What Is Meant by a Balanced Life?
By now, most people will have heard of the concept of creating a balanced life. However, many people still struggle with it because they aren’t sure what a balanced life really means. Or, they might have some notion but don’t have the right strategies, tactics, and priorities straight.
In this short series, I will take a look at what a balanced life is and what practical action steps you can take to live life more holistically.
A balanced life is all about taking care of yourself in relation to body, mind and spirit. Balanced living means respecting yourself enough to care for yourself as needed. This can be through developing good work and health habits, making time for yourself, paying attention to stress management, and cherishing the relationships you have with friends, family and colleagues.
We’re all familiar by now with the negative effects of stress on our bodies such as indigestion, back ache, headache, and so on. A lack of stress will therefore promote health and well-being. Many people get stuck in the trap of caring for others most of the time. However, the truth is that you can’t take care of others effectively if you don’t first take care of yourself.
Part of taking care of yourself is through maintaining healthy, positive relationships. If you don’t have at least a couple of people you could turn to for help when the going gets tough, you need to cultivate more balanced relationships as well.
A balanced life is all about setting priorities and sticking to them. That is not to say that every single day must be completely balanced, but that you recognize something is being sacrificed in favor of a goal, and you’ll restore the balance as soon as you can.
For example, imagine you decided to go back to college to finish your degree to get a promotion at work or a better paying job with more benefits. The hours you would have to study each week until you completed your degree would have to be reallocated from your usual daily routine. You could sacrifice some sleep, but that can only last for so long before you start suffering from ill health. You might have to sacrifice some time with your children, but that can be difficult to explain to a toddler. You could also sacrifice time spent with family and friends, or your partner.
Discussing what would be involved in this life-changing decision can help people all be on the same page and not cause resentment, but it is important to understand from the outset that your work-life balance is going to change for X number of semesters until you graduate.
It is also important to note that not everyone might agree with your decision, which means it can be a balancing act within your relationships to keep everyone feeling happy and valued. Let’s look at how to nurture your relationships in the next article in the series.
How to Nurture Your Relationships
It’s all too easy to start neglecting relationships when we get busy at work or face other challenges such as starting our own business or going back to college. However, relationships of all sorts are an essential part of a balanced life. No man (or woman) is an island. Relationships help relieve stress, enable us to think more positively, and often provide the motivation to make the choices we do in life.
When we hear the word “relationship,” we tend to think of romance and a spouse or someone we are dating. However, while romance is important, cherishing long-standing family connections and close friendships can also provide balance in our lives without a whole host of (unfulfilled) expectations.
Family love should be unconditional. You care about each other and support each other no matter what the issues. Many people often find their mother or a sibling is their best friend they can confide in, who will back them up no matter what.
While it is true that some people have dysfunctional families, which trigger negativity and stress, it is also true that as we get older, we do have choices about how we wish to deal with our families. Distancing yourself from them might seem a good idea, but it also might be cutting yourself off from the very relationships that challenge you the most and help you grow.
If you’re like many people, you have some close friends you’ve known for years who have seen you through the good times and bad. Having a group of positive-minded people to discuss things with and share enjoyable activities with can help you rest and recharge your batteries so you can stay in balance.
Life partners give us love and help us feel valued and special when the relationship is going well. When it is strained, it can cause all sorts of issues that can even spill over into other areas of your life such as work, causing you to be distracted and not put in your best effort.
When you are living together, it can be all too easy to start taking each other for granted, until it is too late. A classic example would be the workaholic spouse who comes home at all hours, skips family dinners and the children’s sports days and concerts, and then wonders why his/her partner is filing for divorce.
The truth is that all relationships need to be cultivated like a delicate plant. You’ve already done the digging and planted the seed, but now you have to water it, give it food and sunlight, and generally show that you care what happens to it.
Of course, it does take two to maintain a good relationship. Sometimes you might feel you are doing all the hard work to keep things going and the other person is not doing their fair share. In that case, there is a perceived imbalance in the relationship that needs to be resolved.
How to Cherish Relationships
How can you cherish your relationships and keep them in balance? Here are some suggestions.
Take time to share every day
A few minutes of focused time each day can help keep the gas tank of a relationship full.
Share important information about your life with those who need to know
If you’re really stressed at work or are struggling to keep the checkbook balanced, confide the issue in someone who you trust, who can also contribute positive suggestions. Use them as a sounding board to come up with some action steps so you don’t feel trapped or waste all your time worrying when you could be doing something to improve your situation.
Be polite to everyone you care about. This might sound like a strange thing in the context of marriage, but studies have shown that partners who feel valued and respected are much more likely to give their relationship a fighting chance when times do get tough, as they will eventually.
Be honest but also considerate
There are ways to tell the truth that are constructive, and ways that are destructive. Being honest is important because it is really the only way to be true to yourself and live a balanced life. It is also the best way to ensure that people are honest with you, so you can maintain a meaningful relationship for years to come.
Learn to laugh more
Learn to laugh at yourself more and not take things too seriously. Take the time to laugh with friends and family to reduce stress and get more fun out of life.
Learn to support your partner emotionally
Marriage counsellor Gary Chapman has developed the theory of the Five Love Languages, in which he explains that everyone has a primary and secondary love language. No matter how loving you think you are being, the other person will never feel loved if their love language doesn’t match yours. Take the quiz at http://www.5lovelanguages.com/ and share your results with your partner. It could just open a whole new world of life balance and intimacy.
Share your goals and dreams
While it is true you are in a romantic relationship with someone, you don’t have to be clones of each other. You’re allowed to dream of a better job, bigger house, and so on. The important thing is to discuss it so everyone is on the same page about it being a priority.
Be able to forgive
There will come a time in every relationship, marital or otherwise, where we will have to forgive the other person for something they have done or failed to do. It can be difficult, especially if the person has let you down in a big way, such as being unfaithful or “borrowing” money from you but clearly having no intention of ever paying it back.
The important thing to remember is that forgiveness is a choice. And if you let go of grudges, your arms won’t be so full of baggage and you’ll be able to embrace all new possibilities.
No one is perfect. Admit your mistakes and apologize. This will create an atmosphere in which others will be willing to open up and do the same.
As we can see from these examples, balanced, happy relationships don’t just happen by chance, but are cultivated a little bit each day. The key to success in all these cases is to get your priorities right. Let’s look at this in more detail in the next article in the series.