Life Balance: Doing the Heavy Lifting Up Front

I recently devoted a few blog posts to the topic of “outsourcing” certain life tasks. Some keyword searches on the term “life balance” had interestingly brought up several concierge listings; implying, as it were, that outsourcing ones responsibilities is a viable means to the desired end – a life in balance.

It is my general feeling that unless you have substantial resources – monetary ones to pay for a personal assistant and time to manage that assistant – “outsourcing” is simply treading water, not balancing your life. Sure, we can convince ourselves that hiring someone else to water our lawns, walk our dogs, clean our houses, maintain our vehicles and pick up groceries will free up time to “be who we are.” But eventually there will come a day when we ask – who’s really doing the living here? Me, or a cast of characters who I hired to act on my behalf?

The truth is this: “outsourcing” can just as easily perpetuate the same bad habits and sense of “unbalance” that we were hoping to break in the first place. At first we may revel in the newfound freedom and wonder, “Now that my time is my own, what can I tackle first?” But without real purpose or direction, we soon find ourselves floundering in inertia, and this feels unnatural – not in line with the familiar chaos that we know and have come to expect.

It’s almost as though a void has opened up and now there’s a strong desire to fill it with something, anything, other than the truth that we’re running from. This leads to yet another series of commitments, the acquisition of more hobbies, pursuits, material goods and so forth – and cycles back to the conclusion that our lives have become unmanageable and must be delegated once again.

And so we arrive at next obvious question: what IS the truth that we’re all so busy dodging? Could it be that we don’t know what we want from life? And so we jump from one distraction to the next, hoping to avoid being confronted by the dilemma of “why am I here.” Meanwhile, the quest for an authentic life that doesn’t feel forced or scripted continues to evade us. Why?

Why do so many of us feel this way – lost and out of touch in our everyday lives, even as we play out our roles so perfectly? It’s worth taking stock of ourselves, our priorities, our hopes and dreams, in an effort to find out. Is it possible that the life we originally thought we wanted was actually borne from someone else’s ideal? And if that’s the root cause of our dissatisfaction, don’t we owe it to ourselves to ask:

What would make me happy? What does a life in balance look like to me?

According to Stephen Covey in the article “Work-Life Balance: A Different Cut,” “Many people simply conclude that they are not disciplined enough. My response to that idea is that it’s usually not a discipline problem at all. The problem is more often that the person has not yet sufficiently paid the price to get very clear about what matters most to them. Once you have a burning “yes” inside you about what’s truly important, it’s very easy to say “no” to the unimportant.”

I would assert here that life balance requires in-sourcing rather than outsourcing. That is, only you can be trusted with such a critical assignment. You are the only one who truly has a vested interest in your own life balance. Only you can handle the important decisions needed to define and create the life and lifestyle you desire to live.
Sure, effective time management can be a part of achieving life balance. But we’ve got to do the heavy-lifting up front before we can figure out exactly where we want our time to go.

Some suggestions on how to kick-start the process:

  • Take the time to get to know yourself. Find out what matters most in your life. Determine what makes you tick – not what someone else “believes to be so” about you, but what you know to be true of yourself.
  • What do you value and what do you believe? What things do you cherish most in the world? What are you willing to work for, take risks for, and even sacrifice to manifest in your lifetime?
  • Remember that what you want could be very different from someone else wants. Is it happiness? Love? Purpose? Goals? Continued growth and learning? Peace? Fulfillment? Satisfaction? Once your breakthrough happens – set your priorities, and stick to them. Begin to live your life in line with your own intentions.
  • Re-engage in self discovery. Experience your passions again – and remind yourself by focusing on those things or people that you love, that excite you, that motivate you, that thrill you, that make you feel alive. Some people automatically know what they are most passionate about. Others take a little longer to make this ever-important discovery.

Questions to help facilitate the inner dialogue:

  • What activities do you enjoy doing yourself? What activities do you enjoy doing with your family or your friends?
  • What are your talents, besides (or in addition to) those that are work-related?
  • Who are your best friends? How often do you get together?
  • What are your deepest-held values, priorities, fears, beliefs, and hopes?
  • Begin to question your actions.

If you’ve tried in vain to “fix” things that are broken and cannot, or you feel you’re compromising your values and your spirit in things that you’re doing, ask yourself: “Why am I doing them?” If you’re unhappy and it’s weighing heavily on you, take a look to see what your life would look like without whatever it is that’s causing you discomfort.

Finally: live YOUR life. Accept where you are today. Prioritize each succeeding day around your re-found boundaries, goals, and values. In doing so, you will be living the life that you choose, and not a pre-packaged life that has been carved out for you by a so-called “authority” on the subject.

Take the self-discovery process a step further. Define and then refine the ideal life in balance for you and nobody else.

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