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…
- I enjoy meeting people and love to make new friends (contrary to popular belief, you CAN have too many)
- I have a habit of trying out new hobbies (who knows when I might find my ‘thing’?)
- 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…
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?