A couple weeks ago, I gave a workshop at the local library. We discussed what it means to live a balanced life, completed the Life Balance Wheel (link to the worksheet below), and created action steps toward bringing up the areas that ranked low.
This topic is important, so I wanted to share some of the takeaways from the discussion I had with the workshop participants. Since I've never known anyone to rank all areas 10 out of 10, everyone has room for improvement, right? If you want to try this activity, you can follow along with this video. Before starting, print out the Life Balance Wheel Worksheet.
Takeaway 1: Balance does not look the same for everyone.
Think about Goldilocks...Papa Bear's bed was "too hard," Mama's was "too soft," and Baby's was "just right." Likewise, what feels like balance to you might mean overwhelm to somebody else. For example, working 20 hours a week might seem like too much for one person, not nearly enough for another, and just the right amount for a third.
More specifically, my father and his wife generously came to watch our kids, our house, and our critters so that my husband and I could attend a wedding in Philadelphia back in September. From their tidy, quiet household of two, they came to our loud, cluttered home complete with 2 kids, 3 dogs, 2 cats and a bearded dragon. They had to coordinate getting the girls to karate, feeding them three meals a day (plus snacks!), caring for all the animals, which includes making sure the young dog was not out at the same time as the cats, getting kids to bed, keeping them entertained, and mediating arguments. On top of all that, they threw a one year birthday party for the cats which included cat toy gifts and tuna ice cream treats. This barely controlled chaos is TOTALLY NORMAL for our household. And honestly, I enjoy it. I can feel balanced amidst the flurry of activity. For my dad and his wife, however, it must have been exhausting. At their phase in life, balance means drinking coffee, reading the paper and completing the soduku puzzle each morning. It means going golfing and doing yard work and watching a movie in the evening. They have busy, full lives, but their daily existence is completely different than my crazy life.
So when you consider your life, consider what feels right TO YOU, regardless of societal norms or the expectations of others. If you read my post about the Big A Words, this is establishing AUTHENTICITY.
Takeaway 2: You have the choice to live by design versus default.
If you rank an area of your life low, you absolutely have the ability to improve it. Let's say you rank Health/Self Care as a 4. You have small kids, a full time job, and other commitments. You don't have the time to work out. You have defaulted to a 4 in that area. I guarantee you that if you truly WANT to bring that number up, you can and will find a way to do it. However, if you are just ranking it as a 4 because you think you should be in better shape, it will be a lot harder to find the motivation to get 'er done. This brings me to...
Takeaway 3: Be aware of how you are thinking about your imbalances.
We often falsely believe that if we achieve a state of balance, then the warm fuzzies will follow. This is a logical assumption, but it is completely backwards. What we tend to do is this: we reach a goal, and instead of stopping and feeling good about it, we set another higher goal, feeling like we will arrive once we reach THAT goal. But once we reach that goal, we set another goal and so on. We never get to that place of contentment and satisfaction when we are waiting for the goals to provide those feelings for us. However, if we can get the horse (emotions) in front of the cart (goals), we can do two important things. 1. We can feel more content and balanced regardless of where we are on any kind of goal-reaching spectrum. 2. We can improve our focus and motivation toward those goals and reach them more quickly. Simply put: A better mindset = Better results. More on that in a future post. :)
Takeaway 4: Write down your next steps. (Big A Word: ACTION)
So you want to improve your fitness? Great. How will you go about it? Again, go back to what authentically feels like a way forward for you. If you need structure, signing up for a gym with scheduled classes or working with a personal trainer might be best. If you hate the gym, perhaps you should look into finding a hiking or mountain biking group. Sustainable changes have to feel good on some level. Yes, exercise hurts when you are out of shape, but if you can appreciate the view or make faces at your work-out partner, you can stay motivated to keep at it.
Takeaway 5: Enjoy the process.
Like happiness, balance is not a permanent state of being. You can feel balanced one minute and then life happens and throws you completely out of whack. The goal is not a consistent state of balance, but an appreciation for the journey toward balance and taking the time to bask in those moments that feel balanced.
When my children do things that make them uncomfortable (competing in a karate tournament, trying new foods, traveling to new places), I tell them that they are expanding their comfort zone. Likewise, you can expand your "balance zone" by cultivating a habit of proactivity and a mindset of abundance. If you can enjoy the journey and work on staying present and mindful, then you will find that balance becomes a state of mind rather than a goal post that's always just out of reach.
It's not what you think. These are good A words. In fact, these 5 words lay out a process through which you can improve ANY aspect of your life. They are the basics, the foundation. So let's get to them.
Big A #1: AWARENESS
You cannot work toward a solution without awareness that you have a problem. You cannot change your attitude if you don't first become aware of what your inner voice is saying. You might not be aware that there are many ways to look at the same circumstance. For example, when my kids were younger, 3 and 5, they started a game of climbing up the outside of the banister in our house and jumping off...getting higher and higher each time. I saw them doing this and suggested they pile some pillows in the landing spot to cushion the fall. They did, and fun ensued. I wasn't AWARE that this might be a questionable activity until another mother came to my home and was appalled when my kids started goading her child into this activity. It was an a-ha moment and anytime you describe something as an a-ha moment, you are dealing with a shift in awareness. "A-ha! Other moms think this is dangerous!" "A-ha! I am in the habit of negativity when it comes to dealing with my co-worker." "A-ha! I am creating my own anxiety around this issue." Without awareness, change cannot occur.
Big A #2: AUTHENTICITY
Once you have awareness that change is needed, it is important to do a little "soul-searching" to decide the way forward that is right FOR YOU. For example, with the above scenario, once I saw this through another mother's eyes and realized she was concerned, I questioned my parenting for a minute. Ultimately, I decided it was okay because it was a chance for my kids to learn about their bodies and limitations in a *fairly safe* and controlled environment. I value adventure, and I want my kids to as well. Seeing my friend's concern, however, did cause me to keep it as a "family activity" and encourage less controversial games during play dates. That solution--allowing my kids to enjoy the activity while being sensitive to another mother's more cautious outlook--was authentic to my parenting style and my desire to be respectful of others. It is important that you check in with yourself when working toward positive change. Are you making changes that sit well with your core values? Are you allowing others to sway you? What feels right to you--regardless of societal norms and expectations?
Big A #3: ACTION
Once you have an honest conversation with yourself, you can start to take action. This might require some visualization. I recently gave a workshop on Life Balance, and attendees rated 8 areas of their lives from 1-10 where 1=Can't get any worse and 10=Can't get any better. After discussing why they ranked different areas the way they did, I asked participants to pick one of the lowest ranking areas and envision what it would look like to bring that area up two points. If they could do that with ease, I asked them to envision what a 9 or 10 in that category would look like. From there, they could start to plan some action steps toward their authentic vision.
Big A #4: ACCOUNTABILITY
Once you have action steps, how will you stay accountable to them? Do you keep promises to yourself? If you write down a goal and make a pact with yourself, will you follow through? It would be nice if we all kept the promises we made to ourselves...if we could hold ourselves accountable and always step up. However, we sometimes need support. Do you have a friend or partner or mentor who will check in with you and hold you accountable to your big ideas? One of the biggest benefits of a life coach is the accountability piece. Each session ends with the question: What are you committed to doing between now and the next time we meet? And the next session always starts with the question: How did you do with your action steps? It might sound simple, but it's extremely powerful.
Big A #5: ABUNDANCE
If you are aware of what's going on in your mind as you interpret the world around you, and if you can authentically outline some action steps and be accountable for them, then you are on your way to a life of abundance. Abundance does not mean that you have everything you want and/or that you are happy all of the time. It does not mean that you live in the big house and drive the best car and enjoy a state of constant bliss in your relationships. Abundance simply means that you look at the world from a place of gratitude and positivity. Even when bad things happen, you come at them from a mindset of abundance, realizing that you have a choice in how you look at things AND you have the ability to work toward a more balanced and satisfied life. A mindset of abundance comes from believing that you are in control of your life and from seeing the world through a lens of generosity and love, rather than a lens of scarcity and resentment. We hear stories of poor villagers who have few material goods but live happy lives. And we hear stories of famous millionaires who "have it all" but can't seem to find contentment. Abundance is not about stuff; it's completely about how you think.
To learn more about working toward positive change, contact me to schedule a complimentary discovery session.
Last week, I attended the Women's Foundation of Colorado's annual luncheon. The whole experience was uplifting and inspiring, starting with simply being there with my mother-, aunt- and sister-in-law, all of whom are models of strong, intelligent, ambitious women, and ending with the keynote speaker Billie Jean King. I don't follow tennis, but I am familiar with King's iconic status, and I learned a lot about her work toward gender equality (in the sport of tennis and beyond) and her activism on a broad spectrum of issues. She has lived a very proactive and impressive life. On a side note, I also learned that she has a close friendship to Sir Elton John and his song "Philadelphia Freedom" was written for her. Good stuff.
At the luncheon, her talk was set up in an interview format, and if I'm being honest, King did not directly answer any of the questions asked by the interviewer. She went off on tangents, rambled, repeated herself at times, and often failed to return to the original topic. Still, her charisma carried her and her talk was full of gems for how to get the most out of life. As soon as she started talking, I was furiously scribbling notes in the margins of the program because her words of wisdom were so powerful, and her history gives her the credibility that made me take it all to heart. So here you go...nuggets of wisdom from Billie Jean King:
"That's just the way it is."
"It's just not meant to be."
"Bad things always happen to me."
"Can't change now."
"I just can't catch a break."
We've all said or felt these sentiments in our lives, but in these words and ideas might be the key to happiness and life satisfaction.
A report in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology stated that autonomy is the number one contributor to happiness. Autonomy is defined as "freedom from external control or influence; independence."
As some of you know, I am currently working toward earning my conditional Black Belt at my martial arts school (I get my new belt tomorrow-yahoo!). One of the requirements of our increased training is to read The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. In many ways, this is a guidebook on finding more autonomy. In fact, the first habit is "Be Proactive." The author, Stephen Covey, writes "Reactive people are driven by feelings, circumstances, by conditions, by their environment." In other words, they are not autonomous because they are not free from external influence. They live by default, often letting people and circumstances act upon them. In contrast, "Proactive people are driven by values--carefully thought out, selected, and internalized values." So proactive people are autonomous. They live by design, creating the life they want according to their values, regardless of circumstances.
Think about that for a minute. And then honestly decide if you are more REACTIVE or PROACTIVE. Here are a few questions to get you thinking:
1. When you fail to complete a project or reach a goal, do you typically:
a. Blame lack of time, other obligations, or external factors for getting in the way
b. Realize that you didn't have an adequate plan to complete the project and think about how to avoid a similar situation in the future
2. When your birthday approaches, do you typically
a. Think about what you'd like to do and hope somebody plans it for you
b. Think about what you'd like to do, make reservations, and invite your friends to celebrate with you
3. When somebody does something to hurt you, do you typically
a. Feel betrayed, talk to others about the situation, and/or avoid or unfriend that person
b. Confront the person and talk honestly about the situation
4. When you want to change a habit or behavior, do you typically
a. have trouble coming up with ways to change and/or tell yourself that it's just the way you are
b. lay out a plan, set goals, and find somebody to keep you accountable to those goals
5. When you want to get something done, do you typically
a. talk about it but fail to make a solid plan
b. write down daily, weekly, and/or long term goals and take action to complete them
You can probably figure out that if you answered mostly (a) answers, then you are a more reactive person. However, if you answered mostly (b) answers, than you have a habit of proactivity. How do we work toward a more proactive existence?
My oldest daughter, Aleida, is in 4th grade this year, and she's been coming home with lots of talk about the "popular kids" and what they're up to. According to her, she is not one of the popular kids.
"Do you want to be popular?" I asked.
"No!" she answered, with great feeling.
Still, she's clearly torn. As a mother, my heart aches to think that she might feel left out or "less than" when at school, but I also know that navigating the cliques and social pressures are all part of growing up. I can't control the kids at school, but perhaps I can give my daughter some tools to help her through the process.
More than anything, I want my daughters to like themselves. Sure, self esteem will wax and wane, but if they can truly like themselves, they can avoid being derailed by the opinions of others.
This brings me to my quote of the day from Byron Katie:
Do you struggle with self doubt or low self esteem? Is your self-worth affected by what others think of you? If so, try some of these suggestions to cultivate self love and appreciation.