As I type this article, attempting to balance my laptop on my knees while waiting for my next client, my mind wanders to one of those times in my life when I was happiest. I remember feeling that I had everything I needed and valued in my life. Could this be that often-elusive element, ‘balance’ that I recall?
Balance: to hold each of the important things in your life in equilibrium. That sounds easy enough. So why do so many of us fall off the balance beam? What I have learned over the past 10 or so years of talking to people about their lives and goals, is that many people don’t know or haven’t articulated what is important to them. Instead, many of us seem to know exactly what we don’t want, and how ‘unbalanced’ our lives can become, especially if we put all of our energy into just one area: often our work.
Successful people know that the key to success is what their thoughts create. One thought becomes a goal, plans form, excitement and momentum build, an opportunity arises, an action takes place, and that original thought becomes a reality.
Put simply, what you think is what you get. So, it makes sense then, that if we worry about the mountain of work on the desk, our stress level, or the three times this week we’ve cancelled personal dinner plans, not only will we feel dreadful, but we will create more unfinished work, stress and missed opportunities for spending time with loved ones.
Like all good business plans, the best way I know to achieve a feeling of balance in life is to start out by knowing what is important, firstly by identifying your values, and then by making your priorities and goals reflect those values, in work and play.
By doing this, you will be ensuring that your external world reflects your internal world, and you will live authentically. By living authentically, we avoid turmoil and stress and create richer experiences in life. Some funny things happen when we prioritise this way – productivity actually increases, along with motivation and creativity. We become more confident, more consistent and better leaders.
How to do this…
Start by making a list of 15 things you value, such as freedom, honesty or respect – from this, select your top five values. The top five can be easily written on a card, to carry with you as a reminder of what is important to you.
Elvis Presley said: “Values are like fingerprints. Nobodies are the same but you leave them all over everything you do.” Let your values, therefore, guide your decisions day by day, and it will seem everything just falls into place.
Next, reflect on your wants or goals for the many areas of your life, eg: career, ethics, family, health, home, love, recreational and spiritual pursuits, and write them down. Check these against your values list to make sure they are congruent.
Now, the fun part – start with your top three goals, and for each of them, visualise what your life will look like once you have achieved them. Go over the top and exaggerate here, you can have anything you want. A loving and supportive partner, regular playtime with your kids, the dream property, a deep sense of your faith…Now really feel what it is like with your life looking that way. The real connection comes with the feeling: “Visualise it, feel it, know you have it.”
Once you have that feeling of achievement, make your goals specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time frame. For example, I want to spend one hour of playtime with my kids for three days of this week. Build strategies to help you achieve your goals, and make them happen. For example, block out one hour in your diary on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday for playtime, and then turn up for playtime. That is the Action Step – live what is important to you, right now.
You are in control of your life as a whole. You create your circumstances with every decision you make.
Balance is simply a matter of knowing what you want and making decisions in alignment with what is important to you. By deciding what you want, and actively going for it, you can create your life exactly as you visualise it to be.
The following tips will help us to maintain our integrity and authenticity, and to make sure that ourselves and our priorities come first above all else:
- Schedule your non-business calendar first. If we compare our diary with our priorities, it often becomes clear that the two don’t match. Make them match. Business success doesn’t taste as sweet when everything else in life becomes the sacrifice for it.
- If you must cancel a personal appointment, reschedule it immediately and explain the reason honestly to maintain a strong relationship.
- Learn about the effects of stress and strategies to manage and minimise stress. Some are listed in this article.
- Set firm priorities and boundaries – learn to say no, even to yourself at times.
- Leave work at the office, or if working from home, stop at a set time and put unfinished tasks to tomorrow’s to-do list.
- Have enough hours of good quality sleep each night, eat well and be physically active,
- Maintain personal relationships based on truth – friends who let you get away with nothing are essential to authenticity.
- If you get it wrong despite your best intentions, forgive yourself, come back to your values and move on from there.