A Question of Balance

“Without sacrificing the partner, the home, or the business, one should do one’s duty thoroughly.” – Shri Ranchoddasji Maharaj

This quote, from a guru who travelled throughout India in the twentieth century, accurately sums up, I think, one problem that is prevalent throughout modern life, and seemingly, most particularly in student life: balancing a whole host of various commitments and committing thoroughly to them all.

This is, without a doubt, one of the biggest problems I have faced over the last month. In addition to four A-Levels (already a reasonably large workload), I have forced myself to balance a Grade 8 music exam, two of the most challenging concerts in my school career, and the responsibilities of a mukhya shikshak for a Sangh shibir. It’s quite a lot; most, including myself, might say that it’s too much. Somehow, none of these things were disasters. As of now, I still don’t understand how I managed this, so I shall now look at some general solutions to this balancing act, and some of the specific problems that arise during the process.

It is my firm belief that when one commits to a venture, one has an obligation to perform their role as thoroughly as possible, whether that role be small or large. Anything less, I feel, would be a disservice to the others involved in that venture. It is because of this philosophy that I feel slightly guilty when I can’t put all my efforts into a certain area at a certain time because another area demands my attention. But how can one solve this? The approach I have tried to take is one echoing the proverbial ‘law of averages’: what goes up must come down at some point, and vice versa.

Practically, this comes down to deciding what is the most important task at any given time. Generally, I consider the task that needs to be done the soonest as the most important, although this theory hinges almost exclusively on the state of things in all the other areas one needs to attend to: for example, it would be most unwise for me to try and plan a bauddhik by a Wednesday when I know I need to do some Maths work (possibly my weakest subject) by Friday, even if Thursday evening is free. Clearly, there are too many variables to have a fixed approach, which I think has caused me problems in the past due to my rather pedantic desire for order.

That bauddhik won’t plan itself, however. Nor will that particularly difficult musical passage suddenly be perfected without any effort. Something has to give at some point: assuming that I have already put time into Maths, it seems right to spend some time on the other activities. There are problems here as well, though. There are a number of students who might lack motivation to study at times, and any extra-curricular activities that students may do are almost invariably ones that they enjoy. At times, the head is imploring one to work, whilst the heart is pulling firmly in the direction of the cricket pitch or the music practice room. Which one ought to win? Clearly, the head, on the majority of occasions. But let us go back to what Shri Ranchoddasji says: one must do one’s duty thoroughly without sacrificing certain areas. This to me means that the head can’t win all the time, otherwise the areas to which the heart wants to go will be sacrificed.

There is one obvious solution that I have overlooked thus far in this post: devote the majority of your time academically, and decide not to take on any moderately taxing extra-curricular commitments, if any at all. This is a matter of personal choice, and is undoubtedly a route which some will choose to take. At this point, I think a reference to my first ever post on this blog (The Need for a Rounded Education) is in order: essentially, a rounded education cannot simply be composed of academic study, because there is no system of purely academic study which is perfectly rounded. Of all the schemes of education I have encountered, the most rounded is the International Baccalaureate (IB); extra-curricular activities relating to creativity, action and service need to be done in order to complete the IB diploma. Naturally, there is also the option of taking on things and then deliberately failing to put effort into them because they aren’t priorities: my answer to that would be not to take things on in the first instance.

One thing I would advise all students to guard against is having the same weight of extra-curricular commitments as academic commitments. One’s academic life should never take as much of a back seat as it has almost done in the past month for me, and just as one can become tired of studying, one can also become tired of certain extra-curricular commitments. It is finding that balance which is essential, and I don’t doubt that many readers will have far better solutions than the ones I have suggested (in which case, feel free to share them).

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