For a long time, achieving balance in my life has been a goal for me. I refer to ‘balance’ as the holy grail in the about section of my blog. I even designed a necklace to represent it. Immediately, I was drawn to the Five Fold symbol and its representation of balance. A universal symbol, ancient Celtic druids believed that balance promoted serenity.
But like a lot of things, my thoughts on balance has evolved over the past few years. With the help of Niamh Gaffney of Directionality (www.directionality.ie), who I met through Acorns (www.acorns.ie) these are the five things, I have learnt about balance.
- There is a time for everything
There may not be TIME for everything but there is A time for everything. I am guilty of trying to do it all. Lots of people may think I have it all. In many ways I do but I always say you can have it all, just maybe not all at once.
James Clear in his article on ‘The Four Burners Theory’ he speaks about seasons. If you break down life into seasons it may look like this, give or take a few years – in your 20s, life was all about career and friends. In your 30s, life is more focused on family. In your 40s, (I am not there yet!!) but it may be health. But within the seasons in my humble opinion, correct proportions between family, career, friends and health, can be broken down further on any given month, week or day.
For instance, there may also be times in the year when the focus is like 90% work. For example, the 6-8 period running up to Christmas with my jewellery business. This summer for another example, of period of time (two months) in which elements of my life have been more equal between work, family, health and friends. I have spent time catching up with old friends while school is closed. And doing more exercise while it’s a little quieter with work.
If I accept the obvious season or point in time, then I can feel more relaxed knowing things will be more in balance come the summer or in a few years.
- Know your values
I realised the reason I felt constantly stressed, unsure and unbalanced in my life was because I was unclear to what my values are. Once I did some work on my values, I could prioritise, define my success and know what to say ‘yes’ to and what to say ‘no’ to!
My top three values are kindness, family and achievement followed closely by health and exercise and being genuine. Therefore, I should never feel bad about putting time with my family ahead of friends sometimes, or working on my business instead of housework or sitting on a committee. Luckily for me, Liwu Jewellery incorporates three of my values – kindness, being genuine and achievement. Now it’s easier for me to prioritise each year, month and day!
- Define what success is for you
What success is for one person, may be complete failure for someone else.
I heard Pat Divilly (fitness and motivational speaker) tell the story of a girl who wanted to do an MBA. When he pressed her about why she wanted to do an MBA, she said that she always wanted to it. When he really pressed her, she said ‘because I want to show my Dad I am really smart’. When they delved into it a bit more, it wasn’t really what SHE wanted to do after all.
Be careful of this trap. Is that course for me or is it because my mum wants me to be a teacher? Do I really want to do a half marathon or am I only pleasing my friend who wants me to do it with her? Is earning €100k a measure of success for me or is being present in my children’s lives my personal measure of success? Success is different for everyone. As they say, when you are on your death bed and you look back over your life, what would success look like?
- Saying ‘no’ is saying ‘yes’ to something else
I am a serious people pleaser. Turns out to be one of my biggest failings. I said ‘yes’ to every ‘opportunity’, every ‘coffee’, every ‘committee’, every ‘playdate’ and ended up over committed and really letting people down. This totally went against my value of being genuine. I ended up miserable and stressed.
Niamh pointed out to me that if I say ‘yes’ to something, I may be saying ‘no’ to my family or my business. So now I say, I’ll get back to you so I can take a look if really I can fit it in. If it is something like a committee or a class etc. I ask ‘am I passionate enough about this to fit it into my life?’. I read recently (in the blog She Just Glows) in order to thrive as a mum of young kids, only take on what you are passionate about if you want to maintain your sanity. Like earlier this summer, we got pigs. Considering we have a small farm, I like the idea of being self-sufficient. I had my doubts if I could actually take on more. Even though they don’t take too much work, it would mean more animals to take care of when my husband is away but it ties back to my health and family values so I have made time and the kids love them!
- Discipline and focus is important and why ‘good enough’ is the new ‘perfect’
I know now what season of life I am in and can identify what I need to focus on in order to be true to my values. I have a better idea of what success looks like for me. I have learnt to say ‘no’ and take my time in saying ‘yes’.
However, to maintain the balance and to feel serene and do the things I want to do, two principles still apply; focus and discipline. I need to be disciplined in saying ‘I’ll get back to you’ and focused during my work hours so I have time for family and health. It takes planning and organisation and of course I lose my way from time to time.
Also if I want to achieve balance, I need to let go of being ‘perfect’. With two young kids, a business, a husband who works away from home a lot (or all the time!), and small farm, my standards of a tidy and organised house at all times is ridiculous. It’s ok not to have an organised sock drawer or to the toy area are a bit messy. My life hack is, I tidy and organise one drawer or small area of the house each weekend. It works for me to feel on top of things. The house is ‘good enough’ by saying ‘no’ to being perfect at home, I am saying ‘yes’ to doing something more fun with my family or my business!
I actually could write all day on this topic!! I hope some of these nuggets about balance have helped some of you.