True Health from Balance

By Dr. H. Lee Martin, President

Trinity Health Foundation of East Tennessee

From time to time, one comes across wisdom worth sharing. The “Dare Square” from William Danforth is a personal metric we can all benefit from considering. While our healthcare system is a marvel of facilities and technologies, responsibility for our health begins with each of us. Danforth’s “Dare Square” provides a clear challenge to leading a healthy, balanced life.

William Danforth founded Ralston-Purina in 1894 and wrote the short book I Dare You, from which this concept originates. I’ve used it annually since I was 30 and have shared the idea with over 1000 students through the years. I have benefitted from the analysis, and many of my students have stated that they also have. So what is the “Dare”? Simply put – to lead a balanced life! How? And balance in what? I hope you are motivated by these questions to read further and consider his approach.

The Dare Square is a 4-sided figure considering four pillars of your life pursuits: mental, physical, social, and spiritual. Danforth postulates that success in life is the process of keeping these four pillars in balance. His ideal metric is a square with four sides labeled. His thought process is simple, but the intentional life execution is the difficult part. Here are his steps:

  • Draw the perfect square. Label the four sides mental, physical, social, and spiritual. With this balance in mind, sign your square (an easy start).
  • Now, draw a four-sided figure where the length of each side represents the effort/attention you are paying to that pillar in your life. Your “square” may not be so square! Therein lies the opportunity for improvement.
  • Next, examine your square and your season of life, and determine if adjustments can be made to move toward more balance. What are the adjustments, and what actions will you take in the year ahead?

We all have 24 hours a day and seven days a week to pursue our life regardless of our status. The Greek Philosopher, Seneca, was quoted as saying, “The unexamined life is not worth living!”  Danforth gives a simple visual approach to aid in your ongoing balance examination, much like a mirror reflects our current visual appearance. By the way, the Purina checkerboard square remains the logo of this 125-year-old company. As Paul Harvey would say, “Now you know the rest of the story!”