Have you been to one of those self-help seminars where they get you to divide your life into neat little pie slices like: family, career, health, creativity, romance etc?
And as you fill out your pie-slices it all seems so easy to achieve balance, all you have to do is divide enough time and energy across each slice and all will be rosy! Hmmm, not so much.
In practice, life just doesn’t work like that.
First of all, life isn’t neatly demarcated, separate little slices….it is fluid, interdependent and messy. (For example, how well has your career zone gone when your health zone is up the creek?) Secondly, it panders to our ingrained cultural mentality that we should be able to have everything we want all at the same time: a rock-star career, a passionate marriage, a sexy body, well-behaved kids, an active social life, an in-depth spiritual life….phew, I’m exhausted already.
The truth is though, behind any “success-story” there is usually a behind-the- scenes “failure” somewhere too. When we are doing really well in one area of our lives it usually means we are pouring a lot of our time, energy and focus into one thing at the inevitable expense of other areas. This isn’t bad or good, it’s just the way it is given that we all have finite resources.
So rather than pursuing the myth of life-balance which inevitably leads to failure and exhaustion, I suggest something else entirely…
Find your center instead.
Being centered is a state of being, irrespective of what you are doing. We can’t control all of the external circumstances in our lives. But we can find a calm and clear internal reference point no matter what the changing situations of your life may bring in the moment.
Here are some of my best suggestions for finding and living from your center:
1. Daily Meditation
The clarity of mind and awareness that a regular meditation practice cultivates is essential to navigating life’s ups and downs with a sense of calm. Start small, 10 to 20 minutes a day is fine, just be consistent and practice every day.
2. Define Your Own Priorities
What does success and happiness mean to YOU? Get clear on whether you are chasing something simply because your culture, family or peers have defined it as “successful”. Also, understand that your priorities may have to change from day to day, week to week and even year to year. The sooner you can recognize that life occurs in seasons and is not one long race, the sooner you will find a sense of flow.
3. Don’t Be A Perfectionist
Are you holding yourself up to impossible standards – whether your own or someone else’s? Go easy on yourself and if one area of your life is demanding extra time and attention, it’s ok to let other things slide for a while (new mothers trying to keep the house perfect, I’m talking to YOU).
4. Except For Your Health, That Is..
Don’t let that slide…when that goes, everything falls in a heap. I know how tempting it can be to eat comforting, crappy, convenience food when life gets hectic but try not to sacrifice good nutrition and adequate sleep, you deserve better than that, always.
5. Be Intentional With Your Time
Once you know what YOUR priorities are and where you need to spend your time and energy, treat your time like the precious resource it is. This doesn’t mean you have to be uber-productive all the time, in fact rest and down-time is crucial. But maybe let go of the time-wasting activities that are neither relaxing nor productive (excessive social media, binge-tv, gossiping and worrying for example?)
6. Come Back To Your Breath
As they say in Zen, every moment is practice. No matter what you are doing, train yourself to keep some of your awareness on your breath as you go about your day. Don’t try to control it, just remain observant. Set little reminders that you will see regularly until it becomes a habit.
7. See The Beauty In The Chaos
Let go of the notion that life has to be perfectly balanced in order to be harmonious. Your life is now, and it is perfect in it’s own way, however it is showing up. Appreciate what you have and notice the beauty all around you.