Decide what you want, decide what you are willing to exchange for it. Establish your priorities and go to work.
H. L. Hunt
Way back when Noah was in nappies and I was in my second year of grammar school, we were, one day, sitting in our assembly hall whilst the headmistress read out a list of all those who had been offered a place at university the following autumn.
Now this particular year, by either the strangest of coincidences or maybe a perfect conjunction of planetary activity, there were no less than four students going to top universities to study metallurgy. Of course, we twelve year olds hadn’t the first clue what metallurgy was or what one actually did with a degree in the subject, but Sarah (far the cleverest girl in our year) became rather excited by this information and following the assembly she headed off to the school library to do some research.
A couple of days later, whilst we awaited Madame Lennox to come and drill us on our Ju Suis, Tu Es etc., Sarah announced that she was going to become a metallurgist (quelle surprise!) and not only that her three friends, Rosemary, Debbie and Christine were going to become metallurgists as well!
I shan’t bore you with the next few years of metallurgical monotony but, suffice it to say, Christine ended up at the same university as Sarah which proved to be a disaster – she struggled with her studies and by all accounts hated the subject. In short, she spent three years slogging for something that just wasn’t going to work followed by two more years in a career that was going nowhere before giving up completely (guess she just didn’t have the metall (sic) for it!).
So really, the point of my metallurgical monologue is this – don’t do something because either someone else proselytizes about, say, the restorative powers of a diet packed with edamame beans or the life enhancing qualities of howling at the moon three times every Wednesday night. Stop Press! It may not work for you! More importantly, you may hate it! Even worse, struggling on with something for which you are gaining no benefit drains your energy so that other areas of your life will suffer even more neglect.
Anything you do, and this is particularly important for finding balance in your life, do it because you want to and because it works for you. Ignore fads and the latest trends – some may be great but more often than not they do not have lasting quality. Truly, I have seen so many people over the years literally torture themselves under the banner ‘You should do this because …’, or ‘If you don’t do this you’re going to fail …’ – Poppycock!
That’s why I believe the quotation at the top of this post is perfect – it is exactly what balance is about – a series of credits and debits that you apply to your days to achieve as even a keel as you are able in the areas that you want. To a point the saying ‘No pain, no gain’ is true – you do have to make some painful decisions and let go of certain things in your life in order to achieve what you what. And, unfortunately, it does involve hard work which can be darned painful!
Life balance is a term that is bandied around rather a lot and there is a fair amount of consensus that unless you do certain things then you will spend a heck of a lot of time out of kilter with not only yourself but the universe. Mmm, some of that may be a little true but balance is an entirely personal undertaking and one person’s sense of balance is another’s plate spinning nightmare.
For example, there are probably thousands of people in the world who swear by the Level 10 Life plan for finding balance in their day-to-day. If you have not heard of this then basically there is strong advocacy that, in order to have a balanced and happy life, you should pay attention to the following life areas equally:
Family and Friends
Health & Fitness
I think that’s a pretty big balancing act and, honestly, not one I wish to engage in as only about half of these have any major importance to me. Which brings me back to the theme of this post – what works for you and what is important to you.
Now, what if you don’t yet know what they are – I quite understand that you could currently be like I used to be – thrashing wildly around in your world, trying to make sense of a whole multitude of what you believe should be balanced (or what current trends tell you should be!) – How do you go about that?
Well – first things first – you need to establish what you believe your balanced life will look like and what areas you need to keep ticking over in harmony (or as near as dammit!). If the thought makes you throw your hands up in despair because you haven’t got a clue then have a look at the Level 10 list – anything there that jumps out?
I can tell you straight away that mine was health and fitness – and no, I didn’t want to race out and buy gym membership or start training for a marathon, I just acknowledged that out of that whole list this was the area that was completely neglected because I was eating far too much and doing absolutely no exercise. This was important to me because if I remained an overweight couch potato then I could forget my dreams and plans – I wasn’t going anywhere, because at least fifty percent of my time was taken up being a lazy leaden lump, so there was definitely a lack of balance – although never a chance of my toppling over – my bum was quite large enough to provide a stable centre of gravity!
By working through this list you should start to get the first inklings of what you want to work for you but don’t worry if it ends up a very scant list – my current life consists of a fortuitous five areas of balance but I started with a thrifty three! (And another caveat here – I’m pretty certain my idea of balance bears no resemblance whatsoever to anyone else’s!)
And if you think of other areas not on the above then give them a little poke and prod and add them to your tally – it is after all your life.
It’s entirely up to you whether you want to start exploring ideas for balance now or keep your list safe until you feel ready to deal with it. I shall certainly be returning to the subject often but hope that in the meantime I have got you thinking about your life balance and how you might want it to be.