One of the key ingredients in well-being is balance in life. Likewise, one of the major causes of stress and suffering is life out of balance. There are many spheres of life that need to be nurtured in order for us to feel fulfilled. We need to love and spend time with family and friends. We need to work and produce, create, and generally feel like we are accomplishing something. We need to nurture the body with good food, exercise, and restful sleep. We need to nurture the mind with learning, exploring, and contemplation. We need to spend time with nature. If we do not satisfy all our needs relatively equally, we end up feeling tense, unbalanced, and stressed.
It is not sufficient to just squeeze in a tiny effort at fulfilling a need. The different spheres of life all need proper attention in order to create a life in balance. This is no easy task. The demanding pace of life today often makes it difficult to balance life. Perhaps you are one of many people who work all day and find it challenging to make time in the evenings for exercise. You might know you should do more for your health, but you are able to justify your lack of physical exercise because you are dedicated to your job and you accomplish a tremendous amount of things at work.
The truth is that Balance doesn’t care if you manage fifteen companies. It is not going to give you a “feel balanced for free” ticket because you work so hard. It is simply not enough to put all out time and energy into a few select needs if that means you are neglecting others. Let’s say you woke up one morning and spent the entire day just sitting in one place and eating vegetables. You would probably feel very full at the end of the day, but not very fulfilled. Too much of one thing can be just as harmful as ignoring it all together. Yet many of us allocate the hours in our days in a rather skewed fashion, with the demands of work, errands, and administrative hassles of life taking up most of the day, leaving little time for nature, family, friends, exercise or relaxation.
Creating balance in life is a lot easier if you take a moment to get organized. The simple exercise below is a useful tool for improving balance in your life.
Life in Balance Exercise:
Step 1: Take a moment to list all the different spheres that are important for balance in life.
Make to sure list all the needs you know apply to you – even if you know you have been neglecting that sphere or you feel it might be difficult to incorporate it into your daily life. Here are some activities that are important for living a balanced life:
Spending time with family and friends
Errands/Keeping up with to-do list
These are just a few examples that will apply to most people. There are many other activities we may need to do in order to feel like we are living the life we ultimately want, such as time for art and creativity, religious and spiritual experiences, adventure and exploration, etc. It is best to identify the ones that apply most to you. Be honest with yourself when you make your personal list of needs. Don’t omit things that are important to your well being just because it may be challenging to nurture a certain realm of your life. Maybe you live in the midst of a huge city and find spending time with nature might be limited to a walking in the park or staring at some pigeons. Be creative when thinking of ways that you can fulfill each aspect.
Step 2: Break Bad Habits: Make a second list of activities that you are doing too much of.
Perhaps you’ve made a habit out of watching TV instead of reading a book or learning something new. TV might feel relaxing, but the time we spend watching TV is time we could spend doing things that help us grow and learn.
Step 3: Incorporate the results of this balance exercise into a “Day Pie Chart” and use this insight when creating a plan or setting goals and objectives.
Read over your list and identify the activities you’ve been avoiding or neglecting, and the ones where you have achieved a healthy balance. Also note which activities you should engage in daily and which ones are better as weekly or even monthly goals.
Next, use a pie chart like the image below to represent a single day. You can use this image to plan out your days to help you include activities from all spheres of life that are important for your well-being. Write in the wedges to plan out how you spend the hours in your day. You’ll probably quickly realize that a good chunk of pie will already be used for sleeping, eating, and grooming! When filling in the wedges, try to fit in some time for all different spheres that compose a balanced life.
Make sure that each need has enough of the pie to be satisfied. For example, if you went to a 1 hour yoga class you would feel quite good about your exercise goal for the day, so you could say the exercise need was fulfilled. On the other hand, if you only made time for a 10 minute walk, you would probably not feel that you got a sufficient amount of physical activity into your day. Likewise, going to more than one yoga class in a day would not necessarily be more satisfying than attending just one, so the extra classes might not be the best use of time if there are other needs that still need tending to. When choosing activities to fulfill different needs, it is a good idea to choose things that fulfill more than one need simultaneously. For example, an afternoon hike with family or friends would help balance and fulfill our needs for time with nature, relationships, and exercise.
Filling in a “day pie” chart for yourself helps you see what an optimal, balanced day would look like. Use this organizational tool when deciding how to spend your time each day.