Life Balance: Mastery or Myth?
By Ada Porat
Do a word search for life balance on Google, and it turns up over 98 million references. That is one hot topic!
Is life balance even possible in modern society? Amid the material wealth of the industrialized world, the struggle for balanced living has reached pandemic proportions. Never before in history have we had so much and enjoyed so little.
We long for balance yet take on more commitments; we dream of bigger homes but have smaller families; we pride ourselves on the size of our networks yet have fewer friends; we consume more vitamins yet are in poorer health, our life force drained by stress and anxiety. We are bombarded with information and the constant pressure of trying to keep up. So much to do, so little time! Clearly, our lives are over-segmented and off-balance - and we pay the price with less satisfaction and happiness.
A recent study says that the global workforce has stopped striving for a healthier work-life balance, and more than 75% of the work force feel their work lives take priority over their personal lives.
Life balance is about choice - and the choice is yours!
To restore balance to life, you need to place enough value on yourself to motivate you toward change. Doing a life review can get you started in the right direction. By reviewing core areas of life, you can clean out what no longer serves you and start integrating the neglected aspects of life again. It enables you to step off the treadmill of chaotic living to a life filled with meaning and purpose.
A life review can start with an honest assessment of the core areas of life: your work, home environment, family & friends, spirituality, physical health, recreation and financial health. Ask yourself what the three most stressful or unsatisfying aspects are in each of these areas and jot them down.
You also need to know what you would like your life to look like. In other words, what is your vision for your life and what does life balance look like for you? Identify three aspects that you value, or would like more of in each of the core areas.
By doing this simple exercise, you will quickly discover which areas are in need of balance in your life - these tend to be the areas where it hurts to look! You can add more balance to life by eliminating even just one stressful activity, or by adding more of something you truly enjoy.
Balanced living is not about achieving perfection in one area of life: instead it is about finding equilibrium overall. This holistic, integrative approach allows you to feel nurtured even if you have to put in long work hours for work to meet a tight deadline, because you know that you have scheduled time to recharge with loved ones after the project is completed.
There are many different interpretations of what life balance looks like. For some of us, an unbalanced checkbook is just fine, while for others it violates their very existence. Each of us needs to clarify what we need to feel balanced, and then we need to start working towards that goal.
In helping clients look at all their responsibilities and obligations in order to reduce or eliminate those that no longer serve them, we also work on learning to say "no." Often, I find that people say "yes out of misplaced obligation or politeness, when what they really want to do is say NO. No, they cannot donate a Saturday to help clean up the park; no, they don't want to sit on the homeowners association board of directors; no, they don't want to give up a weekend to attend a distant relative's anniversary.
At the start of each day, every one of us receives exactly the same allotment of time. What we do with that time, will determine our level of satisfaction, accomplishment and success. In choosing how to spend our time and resources, we make decisions about how to spend energy - the primary resource of life.
Borrowing from an old recycling slogan, I use three steps to assist clients in the process:
1. Reduce. Do you really need this activity, item or commitment in your environment? Do you need as much of it to feel satisfied or secure? If not, it's time to reduce participation to make space for more fulfilling things! A good example would be setting boundaries to reduce the number of hours you work per week to spend more time with loved ones.
2. Reuse. How does this activity contribute to your personal fulfillment or quality of life? Can you adapt it to better serve your goals? Can you get the same benefit from a different activity? Instead of skipping gym because of being bored with the workout routine, you can switch to a different type of exercise that would give the same benefit without boredom.
3. Recycle. Have you outgrown this activity, item or commitment? Perhaps it has served the purpose long ago and you have been holding on to it out of guilt or habit! If so, it needs to go to free up space for something more appropriate. Many social commitments fall in this category.
When we look at life as an integrated whole, it is clear that balance can be achieved. It ultimately is an inside job - an inner equilibrium that enables us to flow with all the things that happen in our changing world.
Copyright 2005 Ada Porat
About The Author
Ada Porat is a certified life balance coach and holistic health practitioner with extensive international teaching and clinical experience. For more tips on healthful living and free teleclasses, you can subscribe to her monthly newsletter at: http://www.adaporat.com.