Change doesn’t happen without intention.
We live in a busy society; sometimes it can seem like there just aren’t enough hours in the day. On top of that, we are trying to make everyone around us happy, which also takes time and energy. For instance, we take on those extra projects at work, sign our kids up for all kinds of extracurricular activities, we have to be at that dinner, or shower, or retirement party. Oh, and somewhere in there, we have to shower, sleep, grocery shop, eat, walk to the dog, and clean the house. I feel exhausted just writing about it. Phewf! I need a nap.
The problem is, when we live our lives this way, it leaves very little room for much else, and sometimes the things that get pushed aside are the very things that are most important in life. The way I see it, it is necessary to be selfish at times in order to create balance; we need to take the time to step back, reevaluate our values and goals, and then schedule the time to align our lives with what we discover. Finding balance doesn’t happen spontaneously, it takes intention. Change doesn’t happen without intention.
In finding the balance, the first step is to reflect, in order to gain the self-awareness and insight to see what exactly is unbalanced. This can be challenging to do, as it requires you to be honest with yourselves and acknowledge areas in your life that aren’t feeling as right as perhaps they once had. Check in with your feelings. Is there something that you used to love (e.g. a person, job, hobby), but now find yourself resenting? Do you have goals and are you working towards them? Do you feel like something’s missing? Do you feel out of touch with who you are as a person? Taking a hard look at the bigger picture can help you gain perspective.
What could make it better?
Once you determine what doesn’t feel right, you need to uncover what would make it right. This requires us to check in with our personal values. A value is something that we highly regard as being important and meaningful in our lives. Different people value different things, the list is infinite but to name a few: family, career, free time, friendship, love, financial gain, creativity, ambition, and integrity. To help with this, consider a time in your life that you felt more balanced, and think about how you were spending your time. Looking back can sometimes be an insightful way of understanding what we need or want for our future.
What’s stopping you?
Consider what’s getting in the way. Change will be incredibly difficult if you don’t understand what’s holding you back. I could go on and on about this section, so know that this only scratches the surface; I’m being concise.
A common barrier to change is fear; perhaps fear is keeping you stuck in an unbalanced cycle. This could be a fear of different things, but one that I regularly encounter is a fear of failure, or better put, of perceived failure. When thinking of introducing more of something into your life to create balance (e.g. more quality time with friends/family), that means something else has got to give. When something else gives (e.g. like hours spent at work), it may feel like you are sacrificing the part of yourself that you view as successful; hence, feelings of failure. If a fear of perceived failure is a factor, reconsidering your definition of success may be helpful, and reflecting on your discovered values may help you to redefine it.
Another common barrier to change is the fear of others’ perceptions. Maybe it’s a worry that you will be seen as a failure by friends and family. Or that you are letting someone down if you start saying no to extra work hours or social invitations. If so, why does this matter so much to you? Insert more reflection. Don’t let others’ hypothetical thoughts dictate how you live your life. Besides, you’re not a mind reader, and have no idea what others are thinking anyways!
How can you implement change?
At this point, you’ve considered what you need more and less of in your life and have a better understanding of what’s been getting in the way, so now it’s time to start actively changing. During this process, it’s important to keep in mind that finding balance does not mean giving up important parts of yourself, it just means that you’re setting boundaries around your time and your values in order to make space for it all.
Boundary setting is how to implement balance; this requires you to draw the line and practice assertiveness. There are two types of boundaries: Yes Boundaries and No Boundaries. Yes Boundaries requires you to take, ask for, or accept new opportunities, such as taking that lunch break, asking for help, delegating, or saying yes to that much needed social event. No Boundaries are just that, saying no when it’s too much, like declining overtime or that undesired holiday party. Boundary setting can be challenging to implement, but with practice, it does gets easier.
In fact, this entire process is not easy. Change is not easy. Sometimes a way to help facilitate change is to talk it out with a therapist. Whether it’s exploring your values, identifying the barriers, figuring out where to draw that line, or working on assertiveness, we can help!
Overall, Finding Balance is about prioritizing your life. When you look back over your life in twenty years, will you see fulfillment or regret? People often tell me that there is simply no time to create balance; I challenge this by saying that the most important time in your life to make time, is when you feel like you have no time.
Written for you, by therapists.
NWO’s source for all things relationships, mental health, wellness, and lifestyle: Kelly Magazine is a mental health outreach initiative created by Kelly Mental Health and supported by Kelly Mental Health Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the community in the area of mental health.
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