Finding Balance in a 24/7 World

Thursday, May 14, 2015

It was only after I quit my full time job to focus on simplify our lifestyle, and finding a sense of balance, much-needed when dealing with chronic illness, that I discovered that I had been zooming on empty. One day I was so exhausted that I simply couldn’t get off the couch. I was an over-achiever; I could push myself up off the couch. I had done that over and over again. This time, however, I couldn’t. I realized that I was in the middle of a major case of emotional, physical, and mental burn out.

Not the Only One

As I contemplated the fact that I had to find a different way of living, several friends and acquaintances hit the same wall. All of them were high-powered super-achieving women who suddenly crashed. What we all have in common is that even down time, isn’t down time. Suddenly I realized I had no clue what balance even looked like. How was I going to get some balance into my life?

What is Balance?

I started by asking myself what balance was for me. To me, balance is being in alignment with my values; employing my strengths within my personal life, my business and my community; spending time with the people who support me and I them; living in a positive nurturing environment; and  spending time creating and exploring.

Over the last six months I have spent a lot of time figuring out how to find some balance. Here are some things I learned.

1    Discover your values. There are a lot of values clarification “tests” out there. My favorite came from the book Fearless Living by Rhonda Britten.  I am simplifying her version for this blog. First, list five people you admire, then make a list of all of the possible adjectives you would use to describe them.  From this list of adjectives, pick the top five to seven that “speak” to you. These are your “core values.” Then you cut it down to one. Britten calls this your “driver.” It is your prime motivator. Once you have a feeling for your values, you can decide what you are doing that does not nurture your values. One of my core values is health. Running on empty was definitely not nurturing my core values. Oops!

2      Learn to say NO!! For some this is very easy. For others, not so much. I am not so good at saying NO. When I was at the BEP Foundation I had a co-worker who tried very hard to get me to say no. That was almost six years ago, and I am just now catching on. What can I say, I’m a doer. I love to do for family. For friends. For work. For community organizations. But, I have finally learned I can “do” myself to death. Time to say “no” to some things and do for me. I finally understand about how you have to care for yourself before you care for others.

3    Discover your strengths. I was lucky enough to meet and hear Marcus Buckingham talk about working from your strengths. Then I took a class based on his Strengths Finder 2.0 test. There are two things that we are taught in most business (and even personal) environments that Buckingham goes against. First, we are constantly taught to try to work on improving our weaknesses. Second, We are told that our strengths are those things we do well. Buckingham disagrees. In his book, The Truth About You, he states that our strengths are those things we do well that we love to do. Those things that energize us. Often we do something well, but it drain us. This is not a strength. Focus on building a life based on your strengths.

4    Learn about your personality. There are all kinds of personality tests. I prefer the Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator. I think it offers a more in depth assessment because there are 16 different variables. Many businesses use the DISCPersonality Indicator. I find that this test can vary every time you take it. Whichever test you take, keep in mind that this is not “how you are, period.” These test are meant to help you understand how you think and act differently from others. For example, my Myers-Briggs type is very rare. Only 1.3% of the world’s population manifests my personality type. Learning this did help me to understand why lots of people think I am weird. I do think a bit differently from others. By taking these tests, I have learned to compensate for my “weirdness.”

5    Purg Your Belongings. We are drowning in stuff. Our stuff sucks up energy and time. I recently picked up a book called The LifeChanging Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I started to follow her tidying methods and within a day I felt my energy level increase. While I couldn’t do things exactly as she suggests, I did start tidying by category, purging those items that give me no joy. I have only gotten through one twelfth of my junk, and I have given away or sold about 10 extra large garbage bags of stuff. One of Kondo’s clients purged 200 extra large garbage bags of belongings, keeping only what she and her family loved. They had more time, more energy and because of that, new positive opportunities opened to them.

6    Try something beyond your comfort zone. Get out of your rut!! When I was coordinating a youth leadership development program, I made all the kids push past their comfort zones. And they held me to the same standards. I touched a snake (and I HATE snakes) and I flew 60 feet in the air in the Flying Squirrel (I have a fear of heights). I was so proud of them and myself, I began to try new things every month. I have since that time done everything from take a Polar Bear plunge in 32 degree water to celebrate the new year to going up in a hot air balloon. Oh, and I flew in a bi-plane (like Snoopy). Oh, The Places You’ll Go (as Dr. Seuss’ book title states). Your self-confidence increases when you take a chance.

7    Turn off the cell phone. Get away from the laptop. Put down the remote control. Take out the ear buds. Need I really say more? Take some time to be quite, unplugged and just BE. And move! Go for a walk in the woods. See new things.

8    Do something creative or just a bit strange. It doesn’t matter if you are great at it. We are creative creatures. We need to make things. Dance. Sing under a rainbow. Laugh in the snow. Look at the stars. Howl at the moon.

      Everyone Has To Make Their Own Journey

      I have been following my own advice, a little at a time. It is a journey. A sense of balance is on the horizon.

      My journey to a more balanced life will not be yours, because what I do to find balance using these eight general concepts will be very different from what you do. Who you are, your stage of life, and your personal history will all color your journey, but just keep trucking. You’ll find your way.

Photo: FreeDigitalPhotos (ponsuwan)