7 Ways to Get Your Life Back Into Balance
Most of us feel like we are overworked, overwhelmed, stressed out, and stretched way too thin. Our to-do lists are never ending and our sense of accomplishment is never satiated. We are, it seems, endlessly searching for a "fix" that just doesn't exist. And it's keeping us from achieving that balance we know we need.
But what exactly is balance?
Working less and playing more? Having time to devote to personal pursuits or family and friends? Living a balanced life is all those things and more.
Finding balance is about finding your center. It's letting go of expectations of what "could be" so that you can fully experience "what is." It's having your priorities in order, knowing the difference between having it all versus having enough, and seeing the wisdom in choosing the latter so that you can sample a more diversified plate of all that life has to offer.
So, let's talk about how to attain it.
1. Learn to Say "No"
We have a tendency to promise more than we can deliver. We agree to projects and deadlines and commitments because to do otherwise somehow makes us a bad person.
It's OK to say no. No, I don't want to… No, that doesn't work for me… No, I can't make it… No, not right now. Saying no gives you the freedom to say "yes" to the things you really want to do, the things that actually bring you joy but are always postponed because you're too busy with everything else.
You can still be helpful. You can still "pitch in" and be a team player. Just learn how to also say "No."
2. Let Go of Guilt
And while we're on the subject of saying "no," let's look at one of the reasons we often say "yes" — guilt. Guilt is a nasty emotion. Even the tiniest dose can cause us to agree to do all sorts of things we don't really want to do, because we imagine some unspoken obligation. And then when we can't accomplish everything on our list, or we don't perform up to our highest standards, guilt steps in again to point out what a failure we truly are.
But let's be honest. No one, not even the most organized, efficient task-master can do everything with total perfection, all the time. And once we stop beating ourselves up for being less than perfect, we can start to relax and appreciate all the good things in life.
3. Release the Need to Overachieve
Of course, saying yes to others isn't the only obstacle to a balanced life. Sometimes, that pressure to succeed comes from within.
When I was 14, I mapped out my first official Life Plan. I was going to be a lawyer, a doctor, a scientist, and a teacher. I also planned to get married, have five kids, and write a couple of bestsellers that would produce royalties for years to come. And while enjoying all this success, I would master the guitar, martial arts, and at least two or three foreign languages while growing and selling organic vegetables from my 200-acre farm.
Okay, so I'm a little overly ambitious, but it wasn't "having" the lofty goals that was the problem. It was the feeling that I had to achieve all of them within a certain time frame. The more time that passed, the more I felt I was falling behind.
The result was a schedule that was constantly filled with "stuff," from classes at my community college to extra projects at work to a multitude of hobbies that I couldn't possibly do all at once. I stayed in a constant state of overextension and sure enough, I eventually burned out.
The moral of this story? Never stop reaching for the stars, but be content to collect them one at a time.
4. Stop Multitasking
Author Gary Keller ("The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results") wrote, "Juggling is an illusion... In reality, the balls are being independently caught and thrown in rapid succession... It is actually task switching."
That's essentially what we're doing when we're multitasking — juggling several tasks at once. I used to think that my ability to multitask was an asset, especially given my tendency to overachieve. At any given time, I feel like I have 90 different thoughts running through my head, and I can think those 90 different thoughts while simultaneously performing three additional tasks.
But I've come to realize that it was actually slowing me down and making life harder than it really needs to be. Instead of really focusing on the "One Thing" that I need to do, I get distracted and end up doing pieces of several things, leaving me exhausted at the end of the day but not really feeling that I've gotten anything accomplished.
5. Let "Good" Be Good Enough
When I design a website, it's not unusual for my clients to have a list of edits and tweaks they want to make once they've seen the finished product. And that's to be expected. But sometimes, those edits and tweaks lead to more edits and tweaks, which then sparks completely new ideas and approaches for the design.
And that too, is to be expected. They want the site to be perfect, after all. They want it to be as big and amazing as the vision in their head. But at some point they have to say "good is good enough" and launch, otherwise that website will never get off the ground.
That doesn't mean they can't go back and make changes down the road. They just need to accept that the "perfection" they seek may never be realized; that there will always be edits and tweaks, no matter how much time and effort we put in. It's just the nature of the beast and the sooner they let go of the need for perfection, the sooner they can start to enjoy what they've created.
The same is true with all the other aspects of your life. If you're waiting for perfection, you're going to be waiting a long time. Sometimes, you have to let good be good enough, so that you can move on to something else.
I've mentioned meditation in previous posts, but I'll do it again here because it's an essential component to a balanced life. Meditation not only quiets the mind, it also encourages focus, increases your creativity, improves your stress levels and, according to Harvard researchers, meditation switches specific disease-fighting genes into the "ON" position.
In short, meditation is good for ALL of you… body, mind and soul.
This last one might seem obvious, but of all the tips I've listed here, it's the one we forget the most.
If your life seems out of balance, if you don't feel your days are everything they should be, then you have to choose to make them better.
Yes, you may have obligations and responsibilities, you may have financial challenges or credit problems or other obstacles that keep you from traveling the world and living like a king. But that doesn't mean you can't still consciously choose to be happy, that you can't decide to do things that bring you joy and give you the balance you need. Quite the contrary, you're the only one who can make that kind of change and until you do, your life will continue to be out of balance.
Steve Jobs once said, "I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: 'If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?' And whenever the answer has been 'No' for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something."
That's a question we should all be asking and making adjustments to ensure our answer is frequently "Yes."
How do you keep yourself balanced? Please share in comments!
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