How many times have you read an article or heard an expert talk about the secrets to finding balance in life?
When I left my full-time job as an editor at a magazine five years ago, I too thought I would finally find that work-life balance I read about so much. I took on a new lifestyle and career as a freelance travel writer and health coach, and my life was thrown out of balance from what I was used to for six years. I went from driving to an office every day to working from home and basically making my own schedule.
But guess what? I never actually found that balance, and I still don’t have “balanced” days. And I am so much happier because of it.
Balance is a sticky subject among many people. We have careers, partners, children, family commitments, charity work, classes, hobbies, worship time—plus, big desires to improve our health. How can one possibly balance so many things?
I’m going to let you in on a little secret here: You can’t.
Author Matthew Kelly once said, “Work-life balance was a mistake from the start. Because we don’t really want balance. We want satisfaction.” And that’s just it. What we’re actually searching for is harmony and flow. That’s the secret doing more of what you want and less of what you don’t want. True balance is a myth.
Now, let’s break down harmony and flow and how they work together.
Harmony means everything is co-existing in a spirit of cooperation. But, to find out what will truly make you feel harmonious at the end of the day, there are some crucial steps you need to take. Want to hear it?
I just need to warn you that although the equation sounds simple, it actually takes massive willpower to execute. It also requires that you get absolutely clear on what you want your life to look like, and what you do not want in your life. Once that’s clear, then you can start on the flow.
Ready? Okay, here’s what you need to do:
First, ask yourself what isn’t serving you. What doesn’t need to be in your life? What is dragging you down? Keeping you awake at night?
Have you identified a few things? Now, get rid of them. (Or fix them. Now.)
Next, ask yourself what you want in your life—or this week or day? What do you want to accomplish? What do you want to do? Who do you want to be with? What do you want your day to look like? How do you want to feel when you wake up each morning? Focus your energy on these things. Anything that doesn’t fit into this larger scheme, let it go (or learn how to say “no”).
Okay, once that’s settled—and give some thought to those questions—then you can start to embrace the flow. You’ve likely settled on devoting energy to several aspects of your life, as you should. But, one of those things—family, career, a relationship, etc.—is always going to require more of your attention at any given time. If you try to put in equal effort into all of them when one should be taking priority, you are only going to be left feeling exhausted and like a failure.
Instead, focus on finding flow between all of your passions and responsibilities. This permits you to put more energy into one thing without the guilt. Have a big project due for a client? Great! Ask your spouse to help out with the kids a little more than a week. Then, when it’s done, plan something special with your little ones. Have a sick child that just needs some extra comfort? Tell work you need some extra time or ask a colleague to pitch in. When the tot is feeling better, you can maybe get ahead on a deadline for another assignment.
It’s a flow, not balance.
Ready to dive in and make a few changes? Give these tips a try and see how you’ll start to feel satisfied, harmonious, and like you’re “doing it all.” No balance required.
TIMA Contributor Jordi Lippe-McGraw is the owner and author of Well Traveler, a blog dedicated to navigating life through beautiful and practical stories from around the world, inspiring people to embrace their individual journeys and learn simple steps towards creating a happy and healthy life.