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A Balanced Life – Part 1

I just returned from a long-overdue two-week family vacation in Thailand.  It was amazing!  I recommend adding it to your bucket list.

Being there gave me some time to think about life’s priorities and how to better balance my life.  So this week I want to share something a little different with you in our newsletter…

According to psychologist Sidney Jourard, fully 85 percent of your happiness in life will come from your personal relationships.  Your interactions and the time that you spend with the people you care about will be the major source of the pleasure, enjoyment and satisfaction that you derive daily.

The other 15 percent of your happiness will come from your accomplishments.  Unfortunately, many people lose sight of what is truly important, and they allow the tail to wag the dog.  They sacrifice their relationships, their major source of happiness, to accomplish more in their careers.  But one’s career, at best, can be only a minor source — and a temporary one, at that — of the happiness and satisfaction that everyone wants.

There is no perfect answer to the key question of how to achieve balance in our lives, but there are a number of ideas that can help you to be and have and do more in the areas that are important to you.  These ideas often require changes and modifications in the way you think and use your time, but the price is well worth it.  You will find that by reorganizing your life in little ways, you can create an existence that gives you the highest quality and quantity of satisfaction overall.  And this must be your guiding purpose.

The ancient Greeks had two famous sayings: “Man, know thyself” and “Moderation in all things.”  Taken together, those two ideas are a good starting point for achieving the balance that you desire.  With regard to knowing thyself, it is very important to give some serious thought to what you really value in life.  All trade-offs and choices are based on your values, and all stress and unhappiness come from believing and valuing one thing and, yet, finding yourself doing another.  Only when your values and your activities are congruent do you feel happy and at peace with yourself.

So knowing yourself means knowing what you really value, knowing what is really important to you.  The superior man or woman decides what is right before he or she decides what is possible.  The advanced human being organizes his or her life to assure that everything that he or she is doing is consistent with his or her true values.  It is essential for you to organize your life around yourself, rather than to organize yourself around the demands of your external world.

The second quote, “Moderation in all things,” is a wonderful and important dictate for successful living.  But, at the same time, you know that you can’t really be successful in any area by being moderate in that area.  Peter Drucker once wrote, “Wherever you find something getting done, you find a monomaniac with a mission.”  You know that single-minded concentration on a goal or objective is absolutely necessary for achievement of any kind in a competitive society.

So what’s the solution?  Over the years, I have worked with tens of thousands of men and women who have spent a lot of time and effort struggling to achieve balance in their lives.  I have found that there is a simple formula; it is simple in that it is easy to explain, but you need tremendous self-discipline and persistence to implement it in your life.

The formula revolves around a concept of time management, or what you might want to call life management.  Time management is really a form of personal management in which you organize your 24 hours a day in such a way that they give you the greatest possible return of happiness and contentment.

The key to time management, after you have determined your values and the goals that are in harmony with those values, is to set both priorities and posteriorities.  The importance of setting priorities is obvious.  You make a list of all the things that you can possibly do and then select from that list the things that are most important to you based on everything you know about yourself, about others and about your responsibilities.  The setting of posteriorities is often overlooked.  It is when you carefully decide which things you are going to stop doing so that you will have enough time to start doing something else.

The greatest single shortage we experience in America today is that of time.  We suffer from what has been called “time poverty.”  Men and women everywhere feel that their biggest single challenge is that they simply do not have enough time to do all the things that they have to do or want to do.  People today feel pressured from all sides and are under an inordinate amount of stress.  They feel overworked, fatigued and incapable of fulfilling all the responsibilities that they have taken on.

The starting point to alleviate this time poverty is to stop and think.  Most people are so busy rushing back and forth that they seldom take the time to think seriously about who they are and why they are doing what they are doing.  They engage in frantic activity, instead of thoughtful analysis.  They get so busy climbing the ladder of success that they lose sight of the fact that the ladder may be leaning against the wrong building.

When my wife and I started our family, we were faced with a common dilemma: how can we balance the demands of work and home with the finite amount of time we are all given?

Here’s the answer I discovered:  The key to success in a busy society is to devote your time to only two areas during the period of time when your family needs you, when your children are between the ages of birth to about 18 to 20 years.  During this period of time, you need to curtail virtually all of your outside activities.  You need to focus on two major areas — your family and your career — as I have done over the years.  You need to place your family’s needs above all else and then organize your work schedule so that you can satisfy those needs on a regular basis.  Then, when you work, you must concentrate single-mindedly on doing an excellent job.

Part 2 coming soon…

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