For many of us, the culprit is over-commitment. You may say, “Yes” to everything because you are afraid to say, “No.” Some people feel guilty when they disappoint someone with a refusal. In other cases, people who over-commit are insecure and trying to win approval. Some people have what appears to be a vibrant zest for life that they want to experience every single opportunity that comes along – but forget that some time must be saved for rest and self-care. Letting everyone else’s ideas and agendas control your time and energy will quickly throw you off balance.
An off-kilter life can also lead to discouragement because too much time and effort spent in one area of life will usually cause a deficit in another area. I understand that sometimes we have to be single minded and exercise extreme focus in one area – like studying for finals before graduation, starting a business or finishing a remodeling project before your in-laws come to visit – but when it becomes chronic, someone suffers the consequences. For example, workaholism damages or destroys every family affected by it. The workaholic may feel discouraged by the quality of life at home, but I can guarantee that family members are even more discouraged!
One of the hidden consequences of an unbalanced life is excessive self-indulgence. The tendency to eat too much fast food happens when we can’t seem to make time for better choices. Working grueling hours seems to justify the “need” for a few extra alcoholic drinks. The stress of poor relationships may lead to isolation or the pursuit of any convenient friendship, regardless of how unhealthy.
In short, when life is out of balance, we tend to overcompensate in ways that usually tip us farther off center than we were before. So, how do you catch yourself before you lose your balance and fall?
Although perfect balance can never be achieved and there are legitimate instances when life demands an inordinate amount of time or devotion be directed to one area, we want to strive for as much balance as possible. Here are some examples:
Balance emotions with reason.
Balance giving with receiving.
Balance work with play.
Balance attending to the needs of others with practicing self-care.
I wish I could give you one hot tip that would instantly balance your life, but basic life principles are still the best strategy. Doing the right things the right way on a consistent basis is still the simple (but not always easy) way to get your life back into balance.
For physical balance, get enough rest, eat wisely, and exercise. Make small decisions every day that snowball into powerful changes.
For emotional balance, serve others, maintain a thankful heart and engage in reasonable amounts of work and play. I cannot emphasize enough the power of your attitude to effect changes in an out-of-balance life!
Bottom line is that when our lives are out of balance, it is as though you’re walking on a tightrope in a windstorm. But when you choose to pursue balance you are much more likely to feel steady and experience emotional stability, more satisfying relationships and greater productivity and effectiveness.
Have you found a way to bring an off-balance area of your life back to center? What was the key to making that work? Please let us know how you did it in the comments below!
Live, Work and Relate Well!
Dr. Linaman is a psychologist and executive coach providing counseling and professional development services to individuals, couples, work teams and organizations.