I was recently reminiscing on my early days as an “adult”. I had recently graduated from college and was also a newlywed. Still warmed by the excitement I felt about my new lifestyle, I readily welcomed the days I had once zoned out of econ class daydreaming about. This stage of my life would be wonderful, and magical, and well balanced… As if a well-balanced life was something you just automatically acquired as an adult and especially as a young new wife.
I dreamed of daily routines, grocery shopping with my future husband, and living in a cozy little apartment. I dreamed of drinking hot chocolate by a fireplace to ward off the winter air, and basking in the sun on a white beach together for summer vacations. No matter what my daydreams looked like, they all had one thing in common, balance. In all my visions of the future, my life was balanced. Looking back, I realize now that as a child, I had this idea that as an adult, I’d have all my crap together. I would live by a routine and successfully “adult”.
To my complete and utter surprise, the reality of that balance as an adult was nonexistent. My schedule was different every day, my husband hated grocery shopping, and for the first couple years of our marriage, we lived in Florida. I didn’t even want to see a fireplace it was so hot and the beach was an every weekend vs vacation kind of thing. Now, we move so much, I stopped unpacking all my boxes.
One day I woke up and I thought “holy crap, I’m an adult and I don’t know what I’m doing… and also, my life is chaotic. A big non-routined, disorganized mess”. So much for balance.
Ironically, fighting for balance made feel exhausted and emotionally drained. It was frustrating. So frustrating.
The Perception of a Well Balanced Life
I realize now, my biggest problem was my belief about what it means to have a well-balanced life. Maybe you have more wisdom than I did but I honestly thought a well-balanced life meant doing it all successfully. Managing work and my home life, exercising regularly, seeing friends, having a clean house, and always looking like I had just stepped out of a magazine. Everyone could look at me and say “wow, that girl has her life together”.
Have you ever seen an ethics scales? There’s two little trays, one on each side and you put weights on each side to balance each other out.
I used to have the idea that life was like one of those scales. Each area of life is a tray and being balanced meant being equal in all areas of your life. As if living a balanced life meant that each tray or area of my life had to get just the right equal amount of time or attention. As new things in life were handed to me, and weights were unequally added to my scales, I struggled to maintain balance. I anxiously went through each day with my focus constantly being torn between trying to keep each scale even.
Maybe, like I used to, you have this idea that a well-balanced life means learning to expertly manage all your weights evenly. Never letting one get too low to the ground; always working to keep everything as even as possible. Not surprisingly, I was tired and burnt out from juggling so much. Have you ever felt this way?
What Does it Mean to Have a Well-Balanced Life?
If you have, you’re not alone, but girl, allow me to give you some new perspective.
Imagine waking up one day and all the voices of expectation bombarding you from the outside world are gone. Vanished in the middle of the night. I hand you a pen to write down only the things that are truly important to you for that day. Maybe the things on that list would be your babies, your significant other, your dog, your favorite hobby, the list could contain anything you wanted. Then I told you that you only had to do or focus on those things. You didn’t have to worry about the outside expectations.
What if having balance was not about doing it all, but rather doing what was important to you. And when I say important to you, I truly mean that. Not what other people tell you is important.
When we drown out the other voices telling us what we should do, and start to focus on the things that matter to us, we suddenly have less to do but we’re doing more of the important things. So often, the rest of it is just extra noise or things that keep us busy for the sake of appearances.
After years of striving to do it all and do it well, I have finally come to understand that having a well-balanced life, isn’t about doing it all. It’s about doing what’s right, for me.
4 Tips for Living a Well Balanced Life
When I finally started ignoring what everyone said I should do and started doing what I needed to do for my life, that is when I began to find more balance.
The result of which, was the most amazing thing. I find I was less worn out, more confident, and honestly, a happier more laid back person. I can’t say the transformation was an overnight kind of thing. It took work and learning, and personal growth but it became so very worth it.
I know the idea of finding balance can be overwhelming. Especially, when you already feel overwhelmed by life itself.
Below I’m listing out four things that played the biggest part in my journey to a well-balanced life.
1) Figure Out What Truly Matters to You
I recently sat down with a friend who was feeling totally overwhelmed by life. We wrote out every area of life they were stressed about and then assigned each area a number according to which was most important to them.
We found out that the things that stressed them out the most, were the ones they gave the most time and attention but it also just so happened to be the things they cared about the least. Likewise, the things that mattered most, got the least attention. My friend just hadn’t stopped long enough to intentionally write out their priorities and act on them.
You can do this in your own life too. Either keep a time journal for a few days to a week or write out every area of life that takes up your time. Then figure out how many of those things matter to you and your immediate family. I say immediate because sometimes extended family feels they have a right to tell you what to do, and while we feel pressure to please them, it’s not actually your responsibility to do so.
Once you have the list of things that matter to you (and don’t matter so much), start to say no to the things that just take up time and add no value. Focus on the things that matter to you!
2) Simplifying Your Life
There’s a lot of hype around simplifying your life. If you haven’t jumped on that bandwagon yet, you’re missing out a little. Now, when I say simplify your life, I don’t mean get rid of everything, live in a tiny home, and wear the same three shirts every day. Granted, if that makes you happy then go for it!
Before we started our own process of balanced living we were living in a beautiful house, minutes from the beach. At the time of writing this, we have all our stuff in storage and are on month six of moving from hotel to hotel for Josh’s work. Oddly, we are happier living this simplified life than we were in our house.
All the stuff we had acquired that we thought we loved, we couldn’t even tell you what all is in our storage unit.
We tend to acquire things, friends, and habits that have just become routine. We never stop to consider them intentionally. Over time they just add noise and distraction to our lives. Taking time to intentionally decide what gets to stay and what it’s time to let go of, can really help you stay a little more balanced.
You can simplify your belongings, the food you cook and consume, remove toxic friends, and so much more. Removing the extra things you’ve been carrying around, means less you have to balance.
(Edit: We got a little apartment after 10 months of living in the hotels and as we went through all our stuff, we didn’t even know why we had half of it. Simplifying so much has made a world of difference! I spend less time cleaning, have more space, and feel less cluttered. Also, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo is also out on Netflix and it’s a must!)
3) Go With the Flow
What’s right for you now may not be what’s right a year down the road, next month, next week, or even tomorrow. Living a well-balanced life isn’t just about staying consistent, it’s about learning to navigate the winds of life. Someday’s that means scrapping all your plans to stay home with a sick child. Sometimes that means writing a paper early so you can go on that girl’s getaway weekend trip. Sometimes that means getting up at 5 am every morning to get your self-care or workout time in before everyone else is awake.
As your life changes, so will your priorities and that’s perfectly okay. It doesn’t mean you were wrong before, on the wrong path, or completely lost. It just means life changed – an inevitable thing. Realizing this really helped me give myself more grace, and go with the flow.
4) Stay Centered. Stay Grounded.
As life changes and seasons come and go, the only factor that stays constant is you. You are at the center of your life. You might be thinking, “duh” right now. Here’s the thing, even though we ourselves are the biggest part of our lives and staying balanced, we often give ourselves the least amount of attention and time.
When I asked you what your priorities were earlier, did you put yourself on that list?
I hope you did, but if not, consider this, if we are the ones at the center of our balanced lives, prioritizing ourselves, our self-care, our dreams, and our feelings is the number one factor in how well you manage to hold up the other areas of life you’re balancing.
You cannot expect yourself to stand tall at the center of your life and hold it all together well if you’re constantly being bombarded on all sides and never take a break to recharge.
Taking time for yourself is not selfish, it is necessary. If you truly feel like those around you deserve your best, then you need to take the time you need to actually be at your best. You cannot give your best when you are at your worst.
I think there’s been a really big stigma around the idea of having a well-balanced life. We’re made to believe the perception that everyone else around us is living a balanced life – they do it all and they do it well. On television, in books, and especially, in social media, we see the “appearance” of balance over and over again.
After years of striving to do it all in my life, I don’t believe it’s possible. Not in a healthy manner, or at least not without help anyway. If you only take one thing from this post, let it be this: you don’t have to do it all, you just have to do what’s right for you.
No doubt there will be naysayers and judgemental women who are feeling their own hurts and stresses from feeling pressure to do it all themselves. There are people that get upset, jealous that you aren’t doing it all and yet seem happier than they are because they still believe doing more is the answer to happiness.
No matter what you do in life, there will be some form of resistance. It’s not your responsibility to soothe their opinions, only to live your life well.
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