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Striving For Balance...

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony”

—Thomas Merton

What Do I Mean by Balance?

Balance really means having everything in moderation—a healthy mix of work and play. If you are happy and fulfilled in your personal life, you will be able to enjoy your work and make the right choices for yourself, career-wise. And likewise, if you enjoy and feel motivated and stimulated by your work, you are more likely to be able to choose the right path in life and the relationships that nurture and support you. If you have a healthy lifestyle and take time to look after yourself both physically and mentally, you will be happier and healthier.

Why Is Balance So Important?

Balance = Happiness and Sustainability

Striving for a balance of all things in life is so important. A work–life balance allows us to be happy and healthy, and this enables us to sustain an effective and hopefully enjoyable work life.

If we have a balanced life, we are taking care of ourselves and making time to enjoy leisure time and personal relationships. Because our personal needs and happiness are being taken care of, we can function better at work too. We all need time to recharge our batteries in order to maintain the constant hectic pace required in this day and age.

Look after Your Health First...

Balance allows us to be healthy, and our health is really our wealth as they say. This is so true! The importance of our own health, both mental and physical, is often overlooked. We’re often so busy striving to achieve, working hard, maybe playing hard too, and generally rushing from one thing to the next.

Without good health, it is impossible to do anything. Our health is the most precious gift we have been given and we often take it for granted and neglect our bodies until something goes wrong. If we fail to take time for relaxation, have an unhealthy diet, and don’t exercise, sooner or later our bodies will say ‘ENOUGH!’

“Balance. The Ultimate Goal”

—Ricky Lankford

Balance Is a Constant Challenge

There are many successful people who don’t believe in balance, but sooner or later, this will start to affect them negatively. Achieving balance is not easy, but if we keep striving for it each and every day, that is good enough! We may get slightly off balance at times, but being aware of how we are spending our time and what we need personally, as well as in our careers should keep us striving for the goal of everything in moderation.

Key Challenges of Achieving Balance

The main three areas we struggle to find balance in are:

  • Between work and play.

  • Between what others need from us versus what we need for ourselves.

  • Between what we want immediately (short-term gratification) and what we need (long-term happiness).

I will expand on each of these a bit further;

1) Balance between Work and Play

Most of us have to work, but be sure to also make time for yourself. The amount of time we put into work in comparison with the attention we give to our personal life is already out of balance because of the nature of our society and culture.

Traditionally, if we work full time, most of us do a five-day workweek and work eight or more hours per day. Unless our job requires us to work overtime, we will generally take two days off per week. We spend most of our waking time at work and this is how the world is today (unless financial freedom allows us not to work at all). What we must do is ensure that in our free time, we are taking care of ourselves and we are doing the things that we enjoy and that nourish us personally. A good rule to stick to is to schedule the important personal activities and holidays early so that we are sure to get the time off when we want it!

“Sometimes, I forget putting myself first is not selfish but necessary.”


2) Look after yourself first and then you can look after others

The safety instruction before take-off on an airplane can be applied in life: We’re advised to fix our own air masks first before attending to others. Likewise in life, ‘fill yourself up’ first and then you will be more than happy to give your time and attention to others.

“I can't tell you the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.”

—Ed Sheeran

If you haven’t taken care of yourself and your needs, including time for yourself, you will most probably feel resentful of giving to others. This is no good for all concerned—a lose-lose situation. To ensure a win-win for both you and the people in your life, the only way forward is to get a balance between time for yourself to pursue your own dreams and goals, and time for sharing with others.

This can be challenging at times, especially if you have a family and people who depend on you and require your time and attention. I believe that communication is key. Be open and express your own needs with your friends and family and listen to their needs too. It’s much better to get things out into the open and discuss how you can all have your needs met. Compromise may be required, but it should be a balanced compromise between all parties and not just one person losing out.

3) Pay first—play Later

The third challenge we face on a daily basis is what we would like at any given time (that second piece of chocolate cake) versus what is good for us and aligns with our long-term goals, which may be to lose half a stone in the next month and a half. In today’s world, we’re constantly being challenged by the promise of instant gratification and taking the easy route versus doing the ‘right’ thing for ourselves. Here are some examples of the choices we often have to make:

  • Choosing to cook from scratch using healthy ingredients that we already have in the fridge or calling for a takeaway instead.

  • Going for that run rather than relaxing on the sofa with a glass or two of wine.

  • Choosing to work on your dream job application rather than going out with friends.

  • Having an important but difficult conversation with your partner or kids versus leaving the issue to fester because ‘you can’t face it today’.

Choosing to do what we need to do or should do, the thing that is the best for us and others is sometimes hard, especially if we’re feeling tired, stressed, or not our most confident self on that particular day. However, inwardly we know what the ‘right’ thing is for us to choose. It comes down to discipline to make the right choices and create healthy habits for ourselves. The more we choose what we know is good for us and others, the more self-esteem and discipline will become an automatic and natural habit.

Top Tips for Maintaining Healthy Balance in Life

  • Your goal list should be a healthy mixture of all areas of your life and not just work, work, work! Allow time in your weekly plan for having fun and for spending time with the people who matter to you as well as for your career aspirations. Taking time each week for relaxation, hobbies you enjoy, and social time will recharge your batteries and make you even more effective at work in the long term.

  • You can do anything but not everything at once. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. There’s a difference between pushing yourself and becoming overwhelmed with too many projects at once. Be mindful of how much you’re taking on. Decide what your priority is right now and avoid involving yourself in too many activities at the same time.

  • Just say no! If you know you have a busy period ahead, don’t commit to anything else until the time has passed and you have the space in your calendar and the energy to start something else. This applies to socialising and projects as well as work.

  • Know yourself and listen to the signs your body and stress levels give you when you need to slow down or maybe make healthier choices. Know what your body and mind need to stay in balance.

  • Be flexible to change, expect obstacles from time to time, and learn to deal with them as part of life. Try not to stress if every little detail doesn’t go exactly as you’d imagined and planned. In the grand scheme of things, ask yourself, ‘Does it really matter?’ and adjust your plan accordingly.

  • A change is as good as a rest. Learning new things, visiting a place you’ve never been to, or broadening your horizons often can keep your mind stimulated and you motivated. Regularly stepping out of your comfort zone, even if just in a small way, ensures your continual personal growth.

  • Your health is your wealth, so you must take care of it! We often take for granted that our bodies and minds will just always function no matter what lifestyle choices we make. If we make unhealthy choices for long enough, our health will become depleted and rundown, and we then have no choice but to stop. Generally, the body needs good nutrition from a balanced diet, enough hydration, adequate rest and sleep, and regular exercise to function at its best.

  • Someone once said, ‘Take time to stop and smell the roses’. This is good advice. Make sure you take time to enjoy the simple things in life, like a beautiful flower or sunset. We’re so often in such a hurry that we miss the pure beauty of nature.

  • Take a holiday! Make sure you book breaks away from your work as regularly as you can. Even if it’s a small break, the change of pace and scenery will refresh you and help keep you motivated.

  • Implementing some form of meditation into your daily personal power ritual will help you establish balance by allowing you to live in the moment, becoming more present to what ‘is’ right now rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.

Remember that balance is something to strive for but don't beat yourself up if you don't always achieve it- life goes like this sometimes :)

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