Do you struggle to create or maintain a more balanced life? Or maybe you wonder if there’s even such a thing as life balance? In this post, I’m sharing my thoughts on whether life balance is a myth, and a different way of looking at what it really means to live a balanced life. There’s also a free printable Wheel of Life worksheet you can download. This worksheet will help you get a clearer picture of how much time and energy you’re giving to each area of your life.
Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of blog posts and articles saying that work-life balance, or life balance in general, is a myth.
They say that living a balanced life shouldn’t be a goal because it’s not possible.
I’ve pondered quite a bit this question of whether life balance is a myth or impossible, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I wholeheartedly disagree with this opinion.
Here are two reasons why I believe it’s possible to live a balanced life, and that it’s something worth striving for . . .
First, in looking to the natural world, everything is based on balance and there is a constant effort to maintain balance.
On a macro level, the very rotation of our planet Earth is based on balance.
Think about the seasons . . . within the cycle of the four seasons, there’s a balance between light and dark, inward and outward energy, stillness and action, growth and decline, birth and death.
Our ecosystems require a beautifully intricate and miraculous balance to survive.
Even our own bodies maintain a marvelous balancing act in order to stay healthy and thrive.
Second, I think we’d all agree that our life can get OUT of balance, and we’ve probably all experienced what that feels like.
So, if life can be OUT of balance, then it stands to reason that it can be IN balance.
I think the confusion comes from how people are defining life balance.
What is a balanced life?
If a person’s idea of a balanced life is always having every part of her life (work, home, wellness, relationships, etc) in perfect balance, giving equal amounts of time and energy to all areas all the time, then I would agree that this is a myth and not possible!
To me, the true essence of a balanced life is giving the needed amount of time and energy to the right areas of your life at the right time, without creating a deficit in the other areas.
It also means being flexible by:
- Accepting there are times when your life will be out of balance and one area will require more of you than the other areas
- Being aware when this is happening
- Consciously choosing to shift your priorities and energy for a limited time, but always with the intention of more evenly distributing your energy and time within a given time frame.
At different points in your life, different areas are going to require more of your energy, time, attention, and heart than others.
A good example of this is moms with newborns.
While I’ve never experienced this, I’ve seen my friends with kids go through it, and it is BRUTAL! Honestly, I don’t know how you moms do it, but props to y’all!
New moms know once the baby is born, the majority of their time, energy, and attention is going to the baby, while much less of it will be directed to the other areas of their life (like sleep!).
They’re consciously choosing to do this because it’s something very important to them, and they know that it will only be temporary and will eventually even out.
Here’s an example from my own life (thankfully, a much less challenging one than having a baby!) . . . right now my business is going through a transition and it’s consuming a ton of my time and energy.
I’m intentionally choosing to give my business this focus now, so that it can eventually become a business that’s more aligned with my values and purpose, of greater service to my clients, more efficient so that I can spend less time working, and more abundant.
It’s leaving me very limited time for the other things in my life. And while this isn’t ideal, sometimes it’s just necessary. And it won’t be forever.
This quote from The 12-Week Year (which is a great book!) sums up perfectly my thoughts on what it means to live a balanced life . . .
If taken literally, the phrase life balance is something of a misnomer. It is natural to think that the goal of life balance is to spend equal time and energy in the various areas of your life, but in reality that is not practical and it would not necessarily create the life you desire. Trying to spend equal time in each area is unproductive and often frustrating. Life balance is not about equal time in each area; life balance is about intentional imbalance. Life balance is achieved when you are purposeful about how and where you spend your time, energy, and effort. At different times in your life you will choose to focus on one area over another, and that’s perfectly fine, provided it’s intentional.
I love this concept of “intentional imbalance.”
It all goes back to living with INTENTION and PURPOSE.
I believe that’s the key to walking the tightrope between being in balance (aka intentional imbalance) and being out of balance.
So, what’s the difference between intentional imbalance and being out of balance in your life?
How life gets out of balance
Life gets out of balance when your time and energy aren’t consciously and intentionally being used in a way that’s aligned with your goals and values.
And we’ve all been there, right?
There are a lot of ways this can happen. Here are a few . . .
You haven’t decided (or aren’t clear) on your goals and values.
By values, I mean what’s truly important to you and non-negotiable — more on that in an upcoming blog post!
Trying to please everyone and putting other people’s priorities and needs ahead of your own.
People pleasers of the world, I’m talking to you! (And to myself, because I struggle with this, too.)
You start out practicing “intentional imbalance,” but then become SO focused on that one area that you forget to give any time and energy to the other areas of your life.
This one is my nemesis.
It’s one of the sneakier ways life can get out of balance.
It’s okay to let one area take priority for a while, but only to the extent that you’re still able to give some energy, focus, time, and heart to all the other areas that need it.
Otherwise, those neglected areas will suffer.
As a result, you’ll start having problems in those neglected areas of your life, which then spills over into other areas of your life.
And then you’ve got a hot mess on your hands!
You’re not intentional about how you’re spending your time and energy, and not conscious of where your time and energy are flowing.
One way you’ll know this is happening is if you often find yourself saying, “Where did the day go?? I was busy all day but don’t have anything to show for it!”
Or, you never seem to make any real progress toward your goals.
That often means your time and energy are going to the “squeaky wheels” in your life (which are usually things that are high urgency but low importance), and that’s throwing off your balance.
It could also be that a disproportionate amount of your time and energy are going to the path of least resistance. These might be things like binge-watching Netflix, scrolling on Instagram, doing the “busy work” instead of the really important work, etc.
You’re expending more energy and time than you have to give (aka “burning the candle at both ends”).
This leads to your being in an energy deficit, which leads to exhaustion and burnout.
When you add up all the areas, you don’t want the total sum of energy you’re expending to be more than the amount of energy you have to give.
And you also need to keep a little in reserve — because you never know when the Universe will throw you a curveball!
4 strategies to help you achieve and maintain a balanced life:
1) The most important way to keep your life in balance is to be clear on your purpose, and have a guiding set of values that you live by.
When you’re making decisions about how to spend your time and what to give your attention to, check to make sure what you’re doing is aligned with your purpose and values.
Ask yourself, “Is this aligned with my purpose and values? Is it moving me closer to or further away from my goals?”
If the answers are “no” and “further away,” seriously reconsider spending your time in this way.
When you’re really clear on what’s important to you and the direction you’re heading with your life, it makes decisions on how to spend your time and energy so much easier.
2) Do weekly check-ins with yourself.
Living in balance requires conscious awareness of how you’re spending your time and energy.
It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed by life and suddenly realize you’re completely out of balance.
Just like you’d monitor your progress on an important project at work to make sure everything is on track, you’ll need to monitor how you’re doing in terms of life balance.
On Sundays I sit down with my planner and review my week. I look at the appointments and tasks in my calendar to get a picture of how I spent my time, I write out my wins and challenges from the week, and I review the progress I made toward my goals.
If you’re not sure how you’re spending your time (been there!), try using a free time tracker app like Toggl to track your time.
Let me tell you, it can be a real eye-opener about where your time is going!
3) Schedule time in your calendar for the areas of your life that are feeling neglected.
Schedule in an activity for self care, or time with your partner, or whatever area isn’t getting the minimum of energy it needs.
4) Set and maintain strong boundaries to protect your time and energy.
Either consciously or unconsciously, other people will eat up your time and energy if you let them.
Create boundaries in your life that ensure you’re able to have time for yourself and for the things and people that are most important to you. Then, let folks know — kindly but firmly — what your boundaries are.
So that’s my take on living a balanced life.
Brian Moran’s concept of “intentional imbalance” makes a lot of sense to me, and that’s what I’m always working toward.
I believe it’s an ongoing process that we’ll always need to work at, but it takes less effort with practice as you become clearer on your purpose and goals.
So what are your thoughts on living a balanced life? Does the idea of “intentional imbalance” resonate with you?
I’d love to hear your thoughts . . . leave a comment below and let me know!
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Photo credit: Holger Link on Unsplash