Ethan King TEDx

How Constant Contextual Calibration Can Help Preserve Your Mental Health

Ethan King TEDx

As we continue to recognize Mental Health Awareness Month and the 13-19 May Mental Health Awareness Week, Ethan King (EO Atlanta) shares an innovative method for prioritizing mental health while keeping the sometimes overwhelming pace of entrepreneurship.

Modern life is like walking a tight rope high above the ground every single day. You’re up there carrying different weights, trying to balance your career, family life, health, and personal growth. When something knocks you off balance, you feel like you’re about to fall and lose it all.

If that sounds scary or exhausting, it’s because the concept of life balance is outdated.

What if, instead of a tight rope, your arms were airplane wings? Did you know airplane wings are not  rigid? They’re always moving, making micro adjustments to navigate turbulence and keep your plane on course.

Replace the Concept of Life Balance

You can apply this same constant contextual calibration to your life, replacing the outdated notions of balance to achieve true abundance in every dimension. You’ve been sold this idea of life balance, as if you can simply shift weight from one side to the other and solve all of your problems. But life isn’t static. Its dynamic and ever-changing!

We need a new approach, because the ramifications of being out of balance for too long include stress, anxiety, fatigue, and other mental health and physical health challenges that result from burnout. The World Health Organization now recognizes burnout as an occupational phenomenon.

I began exploring this phenomenon about a decade ago, when I read about a multimillionaire real estate tycoon named Paul who drove exotic cars, flew in private jets, even played polo with Prince Charles. On the surface, it seemed like Paul had it all. Yet one day, he intentionally jumped in front of a moving train, and took his own life. I asked myself “Why?”

We hear all too many of these types of stories. Closer to home, my friend William, a successful developer who silently struggled with his mental health, ultimately ended his own life, leaving behind his wife, and children. These stories hit me hard.

We’re paying a high price for our outdated notion of balance. So what’s the answer? You’ve probably heard several different approaches to life balance. Frankly, none seem to work.

  • The 8-8-8 Schedule: Eight hours’ work, eight hours’ recreation, eight hours’ rest. Did you know this was invented in 1817, after the Industrial Revolution, because people were working 16-hour days? In today’s 24/7, internet-connected global economy, the 8-8-8 approach isn’t always practical.
  • The Focus Method. Have you heard of this? “Follow one course until successful.” Often touted by the ultra-ambitious, this method could lead you to neglect your family life, social relationships, health and hobbies — all at the expense of relentlessly pursuing your goals.
  • Work-life Harmony. It sounds great in theory, but life is not always harmonious. What happens when the unexpected throws a wrench into your plans?

I propose a new idea: Constant contextual calibration.

Remember the airplane? Airplane wings are made up of smaller components, gears and flaps, that continuously calibrate for flight conditions. Sometimes the movements of these flaps are tiny and barely noticeable. Other times the movements are much more dramatic.

That’s what we need to do in life: Constantly adjust, not just balance. It’s about being agile, being responsive to the winds of change. It’s not about finding a perfect state. It’s about adapting to an imperfect world.

Here’s how it works.

  • Constant: The adjustments that you’ll make are ongoing. There’s no set-it-and-forget-it.
  • Contextual: The adjustments are fluid, ever-changing. What worked yesterday may not work today. It’s situational.
  • Calibration: This is the act of making adjustments and fine-tuning your life like a well-oiled machine.

Keep it SIMPLE

I think of the flaps of a plane as six different life categories.

The first flap raises or lowers your sense of Self-reflection. Some people call this Spirituality. The second flap raises or lowers your Intellect. Third, your Money. On the other side we have your Physicality, Love, and Entertainment. I chose these six areas is because it forms the word SIMPLE, which makes it simple to remember.

Like a pilot monitors levels in the cockpit, I keep a daily journal of my levels in each of these six areas, and I adjust accordingly — situationally — day by day, and week by week.

But what happens when one of these flaps gets stuck due to situations beyond our control? Or when the proverbial bird strikes an engine — how do we keep from spiraling our plane into a crash and burn?

Real World Application of Constant Contextual Calibration

Let me share a real world application from my life where my flaps were stuck out of whack.

I own a small business. Years ago we were caught up in a legal battle with a former client much larger than we were, with vast resources. We were like a tiny David fighting a giant Goliath. Can you imagine a bully trying to put you out of business? We felt violated and powerless. To make matters worse, we didn’t have any extra cash to fight this battle. We drained our savings accounts and took on extra debt just to pay our legal bills and keep the business afloat. As we contemplated losing it all, stress levels mounted, and my wife suffered an anxiety attack.

The situation consumed so much of my energy that my health declined and relationships suffered. I was always irritable, and I could barely be mentally present to enjoy the gift of my newborn son. I felt trapped, angry, depressed. Have you ever felt like you hit rock bottom, like you lost a piece of yourself? There was no way out. In that dark place, I remembered the airplane wings — always adjusting, always calibrating.

I decided in that moment that I would not let this financial nightmare drag me down in all the other areas of my life. So, I did something wild and illogical in the midst of this chaos that I had never done before: I signed up to run a marathon.

Now mind you, I hated running. I grew up with asthma. I wasn’t very athletic. Plus, running really hurts my knees. At the time, the thought of me running 26.2 miles was almost as absurd as flapping my arms and hoping to fly. My friends thought I was nuts considering the crisis we were in, but I knew that I needed to take extreme and unusual action before I fell into the same trap as Paul or my friend William.

As brutal as it was, I finished that marathon. In doing so, I reclaimed my physical health, and then my mental health, and then my family life. If those were flaps of a plane, my money flap had been pulling me down. So I focused on the other flaps so I could rise up.

Recalibrate To Soar Above

I believe you can apply this same principle to soar above any storm in your life. By elevating above the storm, I gained clarity to fight back in that legal battle. Today, my business is thriving, my family is smiling, and I feel happier and healthier than ever. I even still love running!

What I want you to take away from this is that, like a pilot, you must always be aware of your levels. Take an honest daily assessment on a scale of 1 to 10 and adjust across your spirituality, intellect, money, physicality, love, and entertainment. It’s simple to live a life where you’re not just surviving but thriving. Where you’re not rigid but fluid.

That’s the power of constant contextual calibration.

It’s not just a concept. It’s a lifestyle. It’s the key to unlocking a richer, more fulfilling existence. Ditch the tightrope and the antiquated notions of balance. Let’s be more like airplanes, always adjusting to the winds of life so we can soar to new heights.

By doing this, perhaps we can all truly have it all and the world will be better for it.

Contributed to EO by Ethan King, a former president of the EO Atlanta chapter who recently gave a TEDx Talk, What Do Airplane Wings Teach Us About Life Balance?, that is the basis for this blog post. Ethan, co-founder of Zeus’ Closet and author of the international bestseller Wealth Beyond Money, is dedicated to helping others achieve comprehensive prosperity without sacrificing what truly matters.

Don’t miss our previous Mental Health Awareness Month posts on How to Protect Your Mental Health When Starting a Business, 5 Strategies To Change Your Inner Dialogue From Critic to Advocate, 3 Steps to Safeguard Your Mental Health and Become a Better, More Effective Leader, and  5 Strategies To Change Your Inner Dialogue From Critic to Advocate.

For more insights and inspiration from today’s leading entrepreneurs, check out EO on Inc. and more articles from the EO blog

Categories: Coaching Entrepreneurial Journey HEALTH WORK-LIFE INTEGRATION


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