difficult challenge in this day and age.

I would like to focus this post on the importance of taking time for balanced approach to personal development.  By taking time to develop ourselves, it allows us to be better contributors and maintain the other aspects in our lives, which makes us more efficient and stronger Soldiers.   The bottom line is that in order to lead, leaders must first take care of themselves.  If a leader neglects personal needs then he or she becomes an ineffectual leader.

There are three personal aspects I believe contribute to a well-rounded and balanced lifestyle.  Strong leaders must allocate personal time for physical, mental and spiritual development.  The amount of time and effort is METT-TC (mission, enemy, terrain and weather, troops and support available, time available, civil considerations) dependent, based on the demands in one’s life.  The developments of personal attributes within physical, mental and spiritual health are the cornerstones to overcoming life’s challenges.  Many individuals will tell you they do not have time for this, but the average American watches 2.8 hours of TV a day according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  I propose that by reducing TV watching to 30 minutes a day and allocating time to personal development, individuals will achieve greater balance in life’s activities.  The investment in personal development ensures the individual is better postured to overcome adversity.

The first aspect of physical development is ever present as a Soldier.  We must maintain our health to complete the mission.  This includes making healthy lifestyle choices to support physical wellbeing.  As covered in many other posts, eating healthy and getting enough sleep are vital in maintaining physical health and must be a priority.  Also, devoting an hour a day to work out is essential and very doable.  As for the development aspect, try new things to keep it interesting.  By signing up for competitive races or trying new sports, it gives you something to train for outside the annual physical fitness test.  Pick a workout style that you enjoy because you will be more likely to maintain the routine.  I personally like to change workout routines seasonally or about every three months.   In the summer, I focus on running and training for 10K road races, then in the fall I switch to cross training.  Regardless of your method, find a way to stay motivated because no one has ever said, “I hate being physically fit.”

As for mental development, the Army offers many resources.  In the AKO portal, under self-service, you will find the “My Training” and “My Education” pages that offer endless opportunities to feed your educational development needs.  From taking military correspondence courses to continuing civilian education, instructive activities enhance the brain’s ability to learn.  I believe we must challenge our minds and remain hungry for information.  Treat your brain like a muscle and exercise it regularly.   Take time to learn something new every day and at least set aside time to read.  Again, since the average American watches 2.8 hours of TV daily, then they must have time to read at least one hour a day.  Set goals to learn topics outside your comfort zone.  This may include taking a class at a local community college or to learning a foreign language with Rosetta Stone.  Expanding your knowledge base helps you analyze life’s issues from different viewpoints.   As Gandhi stated, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow and learn as if you were to live forever.”

The last aspect, spiritual development, is the most challenging and diverse for all.  Due to upbringing, culture, experiences and many other factors, spiritual health varies widely from person to person.  I believe the spiritual portion of personal development is the most important, but also the least utilized until things turn bad.  Spiritual skills must be developed before they are needed, or they are likely inadequate to cope with the issue.  When spirituality is strong in an individual, often priorities shift to align with personal development and growth.  Time should be set aside to develop spiritual health just like physical training and education.  Devoting time in this personal area helps the individual develop resiliency.  I recommend devoting at least 15 minutes a day to reflect on spirituality and consider taking an hour a week for church services.  A unit chaplain has many resources if you need a place to start your spiritual development.

By developing these three aspects of overall health, a person becomes more well-rounded and adaptable to meet life’s challenges.  If the average individual devotes one hour a day to fitness, one hour a day to education and 15 minutes a day on spiritual reflection, I believe they will find greater joy in life’s trials.  Implementation of each of the three areas promotes stress reduction and enhances personal performance.  Physical health helps provide the ability for the individual to physically accomplish life’s challenges.  Mental development expands awareness and adaptability for astuteness in dealing with life’s challenges.  Spiritual strength allows for great perspective and moral guidance while confronting perceived issues.  In my experience, people that devote time for personal development have more confidence in their ability to accomplish whatever mission life presents.

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