Part 3 of the Series
Many people live with daily frustration unable to manage some or all of the dimensions of Wheel of Life effectively. They are anxious, troubled and often angry at the relentless passage of time that is insensitive to their wishes, demands, frustrations and goals.
Many of these people feel stuck, have given up, or have settled, thinking, this is just the way it is, and has to be. They see themselves as a pawn to the demands and expectations to one or more areas of their life therefore, robbing themselves of the pleasure and happiness that is available to everyone who has learned to live with balance.
These people are out of balance, and they know it. They are puppets on a string waiting for the next tug that pulls them this way or that. They feel like their life is out of control. They feel stuck. They see themselves with very few options. They don’t realize that the choices they make, or have made in the past, determine their next options. Poor choices in the present result in fewer future options. Yes, we all, always have choices, but if these choices are made with a narrow vision of what can be, an unclear picture of reality, or clouded perceptions and interpretations of people and circumstances, they will always be made with limited resources and understanding.
These people remain stuck. Some have moved on in some area of their life, but they still feel unable to shed the feelings of anxiety that there is more to do, more to become, more to have, and more to learn, and not enough time to do it.
There are several major areas in a person’s life that demand a portion of their available time. They are: family, career or business, social, personal development, spiritual development, physical development, personal interests or hobbies, friends, misc. social activities, and let’s not forget time to sleep and eat.
Is it possible to live a balanced life? Is it possible to satisfy the expectations either from ourselves or the outside world, on how we should be using our time? Is it possible to have it all? Become it all? Do it all? See it all? Learn it all? Read it all? No, it’s not that kind of world.
So we are back to choosing. How each of us chooses to use or spend our time is a very individual matter. Juggling the expectations of a boss, customers, a spouse, children, parents, friends, siblings, and the world in general is a difficult and delicate task at best. No one has an answer, or easy formula to this very difficult life issue. You will not find an answer in this article. What I hope you will find, however is some insight or self-discovery as to why you are feeling as you are and the courage to modify any behavior or attitudes that are sabotaging one or several areas of your life.
You may have noticed that when one area of your life is out of harmony or balance that it impacts every other area as well. When you are devoting too much time (and only you know what is too much) to your career, every other aspect of your life is impacted. Every aspect of your life is intricately entwined with every other area. If you choose to devote no time to your personal growth, you will lack skill, understanding or wisdom that could contribute positively to some other aspect of your life. By the same token, if you spend time regularly relaxing or meditating, it could help you find the patience or calmness that you will bring to your career or family issues.
Why do people get out of balance?
There are a number of causes that include but are not limited to:
Unrealistic goals or a lack of goals, lack of planning, a need for approval and/or acceptance, inadequate personal growth, over estimation of abilities or skills, the inability to say no, the desire to please, lack of discipline, arrogance, greed, insensitivity, lack of spiritual development, un-managed ambition, the need for power, un-checked egos, lack of commitment and a lack of congruence or integrity. It’s a hefty list. I would guess that everyone who is out of balance in their life is guilty of several of these. However, it only takes one.
Being out of balance in life doesn’t feel good. We often feel like the special people in our lives are being cheated. What you might not realize is that you may from time to time cheat your children, friends or a spouse, but you are always cheating yourself when no matter where you are, who you are with or what you are doing, you wish you were with someone else or doing something else.
Life is lived in the present, one moment at a time. It is not lived yesterday or tomorrow, but now. Every time you make a decision to spend time in a certain way, like passing time reading this article, you have eliminated all other choices of time use now. Once you decide to go to a movie, you have eliminated the options of dinner, dancing, golf and so on. Once you decide to work late you have chosen to sacrifice something else. I don’t mean to be funny, but you can’t be in two places at once. You can’t be on vacation and at work too, although many people try. Once you choose one restaurant for dinner you have eliminated all others for that meal.
People need to understand that they have choices, and that the choices they make and the consequences that come with them are a part of the bargain. Frustration sometimes sneaks into people’s lives when they believe it is possible to break the rules and have it all, do it all or become it all.
You chose your career and life path. You chose your current relationship. You chose your current circumstances by the previous choices you have made. You made them for you. Even if you are in a career that was chosen for you by your parents (and that happens less and less today, than years ago) you have chosen to stay in it even if you are unhappy. You have given the power in your life over to someone else.
If you rationalize that you have to work eighty hours a week and weekends because your boss or organization expects it, you have given up your power to someone else. Then you might say, but I need this job or career. I need the money. No, you have chosen to need it. You could have chosen a different more modest lifestyle that would have required less income. You may feel like you are stuck in a relationship emotionally, physically or financially. Again I doubt that anyone forced you into it. You may have gone into it with closed eyes, but you chose to keep your eyes closed. Like it or not in every situation in life you are where you are because of your choices. Want a better life? Make different choices.
I would like to share a few ideas with you that may help you put balance back into your life, so that you can find time for the people and goals in your life that are possibly being shortchanged, including yourself.
*- Spend some quiet time reflecting on the quality of your life in general. Not just a single area, but consider every aspect, and the relationship of each to your overall life.
*- Make a list of all the areas or people in your life that are coming up short and why.
*- Determine which area of your life is getting most of your time and energy, and which is getting the least. Ask yourself why. Is the gain in one area worth paying the price of a loss in another area? Only you can answer that question, and only you will pay the price or enjoy the rewards.
*- Write a note to yourself about how you would like your life to look like, six months from now. Describe in detail how you spend your time, and what proportions of time are dedicated to the various activities and people in your life.
*- Give yourself at least thirty minutes a day for the next thirty days to reflect on your overall life goals and your progress toward them.
*- Write a personal mission statement. Include your life philosophy, guiding principles, desired outcomes and overall direction you want your life to take.
*- Move ahead mentally to age 70. What have you accomplished? What do your relationships look like? Who have you become and what is important to you? Now work backwards. What do you need to change now to get where you say you want to be. Remember, you change the quality of your future in the present.
*- Ask several people who know you well, and will be honest and non judgmental, to offer some feedback on your life and its direction. Listen and learn with an open and receptive attitude. You may not change because of the feedback they give you, but the insight you gain can give you some ideas that could be life changing.
*- Take a few days off from your job, career and/or current relationships. Spend time in a place that you are at peace and alone. It could be the beach, the mountains or anywhere where you can spend quality time with yourself evaluating your life without the distractions and expectations of others. Go with no agenda other than self-discovery.
*- If you do not keep a journal of your thoughts, lessons learned, life progress, feelings, interests, or observations, start one today. Take a few minutes at the end of each day recording whatever you feel in some way contributed to who you are, how you feel, and who you are becoming.
*- Develop an action plan to begin to re-allocate your time and energy to those people or activities that are important to you.
*- It isn’t necessary to sell your business, quit your job or end a relationship to find better balance in your life. It requires a conscious awareness of what your life is really like, a desire to modify it in some way, the courage to change, the necessary skills and the commitment to stick with it.
*- Learn to detach from other people’s emotional and or physical hold over you. It will not be easy. There will be people who use blame, guilt, manipulation or any number of emotional or physical techniques to keep you stuck in past behavior or thought patterns. They will know how to push your buttons hoping to control you in some way. When you permit others to manipulate you in any way, you give them power over your life. Detachment means letting go of the hold other people have over you. You can still love them and want to be with them, but you no longer have to be a slave to their “stuff.”
*- Don’t try and change everything over-night. It takes time to change attitudes and behavior that have developed over the years. Be patient and loving with yourself. But you must also hold yourself accountable. Letting yourself off the hook or making excuses will not put you on the road back to a balanced life.
*- Reward your successes. Treat yourself when you achieve a “worked for” result. Make it something symbolic or significant, but whatever it is make sure you take time to bask in the sunshine of success. Then begin again. Don’t spend too much time basking, or you may fall back into your old habits. Change, permanent change requires vigilance and persistence. You can’t let up until you have achieved total and permanent success. It will always be possible to fall back, so even though you have reached your goal, don’t become too casual or relaxed. There will be new people and circumstances lurking in the shadows for a vulnerable moment. Be watchful.
None of these steps may be easy. Only you can decide if the potential outcome of more balance and inner peace are worth the price that must be paid. Don’t change because of guilt, other people’s expectations, or some casual or superficial whim. If you like working seventy hours a week and seeing your kids once a month for a few hours. Fine! If you want to change, that’s fine too. But do it for healthy emotional or physical reasons not ego-driven motives.
Some final thoughts.
Total balance in life is an ideal. There will always be times when you may be temporarily out of balance devoting extra time to a new career, project, relationship or activity. This is healthy and normal; however be on the lookout that these times don’t stretch into years or decades. It is then that you may end up paying the heavy price of regret in one area of your life. Regret weighs tons, but the daily discipline of change weighs only ounces.
If you have paid any attention to the reasons why your life is out of balance or the steps that I have suggested above to balancing your Wheel of Life, you should have realized that most of the discussion is pointing to the concepts of Self-awareness that we talked about in the earlier articles of this series. The troubles that you are facing in your life are a result of your lack of Self-awareness. It is absolute that your life can only become as fulfilled or produce effects consciously and purposefully based on the level of Self-awareness or the lack there of, that you possess. Developing Self-awareness will enable and empower you to become a conscious and purposeful creator of the events, conditions and circumstances that make up your life.
Help yourself become the best you can be by developing that Self-awareness, and find joy in each and every step you take in the direction of positive change.
Next week, I’ll attempt to dispel some of the myths surrounding the balancing of Life.