9 Lessons for Living a Balanced Life
We can all feel overwhelmed with responsibilities at work and home. That perfect balance is always just out of reach.
The trouble is, when you focus too much attention on any one area of your life, the others can suffer as a consequence. Learning how to manage the flow of balance instead of evening out an imaginary scale is key.
Let these 9 lessons for living a balanced life be the guide to finding your flow.
1. Manage your mind
Meditation and the practice of mindfulness have officially moved out of the New Age and into the lives of entrepreneurs. According to a research study at NIH, 18 million Americans are now using meditation to achieve optimal mental health and well-being.
Managing your mindset brings distinct advantages professionally and personally:
- Less stress
- Improved memory
- Increased focus
- Clarity of thought
- Deeper connections
Marc Benioff of Salesforce was recently interviewed by the New York Times about his practice. He discussed how meditation transformed him personally and the impact it has on his leadership.
During the discussing he spoke of a sabbatical to combat burnout:
“First I went to Hawaii for a few months and really worked on my meditation practice. Then I went to India for six weeks with a friend of mine who was also going through a similar life transformation. We had these amazing experiences going to all of these different ashrams and meeting all these different spiritual masters. It was almost like a guru tour. I definitely came back from that trip as a different person.”
When asked how it has influenced his leadership, Marc replied:
“Having a beginner’s mind informs my management style. I’m trying to listen deeply, and the beginner’s mind is informing me to step back so that I can create what wants to be, not what was. I know that the future does not equal the past. I know that I have to be here in the moment.”
2. Balance the passion in your life
Combining your passion and career can be a touchy subject. On one side there’s the reality: you need an income to thrive, and on the other: the pursuit of happiness.
According to Richard Branson, “There is no greater thing you can do with your life and your work than follow your passions – in a way that serves the world and you.” Yet for many of us, quitting our day jobs to pursue a passion project isn’t an option.
Here’s where the mind shift needs from balance to integration comes in. What if you looked at your life as an umbrella? Underneath this canopy is your work, family, social life, fitness; instead of compartmentalizing each of them now they live together as part of a whole – your life.
Using this new mindset how are you able to find passion?
Look for ways you can control the parts of your day that make you feel positive, fulfilled and successful without opting for a complete career overhaul. One method is to focus on internal goals set for yourself. Try to uncover passion in how or why you work, even if you’re dispassionate about the actual work.
Your real purpose doesn’t need to tossed aside while you’re off making a living. Aim to carve out time each day for the activities you love. For some, it may be volunteering with animals, and for others, it’s setting aside a few hours weekly for their art.
3. Build a community
It can feel isolating at times as an entrepreneur. Despite being surrounded by other artists and industry pals, it’s still difficult to share or even articulate what you’re experiencing.
Take the time to build more genuine connections by expanding your community of support:
- Leave your comfort zone and attend networking events
- Make new connections at industry events
- Form industry bonds within your local community (#communityovercompetition)
- Find a mentor
- Look outside your industry (make time for your friends and family)
Like it or not, we’re all social animals who crave connection, support, and feeling valued. Take the time to strengthen your relationships – your happiness and well-being will thank you for it.
When was the last time you left your phone behind when you left the house – on purpose?
It’s OK; I can’t remember either.
Many of us forget what it was like to function without our devices, and it’s unrealistic today to expect we’ll disconnect by choice.
An updated theory from Pamela Pavliscak, a digital anthropologist, suggests we learn to engage with technology in ways that support our emotional well-being, aided by app designs that encourage a healthy relationship with users.
Pamela suggests there’s no need to log off for a digital detox:
“…using technology more consciously and developing a healthier relationship with our devices and apps, we can learn how to let them support our lives, rather than rule them.”
One way to develop a more positive relationship with your tech today: stop focusing on the numbers.
Whether it’s followers on Instagram or the number of steps you took – many apps are built to keep us one step from satisfied when we focus on the wrong things. Turn your attention instead toward making connections, facilitating interactions and creating new content.
5. Focus on your well being
On your busiest days, you’re barely holding it together. It’s a mad dash from the moment the alarm goes off in the morning until your head hits the pillow at night. You don’t intend to stop going for your morning jog or microwaving mac & cheese instead of eating a salad, but hey, life gets in the way, right?
Your health affects every aspect of your life, from your sleep to your mood, it’s time to make physical and mental well-being a priority.
For many of you, it’s a non-negotiable workout (even if that means turning your bus commute into a walk), finding time to meditate, or cooking a healthy dinner. Oh, and that one big thing that affects us most of all, sleep.
According to the likes of Arianna Huffington, Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates sleep can turn you into the productive entrepreneur you’re striving to become. Here’s what Bill Gates had to say when asked by CNBC about his sleep habits:
“I used to work all night in the office, but it’s been quite a while since I lived on catnap,” says Gates in a Microsoft FAQ. “I like to get seven hours of sleep a night because that’s what I need to stay sharp and creative and upbeat.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but if a man worth $95.8 Billion tells me I need my beauty sleep…I’m gonna get it.
Vacations are a gratifying balance of physical and mental escape, a break from our everyday routines. As Anthony Bourdain said:
“Travel is about the gorgeous feeling of teetering in the unknown.”
Now, I know holiday in the classic sense means jetting off to an exotic locale but it’s by no means the only way to get away. Become a tourist in your hometown; visit all the must-see sites, take photographs, hit up an art show – it’s all about perspective.
Get out into the fresh air every day. Hit the streets for a walk or hop on your bike. The key is to start paying closer attention to familiar surroundings.
Here’s a challenge: tomorrow morning take a new route to work, it might not be Turks & Caicos but a change of scenery can surprisingly uplifting.
7. Ask for support
Nobody has all the answers. I believe we all know this and yet asking for help is one of the most significant challenges we face as entrepreneurs and on a baser level, humans.
We set unrealistic expectations for ourselves that can only end in frustration. The idea that we need to go it alone and should already have all the answers is far too common. We anticipate our gap in knowledge will invoke ridicule, negativity, and loss of trust which makes asking for support feel risky.
I’m here to tell you it’s impossible to know everything, even most of the things – and that your community, they want to support you.
Here’s how you can ask for help when you need it:
- Ask the right person
- Know what you need help with
- Figure out the right questions (before you ask)
- Don’t apologize or feel like you ‘owe’ the person helping you
- Always be grateful
Boundaries come in different forms, the easiest to recognize being physical while the ones that tend to affect us most happen on an emotional level.
When you look at your life today is it crammed full (too full) with commitments to work, friends, family, school and god knows what else? It’s no wonder the majority of us feel drained by the end of a week. A constantly full schedule can be physically and mentally exhausting.
Learning how to set clear boundaries in your professional and personal life can help balance all aspects of your health.
The five methods for setting clear boundaries look like this:
- Communicate your ground rules clearly
- Define your non-negotiables
- Be consistent
- Learn to say no
- Stay true to yourself
9. Track your time
Do you know where your time goes in a day? I can’t tell you the number of days I’ve started writing, looked up and realized hours have blown by – but those are the good days.
On days when I can’t seem to get myself going my process can go awry, jumping from researching to checking social media to responding to emails to playing with my pup. How do we make sure every minute counts?
Time tracking. I know, super sexy right. Well, when you start to monitor how each moment of your day is spent its libel to blow your mind. Those little slips for Instagram or a quick text break to chat with friends all add up!
As difficult as it may seem, with a little upfront planning you can go from living in the dark about how you’re spending your time to finding out if your priorities and actions align.
Take a 30-day time challenge using these steps
- Pick an app to track your time or get ready to write (I use Toggl to manage my days)
- Categorize your activities and set goals (ex. Social media 10% of my time)
- Get honest with yourself
- Be detailed and consistent
- Evaluate your result
How do you keep your balance when life throws you a curveball? Let us know in the comments 👇.