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Inside Soul-Searching

How to Find Balance in Life

It will come as no surprise to most of you, that I believe we were all put on this earth for a reason. With that comes a responsibility to be doing our very best at life – not just surviving but thriving. Cliche? Maybe.

For me, a big part of ‘doing life well’ involves regular self-evaluation. Don’t we all need a little ‘life adjustment’ every now and again?

A new year signals a brand new chapter and I love it – the perfect time to take stock. At the beginning of January, I like to spend some time unravelling the previous 365 days and this leads me to make plans for the coming year.

For the last 6 years, I’ve been picking a word to shape the year ahead; in January 2018, the word I chose was ‘Balance’.

Balance is something I had been lacking for some time

One of the downsides to wanting to live life to the full, is that I regularly take on too much. This can come in many guises…

  1. I enjoy meeting people and love to make new friends (contrary to popular belief, you CAN have too many)
  2. I have a habit of trying out new hobbies (who knows when I might find my ‘thing’?)
  3. The Strengths Finders test identified ‘responsibility’ as one of my key strengths (need I say more?).

As a result, I regularly wind up exhausted and a little bit overwhelmed, which forces me to stop. This year I wanted to finally get a handle on this rather predictable ‘hamster wheel’ I was on, by creating some balance.

I wouldn’t go as far to say that I am now sorted (whoever is?) but I’ve definitely learnt some valuable lessons this year regarding balance, which I think might be worth sharing…

how to find balance in life

1. Creating margin is vital

Partway through 2018, I realised that my life was full. Before you say it, I know that ‘living life to the full’ is my goal but I had absolutely zero margin. Without margin there’s no room for spontaneity, helping someone in need or time to rest when the going gets tough.

I wasn’t feeling overwhelmed, I simply knew that I needed to make some room. As a consequence, I decided to hand my notice in at one of the three jobs I was juggling. Admittedly, it was a volunteer role but it was one I had been committed to for the previous three years.

Creating this space back in April, enabled me to say ‘yes’ to something else that has absolutely enhanced my life this year – volunteering as a Crisis Counsellor on a text line. Had that email come in when my life was so full, it would have been a ‘no’ and what a shame that would have been. Trust your gut people!

2. Put yourself first sometimes

I started to realise the importance of this back in 2016 but there was always an unhealthy side order of guilt to go with it. By pushing myself to do it regularly this year, I have truly learnt the value and importance of putting myself first (sometimes) and now understand how key it is to finding balance.

I regularly say ‘no’ to things that I know will be too much, I have quit that annoying habit of overloading the diary and if sleep is needed, emptying the dishwasher can definitely wait until the morning (or maybe a teenager can do it whilst I’m putting my feet up with a cup of tea ?).

3. There is such a thing as too many good intentions

At the beginning of the year, I sat down to consider what my life might look like with more balance. I was so enthusiastic that I started writing some plans for how I was going to achieve this new life of mine. Don’t get me wrong, they were all perfectly legitimate goals – yoga three times a week, a date night every month, not checking emails on my day off – there were just far too many of them.

I soon realised how important it is to be realistic and that by setting too many challenges, the point is lost. How can you have balance when you’re under so much pressure?!

This leads me nicely on to number 4…

4. Regular re-evaluation is necessary

Come April, I had realised that my intentions were simply not achievable; in fact I was creating more unrest by feeling guilt over giving up on half the goals so early on!

I therefore took stock and paired down the list to something that was much more manageable and it still did the job.

5. What other people think, is none of my business

Probably due to ‘responsibility’ being one of my key strengths, I care about what other people think. I don’t like letting people down and on occasion, this has caused me to say ‘yes’ to things that I probably shouldn’t.

This year I’ve got quite used to saying ‘no’ and have forced myself to step away when deep down I know that I need to. What I’ve come to realise, is that no one really needs to know the detail of what is behind my decision, sometimes I simply have to do it, regardless of what others might think.

6. Create new habits and drop old ones

Discipline has been really key for me in finding balance. It’s all well and good coming up with ideas but if you haven’t got discipline then none of them will stick. I’ve found this easier with some habits than others, so whilst I’ve kind of given up on the ‘yoga three times a week’ initiative, I have incorporated a Body Balance class into my routine every week and I only miss it under exceptional circumstances.

The other new habit that I have started (and stuck with), is not taking my phone out on dog walks. My phone usage is something that I knew would need to be addressed if I was seeking more balance and as a dog walk is part of my daily routine, it works well. It allows me time and space to be present, even if only for the best part of 40 minutes.

7. Cut yourself some slack

One thing I have almost managed to achieve this year, is eradicating the word ‘should’ from my vocabulary. Being the responsible adult that I am, it pops out on occasion but for years it’s had far too great an importance in my life. I’m pretty keen to erase it altogether in 2019, so watch this space!

I’m human so from time to time, my balance still goes a bit wonky. The difference is, I now recognise it almost immediately, make a few adjustments then get right back on track.

How’s your ‘life balance’? Is it something you need to address in 2019?

Inside, Outside & Beyond

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9 COMMENTS

  • Nipa

    Absolutely!!! I was just thinking about my resolutions from last year; there was one that became irrelevant (guitar) another that took up more of my time than I expected (my blog) and one that I now see as a necessity (yoga three times a week). I think we sometimes see balance as this versus that, but it really is more complex. Now I realize that every little change affects everything else I.e. giving up guitar lessons gave me more time for my blog, but all that sitting around threw off my posture. So my conclusion is to constantly look for balance.

    Nipa

  • Plutonium Sox

    I love reading these sorts of posts from you because they always make me think. You are very good at reflection and self-awareness. I have definitely drifted through life not quite sure what would make me happy, until I started chucking myself in a river once or twice a week. It turns out that’s my thing. I totally agree about putting yourself first and cutting yourself some slack, those are some of the hardest things to do but make a really big difference.
    Nat.x

  • Gail

    Love this Suzanne, and I’m glad you’ve got a bit closer to feeling balanced. It’s amazing that you fill what extra space you have with voluntary work, you’re inspirational! Wishing you every happiness in 2019 and beyond. xx

  • Kerri-Ann

    What a lovely post Suzanne. I agree with so much of what you have written. I have learnt so much this year and you have inspired me to write something similar. I think a little ‘life adjustment’ and ‘assessment’ is exactly what we all need, there’s no shame in admitting when something isn’t working or needing adjusting.

  • BLEKE

    Suzanne,

    Welcome back to blogland!
    Nipa has made a good point about the complexity of achieving balance: in life, there are all sorts of connections (many of them far from obvious), so you cannot change just one thing. You can dress that up by calling it “The Law of Unintended Consequences”. However, we shouldn’t [!] allow this to become an excuse for not trying to change situations that we need to change.

  • Sarah MumofThree World

    It sounds like you’ve made some very good progress with this. I’m always impressed by the way you plan this stuff and think about it and it’s obviously working for you. I know I’m still doing too much with driving the kids around, but I can’t see any way out of it for the foreseeable future.

  • I love that quote in the pink box that you shared. I’ve got better at saying ‘no’ to things this year for sure and I feel better for only saying yes to things that are truly important to me. A friend once said to me that “balance is a unicorn” (ie: it doesn’t exist!) and I have to admit I kind of agree. Life will never be perfectly balanced all the time because there are always going to be waves that rock the boat (some fun ones and some not-so-fun ones). Like you said I think the key is recognising when you’re about to wobble and catching yourself in time. I know this year has been a tough one for you and your family and I’m so glad that you are mostly managing to stay positive and hopeful. I know we’ve never met in person (fingers crossed that can still happen in January as we’ve arranged!) – I have a feeling we are very similar and will be good friends (if that doesn’t sound too weird!).

  • Some really lovely thoughts here Suzanne and many I can identify with but my all time favourite is saying NO. I am not sure whether it is a midlife thing or just purely circumstantial but I have made that my mantra this year – if it doesn’t tick my box and I don’t want to do it then I just don’t. We are all so guilty as mothers at taking on too much and like you say even the volunteering is an overload sometimes. So glad you have found your focus for 2019. Look forward to reading about your progress. Wishing you and your family the happiest of New Year celebrations! x

    • Suzanne W
      AUTHOR

      Thank you Jo. I think you and I have a lot in common! Happy New Year to you all too. xx

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