By Lt. Col. Brian Daniels
19th Maintenance Group deputy commander
I want to use this opportunity to highlight a topic that has certainly been discussed, but I think has been overlooked or ignored by many. The Air Force and military in general tends to attract hard charging or Type-A people who will do everything possible to make the mission happen. This is especially noticeable in the officer corps and those who have stepped up to assume leadership roles throughout the ranks.
This trait is critical when you put the seriousness of our mission in perspective, but it also carries the very real potential of dominating all aspects of our lives. The simple word I will use to fall back on is “BALANCE.” While we are asked to push hard to support the Air Force mission, it is one part of the total package that makes up our lives. As I look at my own life, I break it down to four basic elements: the Service (Air Force), Family and friends (personal relationships), Spiritual and Physical fitness.
I am going to use a well known warrior whose lack of balance resulted in the fall of the Republic.If you haven’t guessed it, I am writing about Anakin Skywalker (Later known as Darth Vader). Anakin was supposed to be the “chosen one” who would defeat the Sith and bring balance to the force. When you take a quick look at Anakin’s life you can see how his lack of personal balance led him to decisions that ultimately brought down an entire Galactic Republic. You may be thinking, what are you talking about; let’s look at Anakin’s life as it relates to the elements above.
First, Anakin was the youngest Jedi to ever serve on the Jedi council but his ambition and pride caused him to be out of balance in his service. His desire to become the best Jedi ever led him closer to the dark side, ultimately letting his peers and everyone in his command down.
Now let’s look at Anakin’s personal relationships: His marriage to Padme was founded in deceit and was filled with distrust, ultimately costing Padme her life. Similarly, his relationship with peers, including Obi-Wan, was one of jealousy and distrust. He never achieved the balance necessary for true loving and supportive relationships.
Finally, his lack of faith caused him to try to take actions in his own hands and pushed him over the edge to the dark side. The fact that Anakin could never achieve balance in his own life directly led to bad decisions resulting in his downfall.
OK, now let’s look at the real world: To reach our full potential as Airmen and people we cannot allow ourselves to be dominated by any one aspect of our lives. This may seem counterintuitive to our hard charging, Type-A personalities, but I truly believe that an Airman cannot function at our peak levels without true balance over the long term. I say long term because there will always be temporary situations that require us to focus on one element of balance over another, however, our goal should be to return to a balanced state. I will try to tie in my point with a quick look at the elements of life.
Service in the Air Force is demanding and leaders expect 100 percent effort all of the time while at work. If we allow work requirements to dominate our lives, our work will ultimately suffer as marital problems, questions of faith and physical problems creep into the work center. With the nature of our business, this could result in fatal mistakes. I have told many of my Airmen that while you are in your work center, I want your max effort, but when you leave, I don’t want you thinking about work until you return. Family life is critical to balance; we owe our loved ones, whether spouse, children, family or friends, the priority they deserve. They too sacrifice when we are called to work long hours or deploy. Making them a priority and building a strong family base will keep you secure as you perform your mission and keep your family secure knowing that you are going to be there for them in the future.
In my opinion, Spiritual health is the most important aspect of achieving balance. (Trusting that God has a plan for each of our lives and knowing that even when things seem dark, God is there and will lift us up gives us the base that we need to succeed in all aspects of our lives.)
Finally, Physical fitness is crucial to balance. Not just because the Air Force has changed the PT requirements, but physical health allows us to maximize our efforts continuously. If we don’t strive for physical fitness, we will not have the energy to seek balance throughout our lives.
I will conclude by stating my belief that there are always negative consequences if we focus on one element of life at the detriment of others, and I would challenge everyone to really take a look at your lives and see what you need to do to achieve balance.