Balancing the Components of Self


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We often hear about balancing our personal lives with our work lives, but this doesn’t provide much guidance on what to focus on. Looking instead at the components that make us human beings, and maintaining an effective balance of them, is a more productive approach. Following are those four major components and why each is so critical.

Physical – This should be obvious, but if you look around you’ll see lots of examples of people who don’t focus on maintaining their physical self. This doesn’t mean that we all need to be bodybuilders, marathon runners, or whatever else you see and hear in the physical realm, but it does mean that we need to maintain some minimum level of physical health in order to allow the other three components to work effectively.

Cognitive – Some people think cognitive development is something that only happens in college, but the reality is that it begins at birth and doesn’t stop until we die (well ideally it wouldn’t stop until then, but for many, I’m afraid it does much earlier). Development of one’s cognitive component means becoming more capable of differentiating between different levels and elements of what we deal with. To use a simple example, an apple is much more complex than just a sweet, red fruit. It can also be green, sour, and different sizes, even when ripe.

Emotional – Our ability to function is not just dependent on how well we are able to move (the physical component) or think (the cognitive component), but also how well we’re able to handle the impact of our thoughts (the emotional component). Someone who overreacts to a situation is someone who has not yet developed the ability to manage their emotions, and it often results in disastrous outcomes.

Spiritual – For some this is religion while for others it is philosophy. Regardless of how one approaches it, the spiritual component is one that recognizes that all in life cannot be easily explained, and that we need higher-level values to help us deal with that complexity.

How much one focuses on each of these human components will of course depend on personal situations and priorities, but at a minimum we need to ensure that we maintain some minimum level of competency, since a significant weakness in any can cause others/all to fail (e. g. , there are significant interactions between the four). One would do well to continually assess where the more significant opportunities for improvement lie.

© 2006 Duke Okes

Duke Okes helps individuals and organizations operate more productively and more professionally. He can be reached at


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