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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24 Hours Not Enough? Learn to Manage Time Like Money

To be fair, most of us have felt at one time or another as if we simply don’t have enough money. When that happens, we either look for an additional stream of income, or we refine our budget and try to work within it. Time is similar. However, because we can’t simply make more time, the latter approach is the default. What does it mean to learn to manage time as if it’s money?

Viewing Time As a Budget

We’re all working with the same 24 hours. That part of the equation is set. Where everyone begins to differ is the very diverse ways in which we use our 24 hours. Think of your 24 hours as an allowance you receive each day. You literally can do whatever you please with your 24 hours. But for most of us, it’s not that simple, right? We decide we want housing, clothes, food, financial savings, entertainment. All those things cost. They cost money and time [unless you literally have someone handing these things to you…in which case, please come over here and advertise YOUR coaching services]. Anyhow…these things cost what I’ve come to refer to as time dollars. In planning your schedule–because you should be planning your schedule–start with 24 hours, and subtract from that each time you schedule an activity. For example, your 8-hour workday costs 8 time dollars, leaving you with 16 remaining.

But actually…it’s inaccurate to begin by subtracting from 24…unless you count sleep!

Begin By Planning Time to Sleep

Sleep is so important that I always recommend starting schedule planning by setting a bedtime, deciding how long you want to ideally sleep, and scheduling a wake-up time accordingly. We underestimate the importance of sleep. While you may think you need time to go to the library, pick up your dry cleaning, and attend the birthday party you were invited to, your body places a much greater priority on repairing cells and tissues, encoding learned information into your memory, and restoring your energy. These very important activities are just a few that happen while you’re sleeping.

After Designating Sleep Hours

Let’s say you plan to get seven hours of sleep each night. After subtracting seven from your 24-hour time budget, you are left with 17 hours of time that can be allocated to work, fun, leisure, and everything in between. If you ever find yourself feeling tempted to waste time or engage in an activity that does not serve your well-being or contribute to the well-being of others in a manner you can afford, actively remind yourself of the remaining hours in your time budget. Then asks if it is worth allocating time to participate in the activity.

Practice Makes Perfect

If you are a person who struggles with decision-making and prioritizing tasks, you may struggle at first with deciding which activities are deserving of your time. Don’t be discouraged. Simply do your best to make a decision. Evaluate the outcome of that decision. Then carry that analysis with you as you keep moving forward in approaching each day as if you are on a strict time budget. Eventually, you will become better at ranking tasks according to importance, balancing social commitments, and becoming a better decision-maker and steward of your time.

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Thrive App: Your Mini Mindfulness Coach in Your Pocket

There is a growing interest in taking a holistic approach to productivity. Each year more and more working professionals and business owners are seeking out ways to implement a greater focus on mental health and spiritual wellness in the workplace.  Employee rest areas, yoga sessions, meditation classes, and kitchens that are always stocked with various teas and organic snacks all signal a remarkable shift from the traditional brick-and-mortar, 9 to 5 job setting in the U.S.
While some workplaces are making a greater effort to create an environment that nurtures the “whole” employee, many others have yet to join the revolution. For people who do not find themselves having regular access to an employer-sponsored wellness and productivity program, Thrive UK has created an app that may be a very affordable alternative for millions of people.

Exploring the Link Between Mindfulness and Productivity

There are several components of a person’s well-being that can have a direct impact on the individual’s level of productivity. The body uses food as fuel; therefore, diet influences a person’s energy level as well as his or her ability to concentrate and focus for extended periods of time. Rest is essential to health and performance. Consequently, a lack of sleep can quickly diminish workplace performance. Stress and anxiety can also have a negative impact on a person’s work and home life. Finally, one of the most often overlooked aspects of productivity and performance is mindset. The Thrive App utilizes soothing music with ocean sound effects in combination with various exercises and helpful tips to bring peace, optimism, and balance to the most critical areas of the user’s life.

Mental Health and Wellness Monitoring on Demand

Upon logging into the Thrive app, the user is greeted and immediately offered a practical tip for managing stress, easing anxiety, or simply shifting to a more positive mindset. Next, the app asks the user to rate his or her mood on a color scale. Mood tracking can be helpful to anyone, especially to those who are experiencing anxiety or depression. Tracking moods can help the individual remain connected to his or her emotions in addition to detecting any concerning or unusual changes in the overall mental state. Next, the app asks the user to identify specific events that may have led to his or her current mood, whether negative or positive. Reflecting and considering the connection to certain events that may have triggered a particular mood can be helpful, particularly when a person is experiencing a negative emotion and has difficulty identifying the exact root cause.

Mind and Body Activity Recommendations

Upon receiving feedback on the user’s mood, the program then assigns three daily goals that are recommended activities to help maintain a healthy mental state and, if necessary, to improve a bad mood. Examples include 30 minutes to an hour of a specified physical exercise, breathing activities, self suggestion, deep muscle relaxation, and an impressive collection of meditation strategies that leverage sound, smell, and the power of imagination. The user may set notifications to serve as a reminder to complete the prescribed activities throughout the day. Each time the user logs in, the app will ask the user to indicate which activities he or she has completed since the previous session.  In addition to the daily recommended activities, Thrive also includes a collection of games that provide a healthy distraction when the user needs to unwind.

In-App Games

At any time, users may swipe over to Zen Island, which is the Thrive app’s virtual destination for games and recreation. Zen Challenge requires the player to draw paths to connect two objects on a plane while navigating through a series of obstacles and hoops. Wise Words teaches the participant to focus on positive words by identifying them within an assortment of jumbled letters that are displayed on a grid. Those who are feeling creative may choose to design their own zen garden in Zen Island’s sand.

Conclusion

The Thrive App is packed with valuable resources that can help virtually anyone increase self-awareness and practice mindfulness in ways that can have a very real and positive impact on overall health and productivity. Even occasional use can help a person relax and even avoid an oncoming episode of mild tension or anxiety. Like virtually any health tool, the Thrive app should be used regularly to produce lasting results and to realize more substantial improvement.

Thrive is a subscription-based app available for £4.99/month, £14.97 for a three-month subscription, or £47.88/year, which translates to approximately $8/month, $21/quarterly, or $67/annually.

Thrive UK has graciously provided a FREE access code for my readers. Click HERE to request your free subscription to the Thrive app.

Set Your Eye on the Prize, and Your Life Will Follow Suit

Focus is an important ingredient in goal-setting and achievement. Most people think of focus as the act of remaining on-task, avoiding distraction, and carefully following whatever procedure we have determined will lead us to success. However, we often overlook the importance of looking toward the horizon and focusing on the vision we want to come to fruition.

Imagine Yourself Achieving Your Goals

If you are working on modifying a habit or achieving a specific goal, it is important that you set aside time each day to envision yourself being successful. While some may view this exercise as not being particularly beneficial or even as a waste of time, envisioning your own success is actually vital. Not only does imagining yourself crossing the finish line allow you to shift your thoughts from the stress of being hard at work in the trenches, striving to inch closer to your goal, but envisioning your success may also help you figure out exactly what steps you will need to take to get there.

Filling In the Details

If your goal, for example, is to purchase your first home this year, allowing yourself to envision the size of the home, location, furniture, and paint color will help you answer several key questions, including “How much would this type of home in that particular location cost?” “How much more should I set aside for decorating expenses?” “What steps do I need to take to save enough money for the down payment?” If you simply set a vague goal of “saving for a house,” at the end of the year, you may find yourself coming up short because you have not saved enough, or the opposite may happen: you may restrict yourself more than necessary and completely compromise your quality of life only to find that you could have spent more time with family, gotten more sleep at night and still achieved your goal of saving for your first home.

Focusing on Your Goal Can Help You Persevere

Reminding yourself of exactly what you want and are working to achieve will help you maintain a sense of “purpose” during hard times. Thinking of how it will feel to invite your family and friends over to your housewarming party can help you find the energy you need to go to that second job after you have worked a full day at your main place of employment. Imagining yourself being able to wear a bikini on the beach with your friends can help motivate you to forego that intense desire to binge on carbs. Being able to close your eyes and see and feel yourself enjoying the benefit of your hard work can help you continue to work hard when you feel like quitting.

Daydreaming is for Grownups, Too

There is power in allowing yourself to dream and imagine yourself living the life you want to live. Oftentimes, the contrast between the dream world and our reality can be more than enough to compel us to do something about the tension between the two and work to make the dream our reality.

 

 

The Life-Changing Power of Describing Your Ideal Day

This year I have begun to implement an exercise I read about in an entrepreneurship-themed group in which I participate online. The exercise basically calls for writing out how you would envision your ideal day. Since January 1st, I have been setting aside time to do this before going to bed each night. Here is how my process works:

Step 1: I write out a quick schedule of everything I need to do the following day and at what time I would like to begin and finish each task. This part is pretty straightforward.

Step 2: I skip some space below the quick outline of my schedule, and then I list the most ideal things I would like to happen. My list includes very basic things like collecting payment on time from a new client. It also includes major events like purchasing an apartment in a particular community that interests me. It includes gifts I’d like to receive, some obligations (i.e. “mail check to pay off xyz), and will also include charitable contributions I’d like to make [I literally just thought about this now and realized I probably should write those things down here…because generosity is very important to me].

Anyway, that’s basically the way in which I am implementing this strategy; some may refer to it as “daydreaming.” The strategy is also called by other names around various parts of the internet. Generally the same items (along with any new ones I add) appear on the bottom portion of the page until I can mark them off as accomplished.

This Strategy Can Change Your Life

It absolutely can. Much to my surprise, I found that many of the items on the “ideal” portion of the page were coming to pass and that additional similar events I hadn’t even imagined were beginning to happen. Why did I experience such a dramatic shift? I am a believer in mindset. Once you make up your mind to focus on a certain trajectory, and once you commit to that way of thinking by writing it down and mapping it out, your mindset will begin to shift to accommodate that desired trajectory, and you will begin to do things at the conscious and subconscious level to make whatever you desire happen. The same is true of negative thinking. Therefore,the moral of the story is: be very mindful and intentional with your thoughts. Set your sights and direct your thoughts in accordance with the life you would ultimately like to live.