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Archive for the ‘Life balance’ Category

In Brian Johnson’s Philosopher’s Notes email this morning he quotes Dan Millman from Everyday Enlightenment:

“The only problem in your life is your mind’s resistance to life as it unfolds.”

Not surprisingly, I totally agree.  It doesn’t mean that we don’t have any actual problems…illness, financial problems, relationship problems are all very real.  What it does mean, is how we think about those problems, how we respond or react to them, will make all the difference in how happy or stressed we are and what actions we choose to take.

If we are open to the opportunities presented by life, we begin to view circumstances as neither positive nor negative, but as opportunities for change, learning and choice.  If we choose to embrace life’s occurrences rather than resist or move into a place of fear, we allow ourselves to “go with the flow” of life, thereby reducing stress, and gaining what Millman calls “everyday enlightenment.”

Case in point:  I had a client who called me one day to tell me that she’d just returned from a business trip to find that her home had just had a major fire.  Her family was fine, but the home was in an unlivable condition.  In that instant she had a choice…to bemoan her fate, or to embrace the opportunity that it presented.  And there was a very clear opportunity for her…she could move into her weekend home and arrange to telecommute to her job part of the time.  While the opportunity or learning from every situation is not always as immediately clear, the choice to embrace each one with a positive outlook is.

Often it’s not even situations that we resist, but change of any kind, whether positive or negative.  We resist change because not only does it upset the the status quo, it also plunges us into the scary unknown.  When faced with change (like your pediatrician retiring to open a toy store in Taos, NM) our first response is to think of how that will negatively impact us (oh no, I have to find or get used to a new doctor, will they be as good, are they taking new patients, will they accept my insurance, will my child like them?)  or how that change may add an extra layer of to-dos (I have to research good pediatricians, ask for people’s experiences with them, make appointments, interview them, get the records moved…)

If instead of resisting, we seek the opportunity and possibilities in each situation, we often find that not only is it far less stressful than resistance, but there is even a benefit (the new doctor’s office is closer, they are more up-to-date, etc.) to looking at things differently.

As with everything, you need to create a new habit to replace an old one.  To create the new habit of not resisting change, start by deliberately embracing change in small ways.  Change the route you take to work, change the way you deal with emails and call someone to respond to a question rather than emailing, hold your phone in your other hand, change the order you do things in the evening.  Once you’ve mastered the art of small changes, you’ll begin to find it easier to weigh your options when situations occur.  And you’re well on your way to “everyday enlightenment.”

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bulb2 I’m rethinking life balance.

That’s mainly because of late, I don’t seem to have much.  Now that’s a scary admission for a coach!

Now don’t get me wrong….it’s not that I don’t have much of a personal life, it’s that my personal life and my professional one seem to be merging.  While I do have friends outside the realm of the personal development and coaching world, more of my friends come from “my tribe” and we have great fun working and playing together.  Swapping book ideas, sharing tidbits gleaned from workshops and webinars. Learning from each other.  Learning the ins and outs of social media together.  Swapping YouTube videos of Susan Boyle and The Big Mind.

And that’s not the only place life has merged.  The three to four conferences I attend or put on each year, plus the additional ones of my aforementioned colleagues/friends that I am invited to speak at or attend, have become increasingly personal.  More a reunion of friends and meeting new folks of the tribe than work.

I can be as eager to speak to clients and work on projects with my colleagues (I rarely do any project alone anymore…it’s much more fun with a friend) as I am to go to the movies or have lunch with a local friend.  It’s no longer work vs play.

What I am moving towards is the idea that there is a higher ideal than work-life balance, and that’s to work-life integration.  And sometimes that may be “off-balanced”, as it is right now where I am in the countdown days to my annual Conversation Among Masters conference, finishing up an ebook on Creating Your Life Plan, planning fund raising activities for my non-profit, and a wild (yes wild, in addition to wide) variety of other activities I’m involved in.  So I’m juggling faster than usual as a few deadlines approach.  But it’s grand.

And I’m still looking forward to dinner and a movie with friends this weekend. Perhaps some extreme self-care as well.

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MSN, in conjunction with Stress Awareness Month, is offering people free and healthy tips and tools on how to help manage and reduce their stress levels.  In their press release they quote an American Psychological Association report “Stress in America,”  which indicates that ‘ “nearly half of Americans report that their stress level has increased over the past year, with as many as 30 percent rating their average stress level as extreme.* Specifically, eight out of 10 Americans listed money and the economy — 81 percent and 80 percent, respectively — as the main source of their stress.’  http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2009/apr09/04-06StressAwarenessPR.mspx?rss_fdn=Press%20Releases

If you find it difficult to manage your stress effectively it’s almost 100% certain, that you’re not putting yourself at the top of your to-do list nor grounded in the present.  Whether you’re worried about the state of the world or the worry is closer to home and you’re worried about every day life, here are some simple steps to maintaining your balance and your sanity.

  1. Get your biggest stressors out of the way.  If there are things on your plate that are creating stress, the tendency is to avoid them.  Instead, face them head on, and get them over with.  That will open the flood gates of productivity and get you moving, while at the same time freeing you from what you were tolerating.
  2. Don’t hold it in.  Often when we share what’s bothering us with others, whether it’s to vent, share the lighter side of it, or just to get a different point of view, we can shift our framework around what is causing the stress, and thereby eliminate it or at least minimize it.  I encourage my clients to call me when they need a three minute vent.  You may not have a coach, but it’s likely that you have a willing family member or friend who will be happy to listen to a brief vent.  (Just don’t let the vent go on too long, or you’ll be programming yourself for dissatisfaction rather than releasing it.)
  3. Surround yourself with supportive and interesting people.  It’s important to have people in your life that are positive, interesting, nonjudgmental, and there for you. Why interesting?  Because when you have interesting people in your life, you’re less likely to feel stuck and bored, and less likely to dwell on negative thoughts as well.  

If you don’t have that in your life now, or you don’t have an abundance of supportive and interesting relationships, set about creating a community that supports you. Reach out or deepen those relationships that nourish you and allow you to grow. Raise your standards and let go of those relationships that drain you or harm you. Surround yourself with people that nourish you in mind and spirit.
  4. Create rituals.  Whether it’s a glass of wine before dinner, a cup of chamomile tea while watching your favorite reality TV show, or riding your bike to your favorite park at the same time each day, a consistent ritual has a calming effect.
  5. Learn to say “no”. Learning to say “no” to tasks, requests or social obligations will go a long way towards making life more stress free.  Even go so far as to consider unburdening yourself from things you have already committed to that don’t serve you personally or professionally.  It’s okay to change your mind.  And “no” is a complete sentence…don’t feel the need to explain.  

Don’t create unrealistic demands on yourself. What can you start saying, “no” to in your life?  Saying “no” is a skill that can be developed. You have the power to choose so start taking a proactive approach to your life.
  6. Try Yoga breathing when you feel stress taking its toll.  Deep breathing provides extra oxygen to the blood and causes the body to release endorphins.  Sit comfortably in your chair. Start by taking a few deep breaths, and then stop. Let your hands just rest on your lap. Inhale slowly and deeply for six seconds. Don’t breathe out immediately; instead hold the breath for four seconds. Exhale slowly for six seconds. Repeat several times.
  7. Be present to the now.  When you’re engaged in an activity, don’t be thinking about all the other things you should be doing.  When you’re with people you love, really be there with them – not 80% there and 20% back at work!  Plan something you can look forward to every evening with your partner or friends and be totally present for it – and that means something more than wolfing down your dinner and positioning yourself in front of the TV!

Of course there are many other stress alleviators…listening to music, exercising, being in nature, making love.  The point is that you have to take action, rather than allowing yourself to be stuck in your head.  So what are you waiting for…go do something about it.

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Google life balance, and what you’ll find are 1,920,000 references.  Something of a hot topic!  But is life balance even possible?

When your life feels out of whack, it feels like you don’t ever have enough time to do everything that needs to get done, let alone the things you wish you could do. There are work demands, family demands, and social demands.  So much to know, so much to do.  It’s too much.  And all of today’s technology only makes it worse.  Emails to read and respond to, voicemails to answer, websites to build and maintain, and information bombarding us from all corners.  The advice to “take time off” and “take time for yourself” begins to sound like a bad joke.  It’s enough to make you consider “going off the grid” and getting “back to nature.” 

But there’s no need to go to that extreme.  What it boils down to is…what is important to you?  Balance doesn’t necessarily mean that your life has equal amounts of work and play.  It does mean satisfaction with all the areas of your life.  

It’s about making choices.

I often work with clients to take a look at all their responsibilities and obligations in order to eliminate those that no longer serve them, and to eliminate some of them out of their lives. We also work on learning to say “no”. So many times, I find that people say “yes” out of misplaced obligation or mistaken politeness, when what they really want to do is say NO.  No, they cannot bake ten dozen brownies for the bake sale; no, they don’t want to sit on the condo association board of directors; no, they don’t want to give up a weekend to attend a wedding of distant relation. 

It seems obvious, but you also need to know what you would like your life to look like.  In other words, what is your life vision and what does life balance look like for you?  Yet many (if not most) people live their lives by default rather than choice.  Learn what you value and measure all decisions against your values and vision for your life. Create your life plan, take stock of your personal environments and set about getting your life in balance your way! 

What in your physical and other environments needs adjusting so you can live your best life? You might, for example, survey your environment to see what information input and stimulation you can eliminate or contain.  Do you finish a book that you don’t enjoy because you have to finish everything you start? Why bother?  If it doesn’t grab your interest, return it or toss it.  Are your magazine subscriptions serving you, or are those piles of unread magazines becoming a toleration?  Do you really need to read three newspapers a day?  Might you not be better served to read your news online, and filter it so you only see those articles that are important to you?  You can choose how and when information enters your life, and use technology to make it serve you, instead of the other way around. Consider an Audible subscription (books, magazines or newspapers), one of the book synopsis subscription services like www.aheadspace.com/

I was watching Comedy Central  and a young comedian (Demetri Martin) said that when you wake up each day, you spend the rest of the day making choices.  So “when you decide to wear flip flops, you’re deciding that you will not be running away from people wearing sneakers.”  Whether you make those choices consciously or not is your decision to make.   

Yes, there are times when your life balance will be out of whack, for example when you are on vacation, or have a new baby, or a special project that requires all your attention.  Balance is about the overall equilibrium of your life. 

Or maybe, it’s really not about balance at all…but about integrating all the areas of your life.  An idea worth exploring!

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