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The Myth of Perfect Life Balance

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Life balance seems to be getting a lot of airplay these days as most people find themselves living continually busier lives. Balance is important because without it, we find ourselves feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, run down, and unable to enjoy our relationships or our lives as fully as we’d like. However, striking perfect balance in a world of perpetual change is nearly a mission impossible.

So what is “balance” anyway? The “B” word has become mighty popular over the last decade as our lives have become continually busier. If there isn’t enough pressure on you already, you now have the additional one of striking “perfect balance” like it’s something you can capture and keep permanently. Ugh—more to get stressed about! Well I don’t know about you, but most people I know feel like they’re perpetually falling short when it comes to leading perfectly balanced lives. There’s a reason—the nature of perfect balance is that it will always be elusive.

Picture the circus performer up on a tight rope. He’s got his balance beam moving up and down on each side. Somewhere between the top and the bottom of each movement, he hits “perfect balance.” But no sooner has he hit perfect balance and he’s moving away from it again ready to adjust his beam back the other way … and on it goes.

So it is in our lives—nothing stays the same for long. Our environment is in a state of constant change. Sometimes we’re moving away from balance, sometimes toward it. Whenever we think we have it—“poof”—something happens (we get a promotion, we have another child, or one we have starts a new sport or gets sick, an employee leaves and it’s up to us to pick up the slack, etc.) and it’s gone again. So, cut yourself some slack if you feel like you’re always falling short of creating a perfect balance in your life and aim instead for imperfect balance … it’s a much more realistic goal!

The Secret to Maintaining Imperfect Balance
If you are someone who is industriously moving toward your goals (hopefully ones that inspire you), you probably often feel pulled in multiple directions simultaneously—like living each day is one big juggling act, one where you too often drop a ball here and there. The fact is, there is never enough time in your day to do everything you want. However, there is always enough time to do the most important things.

The key to maintaining an (imperfectly) balanced life is to first be very clear regarding to what you are most committed. Only then can you find the courage to say no to those requests, offers, and opportunities that aren’t aligned with your deepest values and greatest goals.

One technique to help you clarify what you’re most committed to is simply to write down your answers to the following questions:

  • Who it is you are most committed to being in the world—for your family, friends, those with whom you work (colleagues, clients, employees), your community, the world in general, but most of all, for yourself? 
  • What do you want to accomplish most in your life, professionally and personally?
  • To what things would you commit your time and energy on a daily and weekly basis? Things or activities that will move you forward toward accomplishing your goals and toward being the kind of person you most aspire to be.

The truth is, once you are clear about what you are most committed to and are willing to say no to all that doesn’t align with it, then balance (albeit the imperfect variety) will work itself out. Ultimately, being clear on what you want most provides a compass to guide your daily choices, what you commit to, and how you allocate your time. So starting today, make it a habit to regularly ask yourself, “Is what I am committing to reflect what I am most committed to?” Remember, sometimes you have to say no to the good to make room for the great.

Heed the Signs of Imbalance
There are numerous warning signs that are good indicators about whether your life is moving away from balance or is even completely out of balance. When we don’t listen to what our bodies are trying to tell us (that our immune systems are running on empty) or hail other warning signs (like increasing conflict in our relationships), then sooner or later we’ll pay a very profound price for not doing so.

Life Balance Mini Quiz
Do this mini quiz to assess if your life might be in need of some more balance. Do any of these statements ring true for you?

1. I am having to deal with more health issues that I used to.

2. I find myself feeling stressed out about a lot of things, even little stuff I know shouldn’t really be getting to me.

3. I spend a lot more time at work than I would like to, which I know my spouse/family resents.

4. I rarely take time for self-reflection to think about how I’m managing my life and the direction my life is taking me.

5. Physically, I just don’t feel great about myself; I feel unfit and out of shape.

6. My relationships aren’t very rewarding; there’s a lot of unresolved issues or conflict that I haven’t got time or energy to address.

7. I rarely spend quality time with the people I care about the most.

8. I seem to catch every cold that comes in the office.

9. I struggle to say no to requests and consequently often commit to things I’d really prefer not to, then stress myself out trying to keep them.

10. I can’t remember the last time I sat down and just indulged in an activity totally for myself.


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