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.