What are you missing in life when you are trying to have it all?
Living a full life requires the skills of a circus juggler and the equipoise of a monk. How can we make it easier?
This is a true story.
One morning, a musician played the violin outside the Metro station at Washington DC. During the 45 minutes he played, only 7 people of the 1000-odd people who passed by, stopped to listen to him. He collected $32.
When he finished playing, only one woman, who had recognized him, went up to him and said hello.
The violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians of the world, playing incognito, some of the most intricate Bach compositions, on a violin worth $3.5 million. A few days earlier Joshua Bell sold out a theatre in Boston for tickets averaging $100.
This stunt was part of a social experiment conducted by Washington Post about perceptions, taste and priorities in 2007.
The results were thought-provoking. If we do not have a moment to stop and savour one of the finest music pieces played by one of the best musicians in the world, how many other things are we missing in our lives?
What are you missing?
Do you feel you have no time to enjoy life? Are your health and relationships being affected because of your demanding work schedule? Do you feel overburdened and fatigued?
Imbalanced lives are full of commitments and activities in which you feel stuck and powerless to get out of. You could be stuck in a no-growth job, an unfulfilling relationship, or a chronic health problem which are draining you of time and energy.
Balance is personal
Creating balance is not always about simplifying life, slowing down or embracing change, though it may be the case for some people. For others, creating balance may mean the opposite: challenging themselves, speeding up or embracing rootedness.
Each person must find out what needs to be done to get his or her life back in balance. Like fulfillment, balance is also personal. When your life is in balance, you experience inner freedom and harmony in living your life.
Unsettling life events
Any big change can challenge your lifestyle balance. Major life events, even happy ones, are potentially un-balancing: getting married, getting a new position at work, losing a job, moving to a new place, becoming a parent.
For example, when a young baby arrives in the family, a couple will be called upon to make major adjustments to their routine. If the new parents continue to respond to their new situation in old ways, they could be inviting disharmony into their lives.
Outdated habits of work, leisure or relationship patterns can create unhealthy imbalances in your lifestyle. For instance, working long hours without taking adequate breaks may have worked for you in your 20s, but this punishing work ethic will surely harm your health in your 40s.
How to restore balance
Restoring balance is possible by consciously striving to stay aligned to one’s important priorities while responding flexibly to changing conditions of one’s life.
Most people are not aware that their lifestyles are harming them. Usually, people go to a coach or a counselor with an urgent or a specific issue such as a health crisis or an impending divorce or a job loss that has thrown them off-balance. It is while dealing with this particular challenge that imbalances in lifestyle are discovered.
Circle of Life
Balance does not mean giving equal weightage to all areas of your life, but to give attention to those areas which you claim are important and/or urgent.
The Circle of Life is a very useful tool to focus on the important areas of your life. Draw a large circle to represent your entire life. Mark areas to denote the major areas of your life - Work, Money, Relationships, Recreation, Health, Personal Growth, Physical environment and Community – or whatever else that is important to you.
Four steps to re-balancing
1. Identify areas to work on
Look at the wheel. Which areas of your life need attention? Which areas are taking too much of your attention? You may be surprised at a mismatch between the importance you assert and the resources you commit to priority areas of your life. For example, family time is an important area for many, but how much time do you ‘really’ spend with your family, actually interacting with them?
Shortlist priority areas of your life which need to be brought back into balance and fulfillment.
2. Match your plan to your priorities
Time is your most important resource. Are you using your time well? Time planners help you match your time commitments to your priorities.
Action steps towards creating more balance may involve saying yes and saying no, juggling multiple priorities, and making space for all that is important to you – perhaps, even making time to ‘do nothing’.
3. Lean in the opposite direction
Balance needs a counter balance; cultivate the opposite to re-balance your lifestyle. For instance, if you travel too much for work, you may have to seek stillness; too much target-chasing at work may need to be balanced by leisure; too much care giving to others may need counter balancing by spending me-time on self-care.
4. Stay committed to your core
It is easy to get distracted from ones priorities by new circumstances and old habits. Staying balanced involves making, reviewing and remaking plans to stay committed to the steady core of your goals, purposes, values, and visions. Watch out for forces which sway you from your core.
Unfortunately, a balanced lifestyle is not a static goal which can be ‘achieved’. No life situation will remain the same and new challenges that arise may disturb your hard- earned equipoise.
Staying balanced is a lifelong challenge.
It will be easier to sustain balance in your life if you make mindful adjustments to new situations with a beginner’s fresh mind.