The key to keeping your balance is knowing when you’ve lost it.”
“Can you read that?” I asked. “Because I sure can’t.”
The doctor looked up from the prescription he’d been scribbling.
“No, but I’m hoping the pharmacist can figure out what it says.”
I started laughing and then I started coughing.
“This should help with that cough,” he said, handing me the slip.
“So you’re telling me I’m going to live,” I said, catching my breath.
The doctor was busily scribbling additional notes on his clipboard.
“You’ll live,” he said without looking up, “but you’re going to have to slow down.”
“Slow down?” I replied. It wasn’t the first time I’d been told to take it easy.
“You have a mild case of pneumonia,” he explained. “If you don’t slow down, it could become a severe case. I’m recommending you take the next week off from work. I want you to rest, drink plenty of fluids, take your medication faithfully and, most importantly, find some balance.”
I nodded sheepishly and tried in vain to quell the cough. Here I was busy teaching and coaching self-esteem and empowerment concepts, writing about it each week in my column and all along neglecting one of the principal components of empowered living: balance.
It seems human nature for just about everyone to take on too many tasks and responsibilities, to try to get too much done with too little time or rest, and I was no exception.
Self-esteem is an all-encompassing process: mind, body and spirit. To be completely whole and in balance, all aspects of your “self” must be cared for, cherished and respected.
Balance is a personal concept and different for each person. To me, balance means there is harmony – a wholeness of being – and nothing unduly emphasized at the expense of the rest. If asked, most of us would probably consider ourselves skilled multi-takers, attempting to balance a limited amount of time amongst work, relationships, exercise, family, fun, self-care and daily activities. Unfortunately, many of us have become chronic multi-taskers. Yes, we get a lot done but at a price. Everything in life has become a task and falls onto the same list as everything else. Tasks that become urgent (but not necessarily important) get done first. One of main indicators of being out of balance is neglect. Neglecting our family or our health are two common expressions of imbalance.
Chronic multi-tasking is like a drug. We can become so addicted to the urgent that we simply have no time for the important. We may delude ourselves into thinking that we’ll make time later but later usually finds us feeling exhausted. If I asked you to describe the most important aspects of a happy and enjoyable life you would likely tell me family and health.
But what gets neglected first? Family and health both require time and a long-term investment. If you only invest in your relationship when things becomes urgent – when things begin to fall apart from the strain – you’re not really taking care of it. If you only make time for your children on special occasions or when pressured by your partner to do so, you’re not really there for them. If you only take care of your health when illness prompts a visit to the doctor’s office, you’re not really setting the stage for a long, healthy and vibrant life. I know many people who shifted gears and sought balance only when a crisis left no other option. I’ve known people who never got the chance because life ended when crisis struck. So how do we say no and to what? First, we need to decide what is important to us.
What’s our mission in this life experience? Once you decide, then you can look at what you’re doing and see if your behaviours are in harmony with what you deem important. It takes courage and self-awareness to stop what you’re doing and say no. To seek a better way. And sometimes, like a thundering freight train, it may take time for everything to eventually come to a halt. Take charge and prioritize. Sometimes it’s easier for us to feel overwhelmed rather than taking charge and developing a prioritized list of things that need to get done. To get started, literally sit down with paper and pen and figure out how many hours per day or week you spend in each area of your life. A great tool to use is the pie chart. Mark each slice of the pie with activities that fill your day. It may surprise you just how much time you’re investing and just where you’re investing it. Once you recognize an imbalance, start making plans to change it.
Beginning today, find ways to simplify your life. Learn to say no gracefully to unreasonable requests for your time. Get rid of the clutter and baggage in your house and in your life.
You need to find the right balance that works for you. Celebrate your successes and don’t dwell on your failures. Life is a process and so is striving for balance in your life.
“Happiness is not a matter of intensity,” wrote Thomas Merton, American Catholic writer and mystic, “but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.”
There are no quick-fixes to achieving balance. It will take work and dedication. To help with this shift, I urge you to consider the things that mean the most to you and allow them to form your foundation. Once you’ve laid the foundation, then make a commitment to consistently re-evaluate your current priorities based on your current circumstances. When you find balance, you’ll find happiness, and when you are happy, most everything else will eventually fall into place.
Murray Fuhrer is a self-esteem expert and facilitator. For more information on self-esteem, check the Extreme Esteem website at www.extremeesteem.ca.