Finding a balance in life gets more difficult as time progresses. Sometimes it just feels as if I’m living my life according to a ToDo list: wake up, dress, eat, get the kids ready, rush off to work, rush home, make dinner, do homework, get some sleep and then it begins all over again. Hardly the way to find joy and fulfillment, no?
So how can you go about achieving balance, order, rhythm and harmony in your life—without actually winning that lottery we’re all itching to get our hands on?
Step 1: Take stock of your life.
You can’t fix it if you don’t know it’s broken. Spend some time examining your life, your state of mind and your emotions. Are you neglecting areas of your life that are important to you, or to your loved ones? Be brutally honest and make a note of the areas where you aren’t giving enough attention.
Step 2: Make a list.
For each aspect of your life that is out of balance, identify whether it’s internally- or externally-focused. Group the areas into lists for each, and if there are other ways to categorize them together then do that too. Don’t just list “work” as a broad area that needs balancing—break it up into those aspects you feel are under control, versus those that aren’t. Identify the areas you’re satisfied with and leave those out.
Step 3: Set your goals.
We all know what we’d like to achieve, but just how much of that is realistic? Let’s say you’re spending far too much time working, which is a common problem in this face-paced world of ours. For each area that you feel is out of balance, identify what you want to achieve and then temper it with what you believe is realistic and doable.
Step 4: Make plans.
You know the old saying: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!” Heaven knows we won’t be eating any elephants around here, but the analogy is a good one when you’re facing the huge task of bringing your life into balance.
Identify one primary action you can take for each item on your list that will help to level the playing fields. Then break it down into the steps needed to make it happen. For example, you’re working late too often and your job is encroaching into your family time. That’s externally-focused, but the advantage is you can probably reduce your stress by taking practical steps to achieve a balance. It might not be practical to stop working late altogether, but if you’re currently doing three nights a week, aim to bring it down to two in the short term.
Now, how do you avoid that third late night each week? It’s essentially a three-hour stretch, so your solutions could include handing off a particular task to a colleague, which can reduce your work time by those three hours. It might not even be the work you’re doing during that time, just a task that will free you up for the same duration. How will you spend the time you gain? This could include meditation, yoga or simply treating yourself to something that brings you joy.
Step 5: Reflect on past achievements.
What have you done in the past that you’re most proud of? This doesn’t need to be an accomplishment in the business world or even the home environment; it could be a personal or spiritual victory that benefited you. How did you go about managing it? How did you deal with fears, doubts and insecurities? What processes worked for you particularly well that you could bring to bear on your current circumstances?
Step 6: Make preparations
Preparing to make changes in your life is always a big deal. Identify the changes you need to make in your thinking, your attitude and your motivation. Determine how you’re going to achieve those changes, and what will it take to make you stick to them. List things or events that could help to push you off-track, and plan how you’ll mitigate those if they occur.
Step 7: Empower yourself to act.
Give yourself permission to take the steps you need to take to achieve balance and harmony in your life. Banish guilt that can sabotage your efforts. Just because you don’t cook every single dinner doesn’t make you a bad mother or homemaker, so empower yourself to take time out for things that are far more important than cooked vegetables!
Step 8: Foster useful connections.
Everyone needs support, and when you’re working to get your life into harmony it’s no exception to the rule. Identify one or more mentors with whom you relate well, and who can be trusted to get you back on track if you veer off it. Explain to your mentor/s what you’re trying to achieve and why; provide him or her with a list of your potential sabotaging behaviours, and your action plans for overcoming them. Set up regular connections with your mentors for reviewing your progress and providing input.
Step 9: Take time for yourself.
Trust me, I know how it is to feel pulled in every direction. As a mother of 4, a business owner, a wife and a friend it’s essential for me to take time for MYSELF everyday, or else I will feel exhausted afterwards. I thrive on balance, though, and everyday I take time to do something just for ME. I usually go to the gym and workout for an hour a day, which my body will thank me for later and which produces natural endorphins that make us happy. Then I take time to play with my 3 year old, who is with me everyday because I work part-time. You can often find me singing songs, playing with lego and reading books to him.
I make sure I spend time with my hubby, watching a movie, talking and sharing life’s stories, etc. We also plan a date night at least twice a month, kid-free! I am known to get a phone call at 7pm and will run out the door to see friends who are in need of an ear to listen too, while we enjoy a tea.
Balance is key for any healthy relationships, for your kids, for your partner, for your friends and MOST importantly for yourself. YOU are worth it, YOU deserve peace. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else.
Remember, it takes 21 days to break a habit so don’t expect to change things overnight. Work slowly towards a balance in every aspect of your life, and you’ll reap the benefits of living in harmony with yourself and everyone around you.