We tend to underestimate how much maintaining balance contributes to living life successfully and productively. As a sports enthusiast I appreciate how sports are a metaphor for, or a microcosm of, life so you will find me making many comparisons and analogies. Take the example of an Olympic athlete. To get optimum results he/she must train for the event in the most efficient and productive manner possible because the margin of error in a sporting event is minuscule. You could win or lose in an Olympic event by a hair or one 1/100th of a second. Not a chance you would want to take.
When in training the athlete must have discipline and maintain a routine that includes the proper balance of sleep, good nutrition and exercise. He/she must also employ psychology to make sure that the necessary mindset or attitude is in place. Attitude and mindset are so important that they could make the difference between winning and losing. If any one of these components is missing, or out of balance, the athlete will not perform well.
We can take a valuable lesson from elite athletes who, by knowing how to balance their training routines, are able to function at optimum levels. A well balanced life is essential for personal effectiveness, peace of mind and living well. Whether we work, go to school or are retired, we all have responsibilities. There is always someone, or something, to answer to. There are things we want to do and things we must.
The challenge is to balance what we must do with what we enjoy and choose to do. This is not always easy. If, however, we are unable to reduce stress and manage a well balanced life there can be physical and/or emotional health consequences. We don’t have to adhere to the strict regimen an Olympic athlete would, but in order to function at our best, we definitely need to balance taking care of ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually. Focusing too much on any one facet catches up with us and leads to health problems in the neglected area.
For instance, if you were to exercise too much (hard to imagine) and not take time to rest and replenish, you would injure yourself. If you read, or do a disproportionate amount of mental work, your body would lack proper circulation and fitness level.
If you spend an enormous amount of time meditating, or relaxing, your brain waves slow down and you lack mental agility. Whenever you overdo it in any aspect of your life, you lose perspective and balance. As Aristotle said: “Moderation in all things.”
Take care of and nurture yourself.
You cannot accomplish anything if you’re unhealthy. Get plenty of rest, exercise and eat properly. Many of us think we can burn the candle at both ends, eat junk food, get very little exercise, and still function adequately. You may be able to get away with this for a while when you’re young, however, at some point, this life style catches up with the best of us. Burnout is a real possibility.
Keep your mind alert and in shape. As mentioned in the 10 Positive Habits To Develop , try to learn a new piece of information each day, even if it’s in conversation with your spouse and children at the dinner table.
Stay connected with family and friends. At the end of the day share with your spouse and children how the day went for each of you. We lead busy lives but we should never be too busy to connect with and make at least one phone call to a parent, sibling or friend during the day.
Do something spontaneous. Our lives can be too regimented at times so it’s a good idea to do something out of the ordinary every now and then. During your lunch one day go for a pedicure or massage. Take a drive in the countryside one afternoon. On the weekend go to a concert (rock, opera or symphony)
Make time for yourself. Each evening take time to unwind. If that means leaving the dishes overnight, so be it. Take a nice bath, read from the book you started, or listen to some soothing music. Ideally, set aside time each day for an activity that you enjoy, such as walking, working out or listening to music. Or, allow yourself to unwind after a hectic day by reading, meditating or taking a nice hot bath.
Know what your priorities are.
Balance does not entail cramming in every activity possible. Examine your values and decide what’s important to you; then set your boundaries. You may be in the process of building a career, starting a family or going to school. Depending on what stage you’re at in life, your focus and energies will be different. Avoid becoming overwhelmed by juggling too many big projects in your life at once. Maybe planning a wedding is not a good idea when you’re studying for the bar exam. Nor, is starting a family when you are unsure about your career direction, or relationship status. Not knowing what you want and trying to do everything at once can be a recipe for disaster instead of the road to leading a well balanced life. As the saying goes, “do not bite off more than you can chew”.
Create an efficient mindset.
Be organized and plan ahead. Take time at the beginning of each week to assess what needs to be done. Make a to-do list in a planner or calendar for upcoming appointments, impending exams. or meetings to attend. Be sure also to allow for recreation and quality time for yourself and your family. Taking the time to connect with family and friends will recharge your batteries and make you more efficient in the long run.
Expect the unexpected.
Rather than get stressed and upset, learn to roll with the punches when something over which you have no control happens. You could get stuck in traffic, your computer could crash, or your child could get sick with the chickenpox. Stuff happens. We’ve all experienced the unexpected. If you accept that anything can happen at any time, it’s less likely it throw you off your stride when it does. Be able to adjust your game plan.
Note also, that there are times when achieving balance may not be possible. For instance, you may have a family or career crisis that needs your immediate and undivided attention. It may require an exceptional amount of your time and resources. When that happens, do whatever it takes and when things go back to normal take time to refresh and rejuvenate yourself.
Maintain a positive mental attitude.
Begin each day with the intention of making the best and most of it. It may not always go as planned, but it can go more smoothly if you put it in perspective. Part of living a well-balanced life is learning how to deal with adversity, unforeseen events and uncertainty. If you practice not letting things get to you, you will not only learn to live a well balanced and less stressful life, you will learn to live in and savor the moment. Once you’ve done everything you can within your control, let your life unfold. Be prepared for the future, but don’t worry about it.
While we can’t anticipate and plan for everything in our lives, we can decide how, where and when to concentrate our energies. This may require some critical thinking and problem solving, but in the end it will lead to much less stress and a well balanced life.