5/30/2014 2 Comments
BALANCE. It’s a word that's used often in our culture. Many of us are constantly seeking it. But what does it actually mean?
What would it feel like to live a balanced life? What would you do if you could free up just one hour each day to focus on yourself?
It is possible. Life feels better when you strategically align the life you live with the person you are becoming.
Living an authentic life leads to a balanced life.
In September 2012 the New York Times ran a story on straightening out the work-life balance, When the Work-Life Scales Are Unequal. Many of us work 40-60 hours per week (or more) and that doesn't include the work of parenting or personal and family commitments.
I've come to believe that “work-life balance” is a myth. Think about it, is your work really not a part of your life? It may not feel like it, but the reality is you are living your life (although maybe unconsciously) while you are working.
I used to think that balance was something you found and then life was good from that point on. Now I know better. Finding and maintaining balance in your life is a dynamic process…balancing.
What feels balanced to you in this moment may not feel as balanced one week from now. The process of balancing requires many subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, shifts in our internal and external world.
It's like practicing the tree pose in yoga. It looks like you're perfectly balanced and yet there are many tiny movements and adjustments required to maintain the pose (Unfamiliar with tree pose? Learn more with this 2 minute video from Yoga Journal). Take a minute to attempt the pose - you'll see what I mean.
Now I use the term life balancing. It's not something that will magically happen. I work daily to create habits and rituals that support balancing my life. It takes some time and effort but the return on investment is Big (yes, with a capital B).
Here are 3 things that are helping me to move towards feeling a greater sense of balance in daily life:
1. Set the intention. When I deliberately focus on cultivating balance in my life, the conditions that allow me to feel more balanced seem to appear. Energy follows your attention. When you are paying attention to how much balance you sense in your life, it raises your awareness and helps you to know if you're on track. Remember as you pay attention to be kind to yourself in the process. What you learn will help you to know what may need to change to create more balance and harmony in your life.
2. What is my vision for my life? Asking this question regularly has helped me clarify what it is I'm wanting out of life. The focus is not just on what I want to do. It includes how I want to be; how I want to show up in the world. Having a clear vision helps me in making decisions that support and move me in the direction of my vision.
3. Practice making decisions and maintaining healthy boundaries. Fear of making the wrong decision has paralyzed me at times...leading to no decision and inaction. This only creates more stress and throws you way out of any sense of balance you may have had.
I have learned that not making a decision is passive action; you are allowing someone else to determine what happens rather than stepping up to lead your life.
This lesson has been invaluable. I now practice making more decisions, giving myself permission to make a mistake knowing that it's an opportunity for learning...not the end of the world.
I also practice saying, "No" more often. This is simple and yet it feels so hard. I've recognized there are times when I don't say no because of fear of disappointing others or wanting to avoid conflict. I now ask myself if taking on a new commitment, responsibility, or task will move me closer to my vision or away from my vision. This has helped tremendously in being able to clearly say no without feeling guilty about that response.
Life balancing is a key component to thriving. And, it is possible.
Health and well-being are not simply the absence of disease. Love, joy, energy and a sense of purpose are some of the ways I define well-being, along with creating enough space in my life to show up and be fully present with the experiences I am having. This is my motivation for balancing my life.
I'm interested in hearing what gets in your way of balancing your life and what's helped you to overcome those obstacles. Leave a comment below.
Ah, the dreaded to-do list.
I created them all the time. On post-its, little scraps of paper, or sometimes in my planner (depending on which one I was using this week).
You can spend an awful lot of time creating lists and yet, nothing seems to get done. Or at least that's the way it feels.
When the to-do list is long or filled with unpleasant tasks, it's easy to feel a sense of overwhelm. You feel stuck. There's no way it will all get done. You could waste a lot of time worrying; or, you can regroup and create a new game plan.
Consider the following 5 practices to help you regain a sense of control and be more productive.
1. Breathing. No, this doesn't require any deep breaths or other breathing exercises. It is simply paying attention to the natural rhythm of your own breathing.
When we feel overwhelmed, it is often accompanied by anxiety. This leads to more shallow, rapid breaths. It's almost like we're holding our breath, literally afraid to exhale. Tuning in to the rhythm of your breathing connects your mind with your body and launches a calming process within your body.
Try it now: simply notice the place where you can feel your breath the most - maybe as the air enters and exits your nostrils, or as it moves across your slightly parted lips; you may feel it best at the back of the throat or just sense the movement of your chest or rise and fall of your belly with each breath.
Now, pause for a moment to notice how you feel. Are you feeling calmer? More relaxed? Breathing slower? It's just that easy. You just have to remember to breathe. Practice noticing your breath the next time you're feeling overwhelmed and watch what happens.
2. Making Decisions. When you're hanging out in the land of overwhelm, it's hard to know what to do next. And that can make it hard to know what to do when you reach a choice-point.
When you avoid or delay making decisions it stalls your progress and keeps you stuck. I remind the busy professional women that I work with that indecision is actually a decision. You are giving up your control to someone else (anyone else).
It is common to hesitate making decisions for fear of making a mistake, or disappointing someone. But, once you become more familiar with making decisions, you will feel more comfortable with the process.
Start with small decisions that are low risk. What are you going to have for dinner? What time are you going to go to bed tonight (yes, it's important to have a scheduled bed time; more on that in a future blog post)?
Even when you feel you need more information to make a decision, decide when you're going to make the decision (I learned this from my amazing coach, Christine Kane - thanks Christine!).
3. Taking imperfect action. This is another one I can thank Christine for (one of the many benefits of having a coach).
For those of us who consider ourselves perfectionists, it can serve to paralyze us. We either spend an excessive (and unnecessary) amount of time on a task or we delay starting it or completing it because we're waiting for it to be perfect.
Once you decide what needs to get done, breathe, and take action. It doesn't have to be perfect. Most of life is an iterative process. And, the side benefit is when you take imperfect action, you learn and grow while moving forward towards meeting your goal.
4. Celebrating your successes. Especially the little things...these often get completely overlooked.
I know for me, I would sometimes spend so much time focused on all that had to get done, that I couldn't see how much I'd actually accomplished.
I'll let you in on a little secret. Okay, are you ready? You can't get everything done. And, everything that is on your list, probably doesn't need to be there (again, that's for a future post).
Take a few moments at the end of each day, to write down what you accomplished. Include things that involved making time to take care of yourself (exercising, preparing a healthy meal, taking a warm bath). Now, celebrate by giving yourself a pat on the back. Say, "I'm proud that I accomplished "x" today.
Making this practice a regular part of your daily routine will help to boost your confidence and fuel your energy to take action on what needs to get done.
5. Correcting course. This one has been one of the hardest for me, personally. I would often find myself stuck because I was unwilling to admit that the plan I created is no longer working and needs to be changed.
There are times when I'm in the car using Waze to navigate to my destination when I'll hear a little sound followed by a swirling circle as the program indicates it's "recalculating". Our lives are the same way.
There will be times when we make a poor decision or head down the wrong road. But fortunately we have the capacity to recalculate - reassess where you are - determine your destination (it may be a new one) - and re-chart your course.
Practicing the 5 strategies above will serve you well when you're feeling stuck. Consider ways to trigger your memory to use these tools when you most need them. Print them out and post them on the refrigerator. Or, set a reminder to pop-up with one or more of the practices listed.
I hope you find them helpful you pivot as you get unstuck and move forward (while breathing a little easier). Let me know how the practices help you and what tips you have for remembering to use them.
Leave a comment below.
Are you leading your life or is life leading you? This was the question posed by my coach, Christine Kane at an intensive three day retreat.
Hmm...I'd never been asked that question before. My mind automatically replied with, "of course you're leading your life; who else would?" My heart responded, "everyone else will lead your life if you don't step up to do it."
Wow! I didn't expect that and yet the thought stayed with me throughout the three days and beyond. I realized that I had turned over the reigns to others long ago. When was the last time that I felt like I was charting my own course? There was no immediate answer.
Coach Kane urged us to - Be the C.E.O. of Y.O.U.! But how?
I've spent some time reflecting on this question since the retreat (I celebrated a birthday last week which prompted more active reflection too; milestones like this are a great time for reflection). So, here I am looking at the road ahead and asking, "where do I want to go?"
Simply asking the question is empowering. Here are 5 key elements I've found to help me figure out how to show up as the leader in my own life:
You can step up from wherever you are to lead your life. It takes courage and heart. Find support. Ask for help. And most importantly, trust in your own ability to show up for your life.
Share one thing you plan to do to step into leading your life. We'll hold space and cheer you on!
"Life has become too busy. I need to slow down." I heard myself silently repeat these words all too often throughout my week. Each time I said them, I acknowledged that something needed to change, yet nothing did.
As I sat down for the umpteenth time to create a plan to better manage my time, I had a revelation. I am the common denominator throughout the periods of busyness.
I realized I didn't need another time management system to learn. I needed to learn the art of self-management.
While I said my intention was to slow down and create more space in my life, I continued to take on new projects, volunteer for tasks and committees, etc.
The question I really needed to answer: "Why was I (sometimes unconsciously, sometimes not) keeping myself so busy?"
As I reflected on this question in my meditation, I started to notice how uncomfortable I was with "down time". Even when there were no deadlines to meet, I found myself on my laptop checking email, researching ideas, and surfing the net. It would be one thing if this activity led to greater productivity and results; unfortunately, that wasn't generally the case.
When I wasn't busy, there was a sense of dis-ease as difficult emotions emerged: sadness, loneliness, and disappointment just to name a few. Working had become a convenient excuse to avoid dealing with these feelings.
Once I recognized and accepted this truth, I had a choice: continue to do things the way I always had and get the same results; OR do something different. I decided to do the latter.
So, how do you both slow down AND manage the difficult emotions that arise?
It's important for you to open your heart and mind in this process. Be gentle with yourself. When you prioritize taking care of you, your life shifts in positive and unexpected ways. And you give others permission to do the same as you model being present for your life. This is the key to balancing your life.
Your loved ones will thank you.
Your future self will thank you.
Leave a comment below and let me know what helps you to slow down.
Uplifting Women in Medicine