I'm not alone in this. As an American, I've been culturally conditioned into over-stretching myself and not putting enough value on balance. We Americans preach the values of balance, but we almost never practice it. Rather ironically, we also go to extremes trying to find it; think Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love. She quit her job and went on an epic journey across three countries in order to find balance - the more "balanced" approach would have been, of course, to take much less drastic measures and make small changes at home first. But I can't really criticize her, as I've done much the same myself.
The truth is, these days I'm actually torn about this concept of balance. I would say that generally Germans are much more balanced in their lifestyles than Americans. I see it everyday. In fact, I'm a bit awed and envious of their abilities to avoid the temptation of the extreme. For example, my friends are quite content, and even proud of themselves, for going to the gym once or twice a week. An average American, on the other hand, would moan and flagellate oneself for only going to the gym four times that week. It's all or nothing for us. Another example: Germans don't seem to have a problem turning off the computer and going home from work. They don't compulsively check their BlackBerries every few minutes. They somehow realize that the the world goes on without them. Even CEOs happily go on three weeks' vacation in the summer and promptly disconnect from their work worries in order to fully enjoy their vacation.
I can't quite adopt these practices myself. I know I could if I really tried... but, well, I can't quite seem to commit to giving up my extremist tendencies. And the thing is, I don't think I actually want to. Whhhaaaat? Major moment of self-realization.
Okay, I have gotten good at ignoring my BlackBerry in the evenings and on weekends, and I only checked it a few times, and took one work call, during my last vacation, but I continue to work extra hours without real external pressures to do so and extremism in my personal life is actually a large part of who I am. So instead of trying to change this, I think I'm actually just going to go with it... I like that I care enough about my work that I will stay overtime if I'm deep into a project. I like that I'm a social "butterfly" in a way that translates to being out with friends nearly every night of the week. And I really like that I'm gutsy and not afraid to take huge risks in my life. Because this is one thing I am realizing living in Germany: balance is often a bi-product of living a conservative and "safe" life. So maybe it's overrated? If I have to choose between adventure/excitement and balance/peace, honestly, I would choose the former. And I always have.