Finding balance in our lives is the new Holy Grail. As the Holy Grail symbolized the attainment of happiness, so is the reason we search for this balance. If only we weren't so busy with deadlines and projects, we would be able spend more time with our loved ones; if only we didn't have to work overtime we would have the energy to exercise and lose weight; if only we didn't have three mortgages we could find peace and get a good night's sleep. If only … if only … we could find the illusive balance.
The definition of balance, according to the Encarta encyclopedia, is a state in which a body or object remains reasonably steady in a particular position, while resting on a base that is narrow or small relative to its other dimensions. So, the secret to balance is in identifying the narrow base that permits us to remain in equilibrium. If the base is the children, or work, or a spouse, or religion or recreation, there will always be imbalance because something will be missing and we might feel alone, unbalanced or even fearful. So, what is the answer? If we support our life decisions on values, balance will become the natural consequence. Values are what you esteem, what you give worth to, and these are the things that should form your base and determine where you spend your time, money and energy.
How to use values as a means for achieving balance:
1) Understand that finding balance is an individual process. Only you know what is most important to you. A way to discover this is by visualizing your own funeral and what you would want others to say about you, or imagining you had a year to live and what you would do in that last year.
2) Write down your long-term goals in a mission statement, which documents your perception of your purpose in life. To help you write a mission statement, I recommend Steven Covey's classic book, "The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People."
3) Define what is important to you. This work takes a lot of time and you might have other, more "urgent," things to do that can't wait like that report for your new client or that ballet recital for your child, but you must make time to define what gives meaning to your own life.
4) Be honest with yourself. Ask yourself if you are truly willing to give up your uneven focus, be it your profession, children, love or even excuses for not achieving equilibrium. For example, although you say you would like to be balanced maybe you are staying at work longer to avoid going home, or perhaps you really enjoy the drama or the rush of being under pressure. If this is the case, it is important to fix the problem before trying to achieve balance.
5) Notice where you are spending your time, energy and thoughts. Ask yourself if they will lead to your achieving your long-term goals. Sometimes, things like preparing, reading and studying don't appear to be important, but they are precisely the habits necessary to have balance.
6) Leave work at work and don't let your office responsibilities interfere with your personal relationships at home or physical well-being. Make it a habit to park your car for a few minutes before you enter your house to reflect on how lucky you are and the person you want to be when you greet your family. Reading your mission statement, a short meditation or affirmation will also help to keep you in the moment. For example, "I acknowledge the work it has taken to prepare for my arrival and I will show sincere and heartfelt appreciation."
7) Stay INTENSELY focused! We waste so much time aimlessly going over past mistakes and future possibilities. Your mind can't be in the moment and in the past or future at the same time. Planning and performing mental activities is not the same as daydreaming about past events or future possibilities.
8) Release yourself from attachments. Realize that most of the time your thinking has to do with aimless thoughts, and when you are balanced, happiness is a natural manifestation. So, when you are constantly upset, it is impossible to focus completely on the moment at hand. In ancient times, the samurai would try and accept death. They could not become concerned if they lived or died. They believed that during battle, the moment they became worried about death they would lose the fight. What greater detachment can exist than the attachment to living?
9) Learn to say "no" to others, but especially to yourself. Once you have written down your mission statement, you can become aware of all the non-productive things you do that waste time and sabotage the balance you say you want. Say "no" to yourself when you want to open an e-mail that has nothing to do with your goals. Say "no" when you start to remember something from the past and try to figure out why he or she did that horrible thing to you or what you could have done differently. Say "no" when you want to pick up the phone to gossip with a friend when you know you are on a schedule.
We all try, and fail often, balancing our work and social responsibilities. It is because we haven't taken the time to truly know what our purpose in life is. Attaining that balanced scale of all aspects of our life is an art that must be consciously cultivated over time. Balance is an inner, individual job where only you can define what is important to you and your unique purpose in life. Good luck with this goal and please be aware that it is not static, but will change over time.
About the author:
Linda Nacif, author of "Jump and the Joy Will Follow: How to Live in Conscious Joy and Health in Every Stage of Life," is a bilingual author and speaker with a master's degree in clinical psychology. Through Linda's breakthrough techniques and passionate communication, she encourages clients to dare to go beyond their comfort zone by being adventurous, fit and enthusiastic. For more information, visit www.lindanacif.com or call: 619-733-2071.