Balance has always been a concept that I have struggled with. I am an all-or-nothing type of person. I’m either all in or all out, I eat all the food or nothing at all. I’m awake early and going all day or I stay in bed all day. There is very little balance. I’ve done research and studied how to get better at it. I’m still learning.
This imbalance shows up in every area of my life. For the longest time, I didn’t drink coffee. I was taught it was bad for you growing up so I never touched it, even when everyone else was drinking it. It became one of the things that made me different and I liked it. Until one day I had a coffee frappuccino from Starbucks. Now it’s a daily thing for me.
For as long as I can remember I have been all or nothing. When I was in school I was so focused on my school work that I didn’t have time for anything else. I didn’t have a lot of friends, never went out or went to parties at all. I was in school to learn. That was the most important thing. I had big dreams and I knew that I needed to focus in order to achieve them. I never felt like I was missing out on anything either. I knew what I wanted and it put all of my effort into achieving it.
A few years ago I decided that I needed to lose some weight. Most people would eat better and start an exercise routine. Me? I hired a personal trainer and worked out two hours a day, six days a week. I was running, swimming and cycling every day, even though I hate swimming and running. I even went so far as to buy a $1,500 road bike. I threw myself into it with everything that I had. I didn’t even feel like the same person. I took something that should have been healthy and made it unhealthy because of going to such an extreme.
My imbalance applies to people as well. I either have strong feelings for them or completely ignore them. Those feelings aren’t always good either. When I start noticing people it is either because I like them a lot or because I don’t like them at all. When someone starts to get on my nerves it’s all I can do to keep it together around them. I’d much rather just not be around them at all.
I am deeply affected by the people around me. When they are emotional, either happy, sad or mad, I soak up those feelings. It creates a turbulent mess for me in my head. I can’t help but feel the effects of their emotions. The bigger their display, the more I’m affected. I had always been told to just ignore people, “you’re being too sensitive” or to “not let it get to you.” I wish I were capable of that!
It took me a while to realize that I was not broken by being so sensitive. That is just the way my personality is designed. It’s not a curse like I thought. It’s actually a blessing to feel things so deeply. It’s an amazing ability to connect with people and relate to them.
But there does have to be some boundaries. It is not healthy for me to be around people who are loud and have outbursts all of the time. It’s too much for me to deal with. Now I take steps to remove myself from these situations. I know that there are some people that I just cannot be around every day. So, when I do have to be around them I make arrangements for that time to be short. I have an escape plan. It helps me a lot to know that I’m not being rude or abandoning them, I’m taking care of myself.
I’ve also made progress on my all-or-nothing work mentality. It’s hard for me to pace myself with a project I want to accomplish. However, I’ve found that having a schedule of when things need to be accomplished helps. Instead of saying to myself “everything HAS to be done RIGHT NOW” I’m setting goals 6 – 8 months out and accomplishing what I can week to week. It’s agonizing at first, but you start to see progress eventually and feel better once you get into that routine. At least I do.
Work in Progress
I still have a lot of work to do on finding balance in my life. It’s not something that comes easy, but I like doing things that seem impossible. I think it’s important to challenge yourself, to do things to constantly improve. I have accepted the fact that I will never be perfect, but I think I can make a whole lot of improvements from where I am now.
Here are a few tips on how to find balance, some things that I have done and continue to do to work at this elusive goal.
The biggest part of finding balance for me was to recognize what was going on. The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, right? It’s also the hardest step. I hate to admit when I’m not perfect. It’s hard to take an honest look at yourself and say, hey I have a real problem here! But recognition is the most important part. You can’t fix it until you admit it.
2. Make a conscious effort to change
Balance is not a feat to be accomplished. You do not just acquire it one day and have it forever. It’s a journey, something that you have to work on every day. It’s something that you have to practice to become better at. And, as the saying goes, the more you practice, the better you get.
Setting priorities in life is so important. It’s easy to put out fires all day long, giving your attention over to whatever is most urgent at the moment. You can spend days, weeks, even years doing this and not realize that you’re not accomplishing any of your bigger goals. I’ve been there. There have been times in my life that the most important thing was getting through the day or just getting to payday. I’m still there sometimes. But in order to stay on course in your bigger journey, you have to make balance a priority. You have to set aside time every day to make it happen.
4. Set goals
Having goals is essential to me. I have to have something to focus on, something to accomplish. Even if it’s just a rough outline in my mind, I have a vision of what I want to accomplish in the next month and the next year. It’s so much easier for me to stick to something and get it done with this vision.
A lot of people have vision boards, which I’ve been thinking about implementing for myself. It’s a board (or wall or page, whatever works for you) that has your hopes and dreams on it, things you want to accomplish. That way you can see them every day and make efforts to accomplish them.
5. Be specific
When we talk about balance it means different things to different people. In order to implement it in your life, you need to be specific about what you are looking for. You also need to set goals that are measurable. You could say “I’m going to spend more time reading.” It’s a nice goal, but it’s pretty vague. Saying “I’m going to spend an hour a day reading” is much easier to track whether or not you accomplish it.
6. Give yourself a break
I’m a natural perfectionist. I want everything to be perfect and I want it that way now. I also don’t want to do something unless I am good at it. But how can I be good at something that I have never done before? When I mess things up I have a tendency to beat myself up about it. But it’s important to take a step back and realize that no one is perfect. You need time and space to mess things up. Sometimes that’s what it takes to figure them out. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Realize that this is a process that may take some time to figure out.