Balance in one’s life is essential to functioning at peak performance and accomplishing goals. Anyone who has studied business strategies, martial arts, skiing, golf, or serious sorts of any kind, knows the essential importance of balance to experience power and flexibility. Balance may be the most important thing we can achieve in life, giving us the ability to attain all our other dreams and goals.
The following is a quick summery of simple exercises to help attain balance in your life. It is not necessary to implement all of them. In areas, however, where you would like to achieve more balance, putting a few of these straightforward ideas into practice can bring a sense of control and of being centered to your life.
- Surround yourself with other well-balanced people.
Many people do not know what a busy, successful, yet balanced life even looks like. Few of us had great role models for this growing up. Take the time and effort to search out people who are spending time bettering themselves and going for their dreams. Limit your time with people who primarily see themselves as victims, even if it is tempting to be the hero and rescue them.
It is hard to retain balance in your own life if you are spending a great deal of time with people who live in extremes or who have addictions to substances, spending, gambling, sex, work, fear, anger, etc. Find healthy friends and associates who are also working on themselves and heading toward balance in their own lives. Find friends whom you can support and encourage as they head for their own dreams of being of service to humanity.
- Practice meditation.
So much has been written and researched about meditation that it is almost common knowledge what benefits can be attained through practice. A meditative practice is any activity that helps a person shut down the “chatter” that goes on in one’s head. Exercise, listening to music, sitting quietly in nature, contemplative meditation, yoga, breathing and relaxation techniques, mindful gardening or just quietly watching clouds change shape, are all examples of training the mind to focus or slow down.
Set aside time for meditation in your written schedule. As you continue to practice meditation as part of your daily routine, it will become hard to imagine how you did life without these “mini-vacations” and times of rejuvenation. Great insights and “genius” creative problem solving can be attained from regular meditative practice.
- Feed your primary relationship.
Spending time and energy building closeness and a sense of trust can bring you a feeling of balance, flexibility, support and connectedness. Remember the things that brought you together in the first place. Celebrate anniversaries of significant events.
If you are holding grudges or resentments, put them down. Let go of past betrayals and find a way to forgive and release your loved one from indebtedness.
Even if you do not have a specific significant other, finding friendship is important. Human connection and feeling “seen” can bring a sense of balance and security. Write down the name of one person with whom you would like to feel closer. What interests or hobbies do they have? How do you contribute to his/her life? Have you let him/her know they are special to you? Push yourself to be available to those who care about you.
If you have children be sure to spend time together as a family, but also make special time to spend individually creating memories with each child. Often children will not be as open and self-revealing with siblings around.
- Participate in Secret Giving.
Do something nice for someone without them finding out who did it. Leave an anonymous flower or treat. Give the gift of yourself; offer your time or talent to help someone else. Do it without expecting anything in return. Send a special wish, a smile or silent prayer even when you walk past someone. Only in giving do we feel a sense of purpose. When we feel down one of the quickest ways to feel better is to be of service to someone else.
- Recognize there are always “two sides to every coin”.
Remember that “the glass is always half full as well as half empty,” and “there are two sides to every coin.” For every positive side to a situation, event, job or relationship, there are also difficult ones. We sometimes tend to think of situations in terms of all good or all bad. There is no such thing as an all positive or all negative situation.
Make a list of things that are now challenges in your life and beside each one write the benefit or potential benefit each one gives you or may bring you in the future. Now write a list of things you are very grateful for, beside each one write the price you were willing to pay or sacrifice for it. Give yourself a compliment for acknowledging both sides
of the important things in your life. If this is difficult for you spend some time practicing this exercise. The rewards are many and you will end up feeling much less trapped by life.
- Reconnect with your spiritual side.
Spirituality means something different to each person. It is a sense that there is a higher order to things and that life is not just random events. Connecting to this deeper side of life is essential to obtain a sense of balance.
Some people want to affiliate with others who hold similar beliefs. Others wish to be alone in nature or read inspirational material. It is important that each person find the activities and practices that bring a sense of reconnection with their own spirituality.
- Financial balance is not a matter of luck.
Keep a current cash flow chart that is updated daily or at least weekly. Keep a net worth file that is updated monthly or at least biannually. Financial balance comes from being aware of in-flows and out-flows of money, being able to predict and make purchase and investment decisions based on current facts.
If you have long-term financial goals write out the steps you will need to take to attain them. Give yourself credit and acknowledgement for attainment of short-term goals leading to long-term objectives. If you need a professional to look over your finances and give advice, don’t delay in setting up an appointment.
- Bring balance to your habits.
Think of one excessive habit that you would like to bring into balance, such as, overeating, overspending, gambling, drinking, criticizing, watching TV, or computer time. Then write out three steps you would like to take toward getting that habit back to a place of balance in your life (such as; spending more time with friends, writing a budget, joining AA, GA or Weight Watchers, finding an exercise partner, giving more compliments, making a commitment to someone you trust, etc.) Now circle the first step you would like to take toward your goal. Write a time in your planner by which you will take that first step.
- Don’t think in terms of all or none.
In our fast-paced, addictive society many of us are tempted to think of situations, goals and activities in terms of all or none. Retrain your mind to think in terms of, “on a scale of 1 to 10” or in percentages. For instance, I would like to cut my sugar intake by 50% or I would like to arrive home earlier from the office 25% more of the time. This is a much kinder and more practical way of speaking to yourself and you increase the likelihood of real behavioral change taking place.
If you incorporate these ways of speaking in your communications with others, you will also find much less defensiveness on the listener’s part. For instance, rather than saying “You are always late,” say, “I notice you are late about 50% of the time. That is too much.” Rather than saying, “You always make me angry,” say, “On a scale of 1 to 10 my frustration level is up to a 7. I really don’t want it to go higher”. Speaking without absolutes in limit setting will increase how often your message is actually heard.
- Create A “Pie Chart” of Your Life.
Draw a circle that symbolizes your life. Divide it into 7 wedge sections representing the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, financial, relationship and the professional aspects of your life. Allot space to sections according to how fulfilled and comfortable you feel about the time and energy you spend on each section of your life.
Now look at your pie. Where would you like to devote more attention? Where could you expend less energy? What would balance look like to you? Does any one part look neglected?
Redraw your circle to match your ideal situation, not necessarily in equal portions. Now write the first specific step you would need to impact each area you do wish to change.
Whatever area of your “pie chart” you wish to work on, set up small easily attainable steps toward more balance in that area. For instance, if you wish to work on the physical “slice” of the “pie”, don’t start out with a goal of loosing 20 pounds and working out 7 days a week. Set up incrementally attainable goals. Weekly or daily reevaluate them at a scheduled time. Don’t drop your idea all together if you fall short of your ideal goal, just modify your goals to something more realistic for your current life style and work up from there.
- Address procrastination in your life now.
Procrastination can rob otherwise very productive brilliant people from feeling a sense of success and balance. Set aside time each day to write a prioritized to-do list for the next day. Take a time-management class or listen to a tape series on overcoming procrastination. Buy yourself a complete daily calendar program and follow it. Ask organized friends what methods they recommend.
Set up small rewards for yourself when you complete tasks. Congratulate yourself when you accomplish intermediate goals along the way to the large tasks. Observe what you say to yourself. Make sure you are complimenting yourself and not “beating yourself up”.
- Always keep your word.
One of the fastest ways to feel off balance is to be trying to make up excuses to “cover your tracks” when you have not kept your word. If you only commit to things you are quite certain you can fulfill and you keep these promises, you will walk through life with more confidence, a faster, clearer mind and radiate trustworthiness to all those with whom you come into contact. The word gets around fast about those people who can be counted on to finish projects, show up on time or go the extra mile if they have committed to it.
The converse is also true. When a person has not made a habit out of keeping his or her word there is an instant tenseness that fills the air when a promise is made. An uneasiness and a sense of defensiveness follows them into whatever new project they undertake. Create an air of confidence by always following through on what you say you will do.
- A quick way to center your body.
Sit up straight in a chair. Close your eyes, take a deep breath in and completely exhale. Focus your attention on your body and how it feels. Sit up as straight and upright as possible. Now, leaning with your left shoulder, lean as far as you can to the left and then as far as you can to the right.
Then return to center, with your eyes still closed. Imagine what leaning half the distance to your left would be. Now lean only that far to the left, followed by leaning the same halfway reduced distance to the right.
Continue leaning left and then right, cutting the distances in half each time in both directions. Continue, with your eyes closed, even past the point where you feel any perceptible body movement. Stop when you feel at complete center both physically and mentally. Relax and enjoy this centered feeling. Remember how this relaxation feels at times when you are stressed and anxious.
Many of these concepts may seem strange, uncomfortable, time-consuming or even a bit foreign at first. But these are strategies that have been used successfully by thousands of people who have put them into practice. If you choose just one and implement it in your life on a regular basis you will be sure to see a difference. Having balance in your life gives you a competitive edge in our fast paced society. Flexibility self-confidence and high energy all come from finding balance in life’s most important areas.
© 2004 Dr. Lois V. Nightingale, Clinical Psychologist (psy9503) professional speaker, author and director of the Nightingale Center in Yorba Linda, California 714-993-5343