Life is all about balance. Balancing the things we have to do with the things we want to do. Balancing adequate sleep with a full schedule. Balancing work, family, friends and community commitments. Unfortunately, as we struggle to find balance, self-care is one of the first things we let go of. Yet, if we can make the time for self-care, the energy we have to give to all of our other responsibilities increases.
So, how do we find balance? The first step is identifying priorities. One of my favorite quotes that I was introduced to at a Women in Medicine conference is, “You can have it all, but not all at once”. At any time in our lives, priorities will differ. If you have young children at home, they have priority over your yoga class. But if your teenager wants you to drive her to a social event during your yoga class, perhaps she can be encouraged to get a ride with a friend or arrive a little bit late. I find it to be a good exercise to periodically re-evaluate priorities. This can be done on an annual basis to assess your overall situation but more time sensitive projects and seasonal commitments can be prioritized on a weekly or monthly basis.
The second step is setting intention. Once your priorities are straight, this becomes an easy next step. Decide and verbalize your intention. Share it with other stake-holders. If your intention is to stay focused on a major project at work, let your family and co-workers know. If it is to be home to help your child study for a test on Wednesday, make sure those who may otherwise share your time Wednesday afternoons are aware of this.
Third, I recommend “preparing for the perfect.” What needs to be put in place for you to perfectly achieve your goals? Whose support do you need? Do you have all of the resources you will need? Typically, this is where we get derailed. We rarely have all of the resources (time, money, support) we need for a perfect outcome. But, acknowledging where our resources fall short prepares us for the final step – accepting excellence. Note the distinction between perfection and excellence – a 98% on a chemistry exam is pretty darned excellent, but it is a bit shy of perfect. Even more importantly, if that chemistry test was on the same day a major History project was due and you had a game in the afternoon and a performance the evening before, an 80% on the exam may be as excellent as it gets –your best effort is always circumstantial!
Perhaps the most important piece of finding balance is being tolerant to our struggle and recognizing that balance is, by nature, a dynamic process. Balance is always changing – the routine that worked so well for you this week may be totally ineffective next week when your boss is away and your kids have concerts, games and multiple social commitments. Balance is hard work, it takes planning and organization. But is also takes a willingness to let the planning go when life throws us curve balls. Prioritize, set intention, plan for perfection, and then prepare to accept the imperfection of mere excellence!