Finding the right way to balance my life is a huge and constant challenge. Deep down, I’m searching for a balanced life that can be sustained. Over the years, I’ve tried many different ways to achieve this. As I have observed others, I’ve noticed that people tend to be clustered at the far ends of the scale between too focused or too laid back. But it’s for the middle ground of balance that I yearn.
Where am I on the scales of life?
At one end of the scale, I’ve noticed that many I know are either too focused, too organised. These are the stressed and just little too close to workaholic. At the other end of the scale are those who take things much more as they come, enjoy moving between different things easily, perhaps too distracted, and just a little too close to chaotic. There are undoubted strengths and weaknesses of each position. It’s good to be clear and focused, just as it right to be available and flexible. Over my working life, I have tended to veer towards overwork.
Waking up to self-awareness
In the wake of a breakdown – I’m now recovering – I’ve had a huge wake-up call. As things stand at the moment I’ve become more self-aware of my own needs as a person and my significant need is to get and keep the balance I crave. I’ve found that I feel so much more fulfilled and at peace with myself when that happens. So how can I know when I’m in the red zone or running smoothly? And what’s more, how can I make changes or who do I call on if things are skidding off course?
Finding what works for you
I have come to appreciate the following model. I don’t remember reading or hearing about this from anyone else, and I certainly can’t claim it to be original but, it works for me. My plan is simple. I divide my days into thirds. In a balanced and satisfying day, I enjoy a ‘three thirds’ day.
Each third offers a different form of activity, and it is the balance between these elements that provide the inner harmony I need. Too much of any one part and I soon feel that ‘out-of-sorts’ feeling. ‘Out of sorts’ leads to ‘out of balance’. And, out of balance means I don’t live out of a peaceful heart.
Of course, I can stay in one area more than I would choose if the situation demands it, but not for long and before long the warning sign begins to appear. My capacity is much reduced these days and a wrong balance results in a quicker depletion than it used to. My safeguard is that I come back to my ‘three thirds’ rule.
Simplicity is the key
Here’s my simple approach. Ideally, each day should contain:
1 Some time on my own, writing, study, prayer, administration. I need to be on my own.
2 Some time with others, meetings, mentoring, visits, calls, prayer. I need to be with other people.
3 Some time relaxing, resting, exercising, doing something different. I need to invest in myself.
Making a balanced audit
How did I better understand my need for balance? With the help of others, I audited my waking hours by writing down the things that I found replenishing or draining. I asked what makes me feel good or helps me give my best? Where and when do I make my best contributions? What depleting activities should I avoid or seek to minimise?
By talking things through with trusted colleagues and friends, they helped me to rebuild my productivity around the things that where I contribute best. I have found that others were only too willing to take some things from me, sometimes because my draining activity was their replenishing activity. That’s the wonder of working and living with a great team of people. I’m blessed.
I can’t say that I have mastered pacing my life completely, but I enjoy the days when there is a ‘three thirds’ balance. On these days, I feel so much more productive, more relaxed and more fulfilled. And right now, that’s really important.