Why Life’s an Imperfect Balance

There’s an interesting theory called that the Four Burners Theory that goes something like this.

Let’s pretend that your life could be represented by four burners:

  1. Family
  2. Friends
  3. Work
  4. Health

The Four Burners Theory states that “in order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful you have to cut off two.”


I think about this theory often, particularly about whether I am balance everything the “right” way. Whether I should spend more time with friends. Whether I have made the best decisions for my career. Whether I should be eating more fruit salads or doing more yoga.


Even though I know there isn’t a “right” way, I can’t help but wonder if I could be any happier changing any of my burners. While I am happy with my life, if I did change my burner priorities, would I be even happier?

Life is full of trade-offs. We can’t have it all. We have to chose between working long hours or spending time with family and friends. We have to chose between running after work or going to happy hour with co-workers. We always have to choose.

Being “successful” will be different for each person. How you define your success may be by spending time with your family and friends, with your work and health on the back-burner. Maybe success is having a high-power career and smoking hot body, but that could mean spending less time with family and friends.

Which burners are the most important to you?


Here are some other interesting reads on the Four Burners Theory:

  1. Lifehacker 
  2. Inc 
  3. Blog by James Clear


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