We hear the word "balance" a lot in the self development and wellness industries in general, and for good reason. For the most part, balance is a prerequisite for living a happy life.
Think about it for a moment.
Exercise is good thing, but not if you (literally) run yourself into the ground by over training and damaging your body, or start taking steroids to help you build body mass.
Drinking is seen as a bad thing, but there have been numerous scientific findings suggesting that in moderation it can actually have beneficial medicinal effects.
Just don’t over do it because you once read that a glass or two of red wine can have positive medicinal effects and then presume that must mean two bottles must have even more health benefits.
Meditation is a very good thing, but not if you insist on doing it for 6 hours a day resulting in being fired from your job and having your spouse walk out on you.
Fat, salt and carbohydrates can indeed be very damaging to your health if taken in large quantities and out of proportion with the rest of your dietary intake, but in moderation they are not only fine, but necessary for a healthy body.
Even self development can be bad for you if taken to ridiculous extremes. I have known two people who spent tens of thousands of dollars they couldn’t afford by trying to attend every self development seminar that ever crossed their path. One even ended up with a failed marriage because of it.
And I am sure you can think of many examples of your own where things in moderation can be enjoyable and healthy, but if taken to excess can be damaging to your physical and/or mental well-being.
Probably the main area I see clients who have balance issues is in the work place. For almost 15 years after leaving school and starting to work I was blissfully unaware of the expression work/life balance.
I think this was largely to do with the fact I worked for small businesses (including two of my own) where I worked sensible hours and never felt pressured to be the first person into the office and the last one out.
Then I took my first high paid corporate job and work/life balance was pretty much all people talked about. And the reason was because nobody had it.
There seemed to be some unwritten rule that the more ridiculous the time you could send out an e-mail to a group of people to show you were working, the more kudos you deserved.
I can remember getting an e-mail informing me of a breakfast meeting with one of the senior management group that was sent at 3:45am and the meeting was due at 7:00am.
And that really wasn’t that unusual. Managers would insist the sales people manage their work/life balance and then give them so much work that to do that it was literally impossible.
It seemed that the belief was if you talked about balance enough, then the fact that it didn’t actually exist really didn’t matter.
In the period I worked for that company, more people went off sick due to stress or simply burned out and left, than every other company I worked for combined. Sadly, nobody in senior management seemed to be able to join the dots in their quest for profit.
I wrote a post called 'Work Life Bullshit' that explains my take on this relatively recent phenomenon and this may help you somewhat.
Balance doesn’t start and end with how we look after our body, our work life and interactions with one another either because it’s important to have a balanced mind. And by that I mean one that is open to new experiences, new learnings and new ways of looking at things.
Clinging on to old beliefs just because it’s easier to do so than accept we may be wrong about something is very unhelpful and is a huge barrier to successful self development.
Most people like to think they are open-minded, when in reality most people are not.
You cannot be open-minded and adopt a victim mindset. You cannot be open-minded and dismiss proven methods of improving happiness like meditation and giving back because they don’t make sense to you.
And you cannot be open-minded and refuse to accept that you can change and improve the quality of your life when it has been scientifically proven otherwise.
If you’d like to read more on this subject you can check out a post called ‘Are You Open-Minded?’
One of the things that stops us maintaining balance is the erroneous belief that we have to accept every request for assistance that comes our way.
That may be something as seemingly benign as always agreeing to taxi the kids around even though you never get time for yourself to go to the gym, see friends, or sit and read. Or it maybe something more substantial like taking on work projects that you simply don’t have the energy or time to do properly.
The thing is, you are the most important person in the world to you. It’s not your parents, or your spouse, or even your kids; it’s you.
And the reason I say that with such conviction is because your world only exists in one place - inside your head.
Everything you ever experience in your time on this planet happens exclusively inside your brain. Therefore, if you don’t look after yourself properly and take time to look after your own mental and physical health, then you cannot be the best person possible for your loved ones.
Sometimes it’s imperative to say ‘no’and put yourself first. I realize it can lead to guilt, but think of it this way:
How would you feel if your mother had become ill because she spent so much time working and looking after you and any siblings you may have that she neglected her own well-being to the point of getting seriously ill?
I would imagine pretty bad, right?
Well what makes you think your loved ones want that to happen to you? You may feel some guilt at occasionally saying ‘no’, but it pales into insignificance to what your family will feel if you drop dead on their account.
I know work can be a different matter and sometimes people think they cannot say ‘no’but they absolutely can. You always have a choice and any job that treats you with so little respect that you are working insane hours and constantly being put upon is not sustainable in the long-term.
I was in that exact situation with a big paying job that was making me ill. I realized I had a choice. Filet mignon, Armani suits and chronic illness over chicken, shorts from Target and loving my job.
Of course we had to make some sacrifices, but that’s not the same as not having a choice. You always have a choice.
This video I shot may give you a useful strategy for saying ‘non’more often.
One of the best ways to establish balance is to start a regular meditation practice. The evidence in support of meditation is coming so thick and so fact that I for one am struggling to keep up.
Meditation has been scientifically proven to do the following:
Lower blood pressure
Reduce absenteeism in schools when kids meditate
Improve happiness levels
Increase empathy, tolerance and understanding
Not a bad list is it? As well as all those things above, meditation can help you quiet your mind as I talk about in the post ‘Do You Have A Monkey Mind?’
Implementing These Changes Can Have A Tremendous Effect On Beginning To Balance Your Life
If your situation is a bit tougher and you need more direct assistance, then please reach out to me using the button below!