In hopes of giving you a better understanding of the philosophical foundation at Balanced Achievement, we have created a ‘Balanced Achievement 101’ series that reviews the various components that merge together to form our teaching ideology. In each article (links can be found at the bottom of this page) we outline the given topic, discuss important historical information, and examine key educational concepts that are relevant to the teachings at Balanced Achievement. In this article, we explore our overall teaching philosophy in Balanced Achievement 101.
Balanced Achievement 101
Over the past 10 days we have explored the contradictory worlds of Buddhism, Hinduism, Modern Psychology, and Self-Help Psychology. Each of these distinctive disciplines come with various strategies that are meant to help you find the fulfillment that you seek. The beliefs and lifestyle recommendations that are found throughout each of these fields can be vastly different and often paradoxical, yet the teaching ideology found at Balanced Achievement revolves around components of each one. How is this possible?
By selecting, what we believe to be, the most attractive aspects of each discipline, and systematically weaving them together, the lifestyle approach that is taught here offers individuals a truly balanced approach to living, a true middle way. We will start our exploration into the Balanced Achievement philosophy by first first reviewing the most important components that have been examined over the past 10 days. We will then elaborate on how these components unite to form our philosophical foundation and highlight how our teachings balance the various, and often times contradictory, approaches. Finally, to end the article, we will decisively define Balanced Achievement as a lifestyle approach constructed to bring you the happiness, success, and fulfillment that you desire and deserve.
Components of Balanced Achievement
We believe that by using various aspects from the four previously mentioned disciplines, each of us can find a truly balanced lifestyle approach, where both happiness and success are imminent. Let’s review the aspects that come from Buddhism, Hinduism, Modern Psychology, and Self-Help Psychology:
- Meditation: An entire article in the Balanced Achievement 101 series was dedicated to meditation because of the impact we believe it can have on all of our lives. By forming a regular meditation practice, and turning your attention inward, you will be able to get in touch with the deepest parts of yourself, relinquish negative emotions, and uncover your deepest desires. We truly believe that meditation is the consummate tool needed for happiness, success, and ultimately fulfillment.
- Compassion & Contentment: Two of the most important personal qualities that are preached in Buddhist theology are compassion and contentment. We believe that the development of these two qualities is a prerequisite for finding true and lasting happiness. By regularly focusing our attention on compassionate living, which has been scientifically proven to bring more happiness to individuals who exhibit it, we can enjoy a deeper connection with all. When we are able to live a contented life, we are able to enjoy life’s gifts each and every day. By understanding our reality and developing unwavering self-acceptance, our outer situation and circumstances will not affect our states of well-being.
- Impermanence & Emptiness: In the Western world, there is a great amount of societal emphasis put on the acquisition of material goods, romantic relationships, and peer status. While we do not believe that it is wrong to strive for these things, we must understand their inherent nature of impermanence and emptiness. These external things, which we perceive to be solid and real, are forever changing and ungraspable. The happiness and pleasure that we receive from each perceived success come with a subsequent letdown because the nature of everything is one of constant change. To overcome the cycle of suffering, or to just bring more fulfillment into our lives, we have to get to a point where our happiness is not determined by the external success or outer circumstances.
- Understanding of Human Make-Up: It is certainly possible to undertake both a spiritual path and a journey of personal development without understanding human make-up, however, if you become aware of the intricacies of the human mind and human behavior, you can greatly enhance your chances of success and decrease the timeframe to progress as an individual. As science has discovered, human beings are complex creatures who are affected by both internal and external circumstances. Our prewired biological functions, cognitive functions, and conditioned behaviors often block the path toward happiness and success. By having a definitive understanding of our human makeup, which has been proven scientifically, we can deal with any roadblock or problem in a much more efficient manner.
- The Brain & Human Behavior: Within the world of modern psychology lays the foundational understanding of both the brain and human behavior. The cognitive processes that are common amongst all humans can determine not only our future success but also our present state of well-being. Our internal self-talk, where we can observe our expectations, perceptions, and beliefs, often remains unconscious to us, but still, affect our every decision. Human behavior is also greatly influenced by the societies we live in and our conditioned responses to particular situations and circumstances. By having an understanding of the multitude of mental complexities, we are afforded the opportunity to not be used by them, but use them to our advantage.
- The Humanistic Perspective: Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow, two of the most famous psychologists to promote the humanistic perspective, believed that each and every human being has the same ultimate goal of self-actualization. When working with individual patients, these two individuals would focus their attention on leading their patients to a more complete and fulfilling life. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of the patients, such as in Psychotherapy, they would have individuals search for internal answers that would lead them to more fulfillment. Here at Balanced Achievement, we also believe that our fulfillment is dependent on ourselves, and we strive to help you uncover your deeper desires as you build your personal roadmap to higher levels of self-actualization.
- Atman & Brahman: We believe that within each of us resides a divine presence that is shared by all. The Atman, or soul, is a component of every individual and when we are able to connect with this part of ourselves, our lives will be able to flourish according to the divine plan. This divine presence, some may call it consciousness or mindfulness, is within each of us and we can connect to it directly through meditation. At Balanced Achievement, we are not interested in promoting any specific theological God as the divine being but rather believe that every religion is centered around the worship of the same divine creator who is worshiped in different ways. Hinduism is structured very much the same way, not discarding any religious practices or beliefs and viewing them as different ways to reach the ultimate truth, Brahman.
- Celebrating The Gift of Life: The teachings of the Buddha contain more logical reasoning than practically any doctrine, religious or not, in the entire world. However, the path that the Buddha laid out for spiritual seekers is rigorous to follow, especially in modern times. Instead of seeking an ascetic lifestyle, like the Buddha prescribed, we believe that one should relish in the pleasures of life while remaining completely understanding of the impermanent nature of everything. Two of the primary life goals of Hindus are to obtain material wealth and enjoy sensual experiences (Artha & Kama), which The Buddha opposed. As long as our happiness is not determined by these things, we believe that each of us should wholly pursue external success and enjoyment.
- Dharma & Karma:- Dharma and Karma are two Hindi words that now have a place in a variety of cultures. Karma, or the law of cause and effect, is widely utilized throughout Eastern religions and is well-understood in the majority of Western cultures. The word dharma, which has a variety of meanings in different Eastern theologies, takes on a particular significance, that is important to us, in the Hindu tradition. Dharma is directly related to an individual’s life purpose and path. It is vitally important for us to find our true calling and invest every ounce of ourselves into it. Not only will this keep universal order, but also allow us to experience the greatest amount of life fulfillment. The popular sayings in the Western world, “You sow what you reap,” and “What goes around comes around,” directly relate to the cosmic law of karma and should not be taken lightly. It is important for us to always direct our actions in ways that lead to the greatest benefit for the whole of humanity and in turn produce positive karma for ourselves.
- Personal Responsibility: If we are going to grow, either internally or externally, as individuals, the single most important thing we can do is take full responsibility for our lives and our current circumstances. You may not be where you want to be, and you may not like your financial situation, job, or relationships, but to truly change these things, you must first take 100% responsibility for your life. Your decision have ultimately led you to where you are today, and only by completely accepting this truth can you progress to more fruitful orchards. This means to quit blaming others, quit blaming circumstances, and get yourself to focus on the solutions to your problems rather than the problems themselves.
- Tools for Growth: Within the literature of self-help psychology, there are a plethora of tools and strategies that individuals use to accomplish goals and improve their lives. Vision statements, goal setting, visualization exercises, and affirmations all can be utilized as valuable resources to help us build our ideal life. These personal development exercises do not come fail-proof, however, as there are typically more deeply rooted issues that stop us from reaching our desired destinations. Limiting beliefs, poor event interpretation, and negative expectations are often the culprits that keep us stalled in neutral. Luckily, one of the most beneficial aspects of self-help psychology is that it helps us change our expectations about what to expect in the future, which psychologists of all backgrounds believe plays a major part in shaping our reality.
- All-Encompassing:- In our Personal Development 101 article, we looked at the all-encompassing nature of the personal development, or self-help, industry. One of the most important aspects of the field is that not a single life area is left forgotten. The teachings of leaders, from all walks of life, can be utilized to enhance any dimension of our lives. On a personal level, we can do things such as find motivation, improve our self-control, and handle our emotional responses more appropriately. At the level of our relationships, we can learn how to win people to our side, understand others better, and live with a more dynamic presence everywhere we go. Our ability to manage our finances and develop leadership skills can be found in the self-help subcategory of ‘Financial & Career.’ And finally, our physical fitness and health can drastically improve by staying current with the latest diet, weight loss, and fitness trends. The all-encompassing nature of self-help psychology will ensure that we find the appropriate life balance.
We have just looked at 12 of the most important components of the Balanced Achievement teaching philosophy. As I am sure you can see, the various religious and scientific disciplines come with conflicting ideas, beliefs, and lifestyle recommendations. How then do they merge together to form our teaching ideology? Let’s find out.
Merging of Distinctive Fields
For someone with even limited knowledge of the previously mentioned disciplines, it would be fairly easy to point out a variety of conflicting viewpoints between the subjects. The ongoing debate between science and spirituality points to the fact that spiritualists and scientists have, and will continue to have, extremely different viewpoints on the reality we find ourselves in. Beyond this distinction, between Eastern spirituality and Western psychology, there are even conflicting beliefs between the two religions, Buddhism and Hinduism, and between the two branches of psychology, Modern and Self-Help. Instead of focusing on the incompatible facets of each discipline, however, let’s see how we can systematically unite them together to form a dynamic and balanced approach to living.
We will first look at the emergence of Buddhism and Hinduism, which isn’t necessarily inconceivable considering the Buddha once associated himself with the Hindi religion, the Buddha is considered a god in Hinduism, and many Buddhist teachings have an eerily similar feel to their Hindu counterparts. Both of these religions prescribe meditation, although the practice is more emphasized in Buddhism, as one of the most important activities that we can undertake. Our teachings on the practice of meditation are based upon both philosophies, but we believe, like Buddhists, that this is the single most important practice for your personal development and overall well-being. The personal quality of compassion is taught in both religions, however, the caste system in India often leaves citizens acting with prejudice and hate. We believe that we all should strive to live compassionately towards every individual regardless of race, age, gender, or physical appearance.
One thing that we don’t completely agree with in Buddhist theology is the idea of renunciation and asceticism. We believe that we should relish in the gifts that life offers, yet utilize the Buddhist wisdom of impermanence and emptiness to remain unattached from external successes and pleasures. The Law of Karma is taught in both religions and this universal truth should be adhered to. The main difference between Buddhism and Hinduism comes in the form of a divine being. Hindus believe that your deepest nature, pure consciousness, is a direct manifestation of the one ultimate reality, were as the Buddha was not interested in talking about an afterlife or God and went as far as to renounce a divine being. Like the Hindus, we believe that there is an overarching God, who is the same for each of us regardless of our religion, and our connection to him/her/it resides in our ability to connect with our ability to be mindful and live completely in the present moment.
Ideas of riches, great sex, and worldly power leave many Westerners drooling as they read the latest self-help book or take a two-day seminar on the subject of personal development. While these thoughts can help drive us, the field of personal development often discounts the deeper issues that reside in cognitive functions and human behavior. Often well-intentioned individuals can’t overcome the hurdles on their path to success because of their limiting beliefs, pessimistic expectations, and conditioned behavior. By bringing information from the modern psychology world, which can often be dry and boring, into the personal growth process, we can become aware of the problems that block us from our goals and work towards changing them.
The Rah Rah mentality found in much of the self-help literature is welcoming to someone stuck in a funk, but much of the information is nothing more than a placebo, unverified by science. When we know how our brains and behaviors are shaped by biology, our cognitive processes, our memories, and our environments, we can take the necessary steps to overcome the hurdles that leave many behind. With an understanding of human makeup, our personal development approach becomes much more realistic, directed, and probable.
Spirituality, I’d like you to meet Psychology
The worlds of Spirituality and Psychology have long been at odds debating what components, found in each of us, make us the unique individuals that we are. From a scientific perspective, the idea of a God doesn’t sensibly fit into our everyday reality, whereas the proponents of a spiritual existence point out the numerous problems with science’s godless reality. To explore this distinction personally, I’d like you to as yourself a question:
Who Am I?
If you sat down and analyzed your previous week, it would be all too obvious to see how your behaviors, thoughts, societal roles, and even physical body are continuously changing depending on the situation and circumstances you find yourself in. From 9 to 5 you play the role of a hard-working employee or boss, from 5 to 9 you may play the role of a mother or father, and from 9 to 11 you transform into a passionate lover with your wife, husband, boyfriend, or girlfriend. This behavioral transformation, however, doesn’t end here. You act a different way when you are at a charity event with friends, differently when you get stuck in traffic on the way to an important meeting, and yet still different when you are at the bank or picking up milk at the grocery store.
So, what actually makes you—you? Is it these societal roles, your regular thoughts, and emotions, your physical body, or a combination of all these aspects? There really is no a wrong answer to this question, and if you believe that you are a combination of these various components, I have only one more question for you:
Who or what has the ability to consider the different roles you take on and analyze how you behave differently?
In 1994, a young Australian philosopher named David Chalmers gave a presentation at the University of Arizona’s ‘Towards a Science of Consciousness,’ conference that changed the landscape of science and spirituality forever. Chalmers’s main message: There is a ‘Hard Problem’ with being able to explain consciousness, or our ability to be aware of oneself and of the world. When I asked you to look at who, or what is able to consider how you behave differently depending on the circumstances, consciousness is the answer. As humans, we have the unique ability to view the state of well-being we find ourselves in, analyze how our actions and thoughts are assisting or limiting us, determine what is right or wrong, and make critical changes in troublesome areas of our lives. Whether you call it consciousness, your mindful self, self-awareness, intuition, spirit, soul, true nature, or your true self is of underlying significance. The fact of the matter is, that scientists and spiritual gurus both agree, that consciousness is real and no one has been able to pinpoint where it can be found in the body.
Psychologists tell us that the various components of ourselves such as our biological background, cognitive functions, past conditioning, desires, and self-concept form together to make us the unique individuals that we are. While this isn’t entirely wrong, one has to question the field’s inability to locate consciousness in the human body.
At Balanced Achievement, we believe the deepest nature within all of us is this conscious awareness and it is directly related to our spiritual existence, it is our soul. It is our connection to all and it is a direct sign of divine reality.
This belief, however, doesn’t undermine the importance of understanding ourselves on the other levels of our being. Our self-concept, our cognitive functions, and our behaviors are very much real components of ourselves that need to be tended to with the utmost care. The world of Eastern spirituality can cause people to become so far removed from reality and so determined to reach a state of enlightenment, that they relinquish their basic human right to be happy here and now.
If you are willing to search within yourself, you will see that your internal exploration can produce external results that bring you true and lasting fulfillment. By using meditation as a tool to help us both spiritually and psychologically, we will be able to connect with our deepest nature, find meaningful personal development goals, and enjoy the process of manifesting those desires in our lives.
For many individuals, the ideas of spiritual development and personal/professional development are at odds with each other. I recently saw an Instagram post that showed 2 images divided by a white line. In one of these pictures was a spiritual seeker, underneath a full moon and sky of stars, resting in a lush garden with a picturesque lake and colorful flora abound. In the other, was 2 men wearing black suits and sunglasses walking towards a private jet. The caption read, “Our way, Their way.”
The Balanced Achievement way, however, is neither. The Balanced Achievement way is the white line in the middle. It is truly a modern-day middle way.
Defining Balanced Achievement
Defining this complex lifestyle approach in a concise way is a challenge, so before we begin to definitely define it, let’s look at what it is not:
- Balanced Achievement is not concerned with labeling God with any particular title. We believe each and every god represents the ultimate reality.
- Balanced Achievement is not concerned with life after death. We, like the rest of us, cannot predict the afterlife, so we have no interest in trying. We believe that if you live with the concept of Balanced Achievement, you will be rewarded regardless of the outcome.
- It is not a 30-day quick fix or a 60-day guide to getting rich. It is a realistic approach to living that is based upon the action of constantly recreating yourself.
So what exactly is Balanced Achievement?
It is an approach to life that can be altered to your particular interests and beliefs, however, the key concepts remain the same. In order to live a life with this approach, which can bring you what you truly desire and deserve, you need to find balance across every area of your existence:
- We balance our spiritual existence with our psychological reality.
- We work towards success but find contentment in the process of improvement.
- We are not wealth starved but we are not ascetics.
- We balanced internal and external success, although internal exploration is far more important.
- We balance our time across the various life areas: Spirituality, Psychology, Personal & Intellectual, Relationships & Communication, Financial & Career, and Health & Fitness.
The Balanced Achievement approach is based on taking focused action to produce happiness and success, internally created, while also remaining detached from the things that come into our lives and the outcomes of our situations. We accept, enjoy, and love each moment that we have, whether some perceive it as painful or not. It is about focusing our attention on learning, growing, and making ourselves a better person each and every day.
It is focused primarily on internal exploration that produces not only contentment and acceptance but also external successes. By combining the best of 4 distinctive disciplines, balancing our focus on the various parts of ourselves, and focusing our attention on every life area, we can live a life where the process of recreating ourselves on a daily basis is in and of itself enough. We will be able to relish in the gifts of the world, but will not be dependent on them for happiness.
Balanced Achievement is a true middle way to living a fulfilling life with contentment and compassion, yet the drive and determination to succeed. It is a personally adjustable lifestyle approach to living with balance in every facet of life. It is a true modern-day middle way that can lead us all to happiness, success, and ultimately fulfillment.