Life in Balance: Part I

“Life balance is the art of balancing such finite things as our time,
our energy, and our thought among the seemingly infinite needs of our work,
our families and our personal interests and obligations.”
-Linda and Richard Eyre

Life today is abundant. Think of all the ways there are to communicate: computers, cell phones, home phones, work phones, iPads and snail mail. We can work at home or in the office. It really is an amazing time. However, it is also a difficult time. Nothing is simple anymore. There are many decisions to be made and there is pressure everywhere. Even the life of a child is no longer simple. Therefore, it becomes imperative that we be able to keep focus, to understand our priorities, to be able to make choices that move us in the direction we want to go and to be as organized as is possible at any given moment. It is also equally important that we recognize what we can and what we cannot affect in our lives in order to use our valuable energy in the best of all possible ways.

The balance we seek is a tall order because it includes all things physical, mental and spiritual in our lives. These things all matter, but they cannot all matter equally at the same time. It helps to understand the vision we hold for ourselves for the next chapter of our lives. It makes our priorities easier to understand. Again, it comes back to choice.

In order to understand how to plan our lives in balance, we need to step back. We need to be calm so that we can look at our priorities and measure what needs to be done. How we balance our lives is a personal choice. Obviously we cannot do everything all the time. Therefore, it takes perspective to understand what our priorities are and how much time we want to spend in each of our important areas. Sometimes, it takes real commitment to do what we think is best, rather than just what we want to do.

Not every choice is a monumental one. In fact, life is made up of millions of small choices, ones that we make everyday without thinking of or being aware of the process. However, these small choices can affect larger choices or keep us stuck in old habits that need to be changed. In striving for balance in our lives, it can be helpful to actually observe ourselves, how we make the choices we make, and how they impact our lives.

Another note about small choices is that they are vital to our progress. Small choices are about small steps. If we look at the task of creating balance, it seems huge. In fact, it is too big to be taken in without a sense of overwhelm. Getting from here to there is about one small step at a time. Success is really possible this way.

Finding balance in life is a juxtaposition of perseverance and acceptance. Otherwise, we go through life frustrated and spend valuable time trying something that is not working. However, if we accept that we can do nothing about it, then we can turn our attention to something else.

Another form of this letting-go process is to consider the unexpected. If we are so structured that we are unable to recognize an opportunity that shows up unexpectedly, it is possible to miss that opportunity. We might need to understand and accept that the unexpected could trump our initial plans. We can do this by letting go and adjusting those plans when it seems best, embracing both discipline and creativity.

It often seems as though most of us live imbalanced lives while searching for some kind of equilibrium. Life balance is elusive; balance is not a natural state. Change is constant, so it makes sense that we need to continue to shift in order to achieve balance daily – or as often as we can. No matter what we do, we will constantly flow in and out of balance. It is much like riding a bicycle. Once we have started to ride and we are in balance, there might be a rut in the road or traffic, and we need to adjust, to realign to stay in balance.

Most people, when asked about life balance, talk about work as one part of their lives and everything else as another. However, when attempting to achieve a life in balance, it is crucial that we consider our work as an integral part of life, not a separate category.

Life balance is about personal fulfillment, about the sense of living a healthy and meaningful life. One important part of feeling fulfilled when we make a choice to balance our lives is to really focus on whatever it is that we have chosen to do. Spending time thinking about what we might be doing will make us feel not only unfulfilled but off balance. So perception is really important here. If we focus on what we are doing to achieve balance, give ourselves to it, we feel as though we have succeeded. And indeed we have.

One example might be this: you decide you need to spend more time with your kids, so you take them to the movies. If you focus on them, watch the movie with them, decide to enjoy this time away from work, you can feel fulfilled, maybe even joyous. However, if you spend the time worrying about the project you haven’t finished or checking your cell phone, you might feel frustrated, grouchy and out of balance. And you will definitely not feel fulfilled in any area.

Many people work at home these days. Now there’s a challenge when it comes to balance. Sometimes it is necessary to set a boundary for yourself in order to achieve the task at hand and move on to the next phase of your balanced life. Boundary-setting is an important tool when it comes to achieving balance. I have found that, while writing at home, I tend to clean house, answer the phone and take unplanned breaks. The result is that my work takes longer and is less focused. I now have boundaries for me. When working at home, I do not do anything else. It takes a lot of concentration, but I set up a schedule for breaks, lunch and returning phone calls.

If your goal is to be the absolute best at something, then your chances of having a life in balance are probably slim. It takes a certain single-mindedness and devotion to practicing whatever it is that you want to be the very best at, in order to achieve that goal. However, if you really do want to balance your life more than it is, it takes dedication to that ideal. If you “want it all,” you may have to adjust what that means to you, to simplify some of your desires in order to achieve others. This is the process of choice, of prioritizing again. It is important to understand what you really want before you can hope to achieve a life in balance.

Once we have understood our purpose and the vision we hold for ourselves, as well as our goals in our lives, we need to understand where we are out of balance. Obviously, we cannot fix the problem if we are uncertain what it is. Some people find that when they understand the problem and begin to go about fixing it, they realize that they are not entirely ready to make the necessary changes. It takes real commitment to change habits that have been with us for some time. However, we can begin slowly and see where this takes us and how it feels to us.

You might relate to being out of balance in several ways. Maybe you work so much that you do not spend the kind of time you would like with your family or your friends. Maybe you have been so busy that you haven’t paid much attention to your exercise program and diet. Maybe you used to get a great deal of joy out of a hobby (say photography), and now it has been years since you have taken photos. Maybe you are feeling guilty because you feel like you hardly ever see your children as a result of your long hours at work. Maybe you have not taken a vacation in years. Whatever your situation is, you could make the choice to seek balance in your life.
It may seem like an impossible task, but it is not. It is, however, difficult and takes hard work, knowledge of your priorities, organization, planning and, not least of all, flexibility.

Because there is such an abundance of responsibilities and choices, it is indeed difficult to achieve balance in our world today. I do believe, however, that as long as we are still breathing, there is the time and possibility of change. The choice as adults is up to each of us as to how we choose to live our lives. I have mentioned more than once that this process is difficult. One of the reasons for this is that we are habitual creatures and may need to change some of our habits. Anyone who has ever changed a habit would probably agree that it is not easy.

One habit many of us are familiar with is drinking. And one of the ways we were able to change this habit was by developing a support system. Why not involve some of your support system into this endeavor as well? Let your close friends know what you are attempting to do and ask if they would be willing to support you in this.

If you take a look at how much time you spend at each of the things that matter to you, you might find that a large part of your time, energy and effort is spent on something that is not at the top of your list of priorities. One of the difficult tasks ahead is to spend more time on what matters most, to borrow or simply take time away from something less important that eats up your time and energy. Take, for example, surfing the Web. How many times a day do we go to the Web to look something up and end up following it beyond where we were going? Before we know it, we’ve been there much longer than planned. That time could have been used for something on our list of priorities. Or this: One of my clients stated that she would go to a cupboard for something, notice that the cupboard needs organizing and spend time doing it right then. Maybe it would even make her late for something else.

If we really examine our lives, we might find that there are things we do which are not even on our list of priorities. Does that make you wonder whether or not they are worth doing at all? Perhaps you may decide to continue to do some of these things but to spend less of your precious time on them. These kinds of decisions heavily impact the direction of our lives.

Life balance is, in fact, a feeling that human beings experience when they sense that they are paying attention to all aspects of their lives — work, physical and emotional health, spirituality and relationships. These moments are worth celebrating, worth experiencing.

“Because life is dynamic, the real issue is not ‘balance,’ it’s balancing.
It’s creating the capacity to balance — day in, day out — in the unique and
ever-changing circumstances of our lives.”
— Roger & Rebecca Merrill

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