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How to live a more satisfying life
The bad news is that there is no magic wand, pill or formula that will get our lives in the desired ‘balance’.
The good news is that we can unlearn many of the habits that have led us to our current state of dissatisfaction and learn new and more fulfilling ways of living our life.
Do you feel ‘out of balance’?
Before going further, though, it is worth considering your answer to this. In many of my seminars, when I pose this question, there is an almost deafening “Yes!” from the group.
Then I move on to my next question: “If you were in balance, what would be different?” Silence descends upon the room.
It seems many people spend a lot of time focussing on what they don’t like about their lives, allowing themselves to feel increasingly frustrated, resentful and stressed. “What you resist, persists” was a favourite saying of one of my former teachers. What he was telling us was that when we focus solely or primarily on what we aren’t happy with, we are sapping up valuable energy and brainpower that could otherwise be used in the pursuit of what we do want in our lives.
Taking the time to consider what your ideal life would be like, what you want to allow more time for and what your truest priorities are is a vital first step in achieving a more satisfying lifestyle.
Balance or Synthesis?
Several years ago, it struck me as odd that we should talk about work & life ‘balance’. You see, what the term balance suggests is that we have all the various aspects of our life measured, boxed and weighed – and then placed on a set of scales (one side holding the ‘work’ aspects of our lives, the other holding the non-work elements). Then we hold our breath and pray nothing changes – because if it does, we will be out of balance!
A more logical way of thinking would be in terms of a synthesis – or blending – of the various aspects of our lives in such as way that at the end of a week, fortnight or month we consider our time was well spent.
(The other strange aspect of the phrase ‘work/life balance’ is that it suggests our life is divided into two categories: ‘work’ and ‘life’. Are these mutually exclusive? Do we not have a ‘life’ while we are at ‘work’? And are we conditioning ourselves to believe that work is ‘lifeless’? Something to think about …
What follows are the top three causes of imbalance in our lives – and some strategies to eliminate them!
Think about all the people who have expectations of you … your work colleagues, family, friends, neighbors and society to name a few!
And of course, there’s you. Many times we can be our own worst impediment to enjoying a fulfilling and satisfying life.
Do you expect yourself to be the ‘perfect’ employee, always going the extra mile as well as being the ‘perfect’ family member who can fulfill all the requests of your time?
If you are a parent in paid employment, do you expect yourself to give 110% to your job as well as being able to attend all your children’s school functions and extra-circular activities?
Sometimes our values conflict with each other. My desire to get through a huge ‘To Do’ list every day and the importance I place on punctuality can really create stress for me. I want to be on time to collect my son from school, but I notice I have an entire 17 minutes before I need to leave. Ah, I’ll just get one more thing off my list …
You know how this story ends. My activity takes longer than expected and I end up late reaching the school. When I arrive (which is a miracle, given the frenetic speed with which I drove there!), I am greeted by a somewhat irritated child saying “Mom, you’re late again!” Though I’m tempted to be angered by his greeting, I stop and realise that, of course, I have created this panic-driven situation myself.
So what expectations do you have of yourself that are in the way of the life you desire?
#2 Financial Commitment Spiral
As we move through our lives, we reach (hopefully) increasing levels of income. At any point in time, we become accustomed to a lifestyle that necessitates the amount of money we are earning.
Then we start to notice ourselves saying “If only I had a bit of extra money, I could afford to renovate the bathroom / buy a more reliable car / landscape the garden.” These wants and desires (and sometimes valid needs) require us to acquire a higher level of income. When we achieve that, more wants and needs appear.
Years ago, my husband and I lived in the inner city on a street where few homes had driveways, causing most residents to park in the street (which was incredibly narrow and particularly risky on garbage collection days!). When the time came to move to another home, I cried, “All I want is a driveway!”
We were blessed to find a beautiful home we could afford, located in a suburb where the land is quite hilly – complete with a driveway and a lock-up garage! I was in heaven … well, for the first month or so, anyway. The process of driving up the driveway, pulling the hand brake on firmly, struggling to exit the car on the steep slope, opening the garage door and returning to the car to steer it into the garage (many times in the drenching rain!) wore thin pretty quickly. Within a few short weeks of my fondest desire for a driveway coming true, I was moaning “We have to get an automatic door for that garage!”
See what I mean?
It is vital to stop and reflect upon what’s truly important to you when you catch yourself in this spiral. (Epilogue: Ten years later and we are still managing without the automatic door. We decided holidays and air conditioning were more important!)
#3 Living in a state of ‘wanting’
In our pursuit of a more desirable life, we may frequently find ourselves saying “I want to be healthier” or “I want to have an overseas holiday”. While the word ‘want’ does have the meaning of ‘to feel a need or desire for’ , it also has other connotations.
Additional meanings include: ‘to be without, or be deficient in by the absence of some part or thing’, ‘to fall short by’, ‘to be in a state of destitution or poverty’ and ‘to be lacking or absent, as a part or thing necessary to completeness.’
So, notice how our brains may interpret some of our statements: ‘I am deficient due to my lower level of health’ or ‘I am incomplete without an overseas holiday’.
If you doubt what I am saying here, do this simple exercise. Write 3 statements of things you desire, starting each with the words ‘I want’. For example: I want to be healthier. I want to leave work by 6 pm. I want to spend more time gardening.
Now, write the same three statements, but this time starting each with the words ‘I choose’. I choose to be healthier. I choose to leave work by 6 pm. I choose to spend more time gardening.
Any difference? You bet! The second set of statements put you in control. They are more empowering and enticing for your brain to process, and therefore more likely for your brain to act upon.
When you live in state of choosing, life is guaranteed to be more satisfying!
A fulfilling, successful life can and will mean different things to different people. For me, the following definition given to us by Ralph Waldo Emerson says it all.
© Sandi Givens, 2012
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