The importance of balance in our lives doesn’t need much explanation. Like a boat or a plane, too much “weight” on one side will make the system hard to control, unsafe, and possibly not functional. We understand this with ourselves, but that doesn’t make it less of a struggle to balance the many demands on our busy lives. At times, we forget or neglect to work at balancing our lives, and in those periods we often become overwhelmed. Then, we regroup and recommit to finding a balance.
Balance is a funny word, it makes us think of perfectly even scales, or pie charts where the pie is evenly sliced. That is a concept that precludes us from ever feeling balanced. We cannot get each area of our lives segmented out in perfect proportions like an excel pie chart might have us believe.
It is likely that our concept of balance is flawed. The goal of balance is a moving target. There will never be a day when we have balanced our lives for good. Things will change. One might be able to stand on one leg for a while if the ground is solid. But the ground of life is always moving. Life balance is more like walking a tightrope. It requires us to take steps, to keep moving, to use our whole body to maintain the balance, and continually move forward.
To successfully navigate the tightrope of life’s journey we need to maintain our equilibrium by developing skills. We need to develop a better feel and flow within our lives. The rewards in life are also often moving targets. Developing and leveraging new skills will help us to grab onto the rewards. Even when we don’t gain the objective, the growth and feeling of better control will be a reward in itself. Just doing, no matter the outcome, will bring us more calm and joy. We’re in control and that feels good.
Balance usually becomes an issue when we feel that we are not doing enough of what we want to do. When we feel that we aren’t spending enough time with our children, or too much on work, or not enough on exercise. That is when the perceived imbalance starts to bother us.
What if we just had more of what we want and less of what we don’t want in our lives? Would simply “reaching for balance” be enough? It isn’t an end game proposition, it is a process. If the scales get tipped more often toward doing, being, or having more of what you want, and less of what you don’t, can that be the new definition of balance? The premise is continuous improvement, and that is achievable.
The following steps create a pathway to enhance the level of balance in your life:
1. Know yourself – Spend some time really getting to know yourself and how you operate. How you spend your time, when you procrastinate, how you follow through with plans, where your boundaries are or if you are lacking boundaries. Is there time you could use more effectively?
2. Know your starting point – Figure out what in your life is flexible and what is fixed. If you are decorating and you have pillars in your home, you work around those. You will have that in your schedule and in your life. Know your pillars, everything else is fair game. Be really honest about where you are presently, most things can probably be adjusted to some degree.
3. Know your destination – What specifically are you trying to do? Break it down to the details, write it out and be specific. “I want to work out more” isn’t specific enough. You want to write out when, what, how and where. There’s power in writing your goals down. Your goals can be simple. They should begin where you are. If life is very unbalanced, set small goals and save the larger ones for after the initial ones are met.
4. Practice forgiveness – Give yourself as many second chances as you need to be successful. Failure is just what happens on the way to success. It’s what you do with the experience and the meaning you attach to it that matters.
5. Decide and be intentional about the actions you want to take – Everything starts with a decision, a very conscious act. It’s the difference between being interested in something and being committed to it. The actions that result will be very different.
6. Expect resistance – Expect it, and in any form. Many things may emerge to sabotage your efforts. Don’t fight the resistance, but flow alongside it until you can move past it, as in a rip tide. Keep your intention despite unexpected interruptions.
7. Prioritize your schedule and schedule your to-do’s – Identify high priority activities and do those, the others can wait. Put your to do’s on your calendar, not a post-it, so they have an actual time slot.
8. Make self-care a high priority – Put your own oxygen mask on before helping others.