On Balance and Perfection

Many busy professionals, and especially entrepreneurs, express exasperation at the notion of achieving life “balance.” Some even say the concept of balance is a myth. Before approaching the questions of whether balance exists and how it can be achieved, there is an important distinction that must be drawn. When people say they are in search of balance, they oftentimes use the benchmark of perfection. Using perfection as a standard automatically sets up the individual, who by this point is usually tired and somewhat frustrated, for failure.

Balance vs. Perfection

Balance is a scientific concept. It requires adjusting the distribution of weight to remain upright. While the positioning may not appear to be ideal or comfortable to onlookers, the end goal is to remain upright and stable. Therefore, achieving balance may not necessarily feel pretty at first. It may require strengthening muscles you’ve never used before, doing exercises that are not necessarily comfortable in the beginning, and stretching yourself in ways that may seem painful, but will eventually help you move more efficiently. The perfect illustration of what balance looks like is ballet. Anyone who has taken a ballet class knows it is not the most comfortable dance art to learn and requires a great deal of conditioning. But once dancers achieve a certain level, the beauty of the art form is undeniable. Like many areas of our lives, the beauty of ballet is all based on the foundational concept of the dancer being able to readily identify his or her center of gravity and move in ways that allow him or her to remain in a balanced state. You can always tell when a ballet dancer is not balanced because he or she will bobble or even fall. In these ways, life and ballet are very similar.

The Problem with Perfection

Many of us seek perfection, but oftentimes people achieve what they perceive as perfection only to realize “perfection” ain’t so perfect. How many times have we thought someone lived a perfect life until we saw what goes on behind the scenes? Some of us have thought we would be perfect if we were to gain or lose 10 pounds only to discover the weight did not necessarily go (or leave) wherever we had intended it to. Some of us chose the perfect major in school and later discovered we hated it; others of us may have even graduated and discovered that the chosen course of study was not necessarily the most employable degree, or perhaps you graduated just as job demand in that particular field changed. All these examples illustrate that we have to set benchmarks that are firm, but flexible enough to be adjusted to accommodate changing conditions. Otherwise stated, identifying an ideal and striving for it is a fantastic idea; however, in doing so, it is important that we spend time thinking about how we can incorporate a sense of balance into that equation.

What Does Balance Look Like?

Balance looks different for everyone, but it is generally characterized by a lack of chronic stress. If you find yourself constantly stressing over the same thing (money, relationships, weight, work-life balance), there is usually something you may be doing or allowing that is no longer working for you. An effective approach to discovering what may be contributing to imbalance is to evaluate every area in your life, write your findings down, and even track your moods and behaviors over the course of a week. Many of us have taken on practices that are in direct opposition of our overall goals and objectives, but we are unable to readily identify which part of our life is out of alignment because we adapt and continue to repeat counterproductive behaviors until they become habits. I should note that achieving a state of balance will not necessarily mean that you will not have to make sacrifices. Oftentimes, living a balanced life may mean cutting back on work to support children in their after school activities or enfing the party earlier in the interest of getting home earlier and waking up at a comfortable time to prepare for the upcoming workday. Once you achieve balance, you will know. Your basic needs will be met, you will feel less “strained” in certain areas of your life, and you will generally be at peace. Experiencing your personal version of true “balance” will ultimately compel you to continue to prioritize things in your life in a manner that allows you to maintain your newfound peaceful state.

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Organizing Your Life 103: Creating a Schedule – Sample

When creating a schedule, there are four major components I personally believe are non-negotiable elements: food, hobbies, spiritual time, and relaxation. A healthy individual is a well-rounded individual. Many of us are prone to forgetting to make time for the things that keep us well-rounded; therefore, making an active effort to schedule these activities is a positive step toward adding balance to our lives.

Schedule your meals.

Many of us are attempting to cram entirely too  many tasks into 24 hours. Consequently, we skip breakfast. Workers often so busy, they miss out on having an adequate lunch period. At the end of the day, we may be more prone to overcompensating with a dinner that is too calorie-dense and lacking in essential nutrients. Scheduling meals, and sticking to your schedule, can help you consume your meals in a more timely fashion, have more energy throughout the day, and become more intentional about the food you eat. Weight loss, fewer nutritional deficiencies, and a better sense of overall well-being are direct results of effective meal planning.

Make Time for Hobbies

In addition to nutritional and health disorders, modern humans may also develop stress-induced disorders as a result of the way we plan and utilize our time each day. Although working and earning a living or studying and earning a degree are important, most people also require time to “refresh.” Participating in the leisure activities we enjoyed before we were required to work or study full-time every day can help keep stress at bay. These activities may include any productive activity such as playing sports, arts and crafts, taking a class for fun, reading, attending social events, watching a limited amount of television, watching movies, etc.

Plan Time to Get Spiritual

Many refer to their spiritual time as “quiet time” set, usually aside to pray, read holy scripture or other religious books, meditate, or simply reflect on general life questions and be thankful. Even people who are not “religious” may benefit from setting aside time and using it to ponder the great mysteries of life and the universe before getting into the their day-to-day routine or prior to winding down at night.

Relaxation

Each year in the U.S., more than 3 million people report experiencing insomnia or difficulty sleeping. The underlying cause of the condition varies from case-to-case; however, for many, lack of a proper sleep time routine makes dozing more difficult. I highly recommend at least a 15-minute relaxation period prior to getting ready for bed and attempting to go to sleep. The 15-minute period may consist of any activity that allows for transition from the regular daytime pace to a more tranquil nighttime state. Examples of relaxation activities may include listening to music, reading, watching a relaxing TV show before bed, dimming the lights and lighting candles, infusing oils for aromatherapy, etc.

Sample Schedule

The sample schedule I created was based on a person who is slightly more of a night owl and works from 9 to 5 during the day.  The schedule begins with the person’s morning routine and picks up later with the afternoon routine when it is time to leave work. When creating your own schedule, I recommend starting by working in 15-minute increments for greater flexibility and accuracy. If you are unable to create your own schedule “from scratch,” you may use the sample as a general guide and adjust the times and activities to fit your current needs.

 

Sample Schedule