The Four Burners Theory
We are all striving for a balanced life. A life where we have enough time for our family, friends, health, and work. A life where we give equal amount of time to each of these areas of our life and our life is “perfect” because of it. But if you remember our Wednesday Wisdom (Everything in Moderation) post, you will remember that a balanced life is an illusion. There is only a balancing act between these areas of our life. There will be times we have to invest more in one area than in the other. One way of explaining this balancing act is The Four Burners Theory.
This theory says to imagine you have a really old stove in your kitchen that has four burners on it. The four burners are Family, Friends, Health, and Work. Since this is an old stove, it only has a limited amount of power for all the burners to share. If you imagine 100% of the power it has available to it, you can divide that power up among all four burners. With this theory, a balanced life would mean that each burner gets 25% of the power. This sounds great and in perfect balance, but the problem is that at this level, none of the burners are burning strongly, so it will be hard to get anything cooking quickly on any one burner. If you want to cook something quick on one burner, you will have to steal power from the other burners to increase the power to the one burner. Let’s look at some examples of how we steal and move power from burner to burner.
Stealing Power from Burners
You are at work one day and receive a phone call that someone you love has been in an accident. You immediately drop everything and rush to the hospital. You have just taken power from the Work burner, which was firing at about 80-90% capacity, and invested it all into the Family burner. They need you and you are there. Or perhaps you have the Family burner on high, because it is the weekend and you are celebrating your son’s birthday. All of a sudden, the boss calls with a mission critical issue. They need you on it ASAP. You quickly steal power from the Family and Friend burners and push it over to the Work burner. Lastly, imagine you have just had a heart attack and your doctor tells you that you have to start exercising and eating better or you may not survive the next one. You then decide you have to turn up the heat on the Health burner, which will pull some power from the other three burners. You have to take time to exercise. With all this going on, how can you be successful in all four areas of life?
What Burner Needs The Power To Be Successful???
The Four Burners Theory says that if a person is to be “successful” they will need to temporarily turn off the power to at least one burner and maybe even two. This means that at least two areas of your life will suffer as you focus on another area of your life. You have a limited amount of time in a day. You will have to live an unbalanced life in order to be successful in one of the other areas. A common thought among breadwinners is that they have to cut some family time so they can make money in order to afford more family time. The point is that you will have to live some sort of unbalanced life to reach success in each area of your life. You just need to decide what burner is most important right now.
There really is no such thing as a balanced life. The Four Burners Theory tells us that we have to cut off one or two burners completely to be successful in any one area of our life. While this may be necessary at times, it CAN’T be all the time. You can’t cut the power off to any one burner for too long as that area of life will suffer. Sure, you may have to take a solid week to focus on work, but you still need to reach out to family. Or you may have to take some time to exercise, but you have to make sure you get your job done or you will lose it. The thing to remember is that life IS a balancing act. You will need to turn the heat up on one or two specific burners in life, taking power from the other two burners. But we can’t leave the heat off on the other two burners for too long, or that area of your life will suffer.
Figure out what burners in your life need the most attention. If you could find a way to make some of the burners work together, even better. Perhaps you can work on your Health, Family, and Friends burners by going to the gym with a family member or friend. Or perhaps you work with a friend or family member. This is a great way to power a couple burners at the same time with some good energy. Figure out what burners needs the power and when. Then focus there. But be mindful not to neglect the other burners for too long, as the food may spoil.