If you can't have good without evil, sweet without bitter, success without failure, ham without the burger, then you can't have balance, without a counter-balance.
Ever since I wrote about balance (and with inspiration from CV's latest, and a conversation I had recently), I re-read a previous post I wrote - Extremes. The gist of the post was I had a friend who said I was so "extreme". Extreme, being a relative term of course. Doing a half Ironman - that's extreme. Talking about doing RAAM - that's extreme. She was one that generally liked being in a zone of comfort (not to be confused with, but certainly similar to, Z1 in training - it can get you somewhere, it's just boring). There's nothing wrong with that way of life (PC, speaking) - that was her MO. But, that wasn't ME.
My response was that to do anything great in life (or, let's just start with something a little more than ordinary), then you have to to be a little, or a lot, extreme - depending on how big your goals are. Take anyone who has reached their personal best, a community/group/team's best or even world's best, in anything (worth talking about anyways; losers need not read anymore) - and they had to make sacrifices. They had to put balance on hold a bit, and be a little "extreme". They had to sacrifice some things - whether that be sleep, a social life, family time, denero - whatever. Upon achieving their goal, I am sure each and every one of them would say "it was (well) worth it".
One thing they probably learned about whatever journey they embarked on, is how aligned their goal(s) is with their comfort zone. At the risk of sounding rather nerdy, if you think of two concentric circles, with your comfort zone being the inner/smaller one, you better realize that at some point, that thing is going to have to expand at some point, if you are to reach your goals. The greater the disparity there is between them, the greater the chance that your comfort zone won't allow you to reach your goals. The more pliable and expandable it is, well, "the sky's the limit".
It's rather paradoxical that humans are innately lazy creatures, yet we are at our best when we are challenged and stressed. To steal a line from Jon Voight in last season's 24 (one of the few shows worth watching): "Stress is the fertilizer of creativity".
(As an aside, I was extremely lazy over the holidays. Michelle and I finished an entire season of 24 [that's, 24 episodes] in less than 48 hours [not the first time I have done it], and I (we) loved every second of it.).
If I learned anything about the last year of my life balancing work/life/school/training/stuff, it was only to confirm what I thought a few years ago when I wrote of extremes and comfort zones. The more you are out of that good (?) ol' zone of comfort, the better off you are (or will be, someday), the more adaptable you are (hey, if caveman never adapted, then you wouldn't be reading this blog!), the greater your patience/stress threshold can be, and not to mention - feeding that ego and developing confidence, whether it be physical, mental, or both.
Life, as in training, has stress(es) applied to it, and after proper recovery, we are stronger for it.