The concept is not necessarily to have ourselves vested 33 1/3 percent in each of the areas of the three legs. At times, we'll need to focus more on work and less on play. Or more on love and less on work. Or more on play and less on love or work. The key is to have the three legs balance out over time -- and to be aware that we need all three of these key ingredients in our lives on an ongoing basis.
I like the simplicity of this model, and it's something I use as a checkpoint now and then. The classic "can't see the forest for the trees" concept comes into play here. When we're so engrossed, we often can't see the toll it's taking in other areas of our lives.
I want to make a distinction between the use of the word "obsessive" in this context and its clinical definition. In the clinical sense, "obsessive" is often linked with compulsive behaviors (excessive washing of hands, for example, or other rituals that must be performed over and over again). These are actually anxiety disorders that require treatment.
I'm talking about self-monitoring our behaviors so that we see when we may be taking something so seriously that we become preoccupied with it to the exclusion of other necessary elements of our lives.
According to the Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders, an obsession is an unwelcome, uncontrollable and persistent idea, thought, image or emotion that a person cannot help thinking even though it creates significant distress or anxiety.
People with obsessions may find themselves acting in compulsive ways in largely futile attempts to relieve the anxiety associated with their persistent unpleasant thoughts. Others suffering from obsessions may try very hard to control or ignore them.
It's important to note, however, that legitimate worries about daily concerns -- paying bills, studying for exams, keeping a job and interpersonal relationships -- are not obsessions. Although they can occasionally be carried to obsessive lengths, these concerns can change with circumstances and, in most cases, can be controlled with planning, effort and action. Obsessions relate to problems that most people would consider far removed from normal daily events and concerns.
If you suspect yourself or someone close to you is chronically out of balance, you may want to learn more about anxiety disorders. A good tool is "The Anxiety Answer Book," co-authored by Charleston psychologist Laurie Helgoe. Helgoe points out that an estimated 19 million adult Americans suffer from anxiety disorders -- and anyone who has struggled with anxiety and panic attacks understands that each day brings a new set of fears and challenges.
"The Anxiety Answer Book" is written in an easy-to-read question-and-answer format and helps readers cope with their anxiety, conquer their fears and seek treatment when necessary.
We all have our ups and downs in life. When a nagging behavior causes a sustained out-of-control spiral, though, it may be time to stop and assess things in our lives.
Author Eckhart Tolle helps to put this into perspective: "Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry -- all forms of fear -- are caused by too much future and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness and all forms of non-forgiveness are caused by too much past -- and not enough presence."
Linda Arnold, MBA, is a certified wellness instructor and chairwoman and CEO of The Arnold Agency, an advertising, public relations and government relations firm in Charleston. Reader comments may be directed to Linda Arnold, The Arnold Agency, 117 Summers St., Charleston, WV 25301, or e-mailed to livinglifefu...@arnoldagency.com.