What Does It Mean to Live a Well-Balanced Life?

I just finished reading Life in the Transitions: Mastering Change at Any Age, by Bruce Feiler (Penguin Press, 2020), which I recommend to anyone who finds him or herself in a transitional time in their life or career. I am instinctively leery of “how to” books; but I found Feiler, for the most part, affirms what most of us already know but need occasional reminding: we can choose to thrive in the transitions of life.

In his fourth chapter, “The ABC’s of Meaning,” Feiler outlines three key ingredients of living a well-balanced life. The first, A, is for agency: which includes our sense of autonomy, how we live life freely, creatively, and with a certain mastery. The B stands for belonging: our relationships including our friends (“people that surround and nurture you”), our family, an

d the multiple communities in which we live. The C is cause—and I quote Feiler directly here: It is “a calling, a mission, a direction, a purpose; a transcendent commitment beyond yourself that makes your life worthwhile.”

Feiler goes on to say that these ABC’s of meaningful and well-balanced living are lived out in what he calls “the three strands of identity.” Our me story is the one in which you are the “hero, the doer, the creator.” It’s about how we exercise agency in the choices we make and the things that we do. Next is our we story in which we live and take action as part of a community or team in which we find belonging and safety. Here our sense of agency is multiplied when we are working together. Our thee story is the third and final narrative identity. It is “the one in which we’re serving an ideal, a faith, a cause. . .part of something larger” than ourselves.

Whatever our age, path, or juncture in life, I believe these two constructs can be enlightening by way of helping us live our lives with purpose and balance. Taken together they afford a way of living forward when our tendency may be to stay where we are.

— John VanderZee

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