7 Steps to Create Balance in Your Life

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It is very easy to feel overwhelmed in life, not having a moment to yourself, not doing the things you love and spending too much time working, doing long hours in the office and then more at home. Creating balance within your life is about making conscious choices and behaving differently. Generally, when it comes to our lives being out of balance, it is because we spend too much time doing work related activities at the expense of our home life, our relationships or our health. If you feel that you don't have the right work/home life balance, then here are 7 steps to create balance in your life:

  1. Explore where you are in your life right now. Use the Wheel of Life to help you assess what's working well for you, which areas are giving you the greatest satisfaction or happiness. In doing this exercise, you'll be able to see at a glance which areas aren't positively contributing to the life you want, and which areas are the primary cause of the imbalance. As you complete the wheel, think about how much time you are spending at work or doing work or how many hours you are putting in each week. Are you getting the opportunities to relax, doing the things you love with the people important to you? Are you living a healthy lifestyle?
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  2. Identify what your priorities are. You can't do everything, there's not enough time in the day. Tackling the lowest scoring areas within The Wheel of Life first to create balance, and thus an easier life, determine what your top three priorities are within those areas. What do you need to focus on and what do you need to do?
  3. Once you have identified what you need to do, create SMART goals for those priorities and a step by step plan to achieve them. Then get working on them. Check out the blog post on SMART Goals if you want to know more.
  4. It might seem ridiculous but if you are struggling because of the perceived lack of time, it is useful to create a schedule for everything in your life. You might be used to time management in the workplace and structuring your work around a diary is essential, so why wouldn't you use a similar structure for your home life. When you are pretty full on and busy all the time, it is easy to be all consumed by work. No thought is given to you doing the things you enjoy, to having time to yourself. Each day becomes like the previous one, evenings and weekends fly by without you feeling like you have done anything, let alone achieved something.

    Try scheduling the priorities you have identified, creating a commitment to time to get those things done. Schedule activities such as time for you, relaxing, recharging your batteries, engaging in self-care etc. A schedule helps you commit to the time, it helps you make the conscious choice and be fully present in the activity you have scheduled. If you don't schedule things in, then more often than not, you won't do it; the habit of working, reaching for the wine bottle, sitting watching tv. zoning out or making a token effort will be the overriding behaviour. Why don't you try scheduling in a romantic meal with your partner each week, quality play time with the children, meeting up with your friends, a super relaxing bath, watching a movie you have been wanting to watch for some time? These small commitments can make a massive difference when creating greater balance in your life and helps you reconnect with the things that are important to you and your priorities.

  5. Be prepared to move out of your comfort zone. You don't want to be playing it safe all the time. If you want to have a more rounded, balanced life, you've got to make the right decisions to do so and not fear the consequences. We create the imbalance between our work and home life but at what cost? The job will still be there if you leave it once your shift has finished. Though for some people spending all their time working is a distraction strategy because maybe they don't like their own company, don't have any hobbies or interests, don't want to think about making changes because they don't know where to start. They are comfortable doing this, but are unhappy and in the end, it will be detrimental to their physical and emotional well-being.
  6. Create flexibility in your thinking and behaviour. No matter how much you plan or create balance in your life, something unexpected will happen. How you respond to this will determine what the outcome will be. But if you have learnt strategies for creating balance, you'll be in a better frame of mind and state to be able to deal with unexpected events. You won't be too tired or stressed out and will be able to respond effectively. You'll be able to come up with alternative solutions to problems, to bounce back quicker and not become overwhelmed by issues that are sometimes beyond your control.
  7. Have the right mindset. I have previously written about the power of positivity and about being responsible for your life, and both are important when it comes to creating the right balance between home life and work. What are you working for if you don't have time to spend the money you are earning? If you don't have any time to recover, to recharge, then how effective are you going to be when you are at work? Not working every hour you can, is not a negative reflection on you. Ask yourself, why you are not creating balance in your life? If your life has become all work, work, work, why is this and what are you going to do about it? You are in control of creating your future life. If you don't have balance, it is because you are choosing this, choose to do something different.

"Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life"

- Dolly Parton

The Power of Positivity

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You hear a lot about positivity, there is even strand of psychology devoted to research around the topic. But is it just wishful thinking, woo-woo-ra-ra stuff or is there some truth to the fact that have a positive mindset can influence the results you get?

Having a positive mindset is not about thinking that you must be happy 24/7, that you'll never experience negative emotions or have negative thoughts. It is about thinking positively, re-framing negative thoughts and limiting beliefs. It's enjoying the little things and how these small everyday things compound to have a positive effect on your life.

Positive thinking becomes a way of being, a framework by which you live your life. In the beginning it's about being conscious of stopping and thinking, to consider alternative perspectives. Not jumping to conclusions that the universe is out to get you, seeing the world and the people in it differently. For example, you send a message to a friend, asking if they want to meet up for coffee. You don't hear anything from them. Having a positive mindset allows you to consider multiple options for what might have happened such as, they 're pretty busy right now and they simply forgot or maybe they think they have replied already (yes this is me, I sometimes think I have replied when I haven’t). Those not operating within a positive framework will likely take is a personal rejection, that they are being ignored or the other person doesn't like them. Having a positive mindset is more likely to put you in the shoes of others and to consider a greater variety of perspectives and reasons for certain actions or outcomes.

As you live your life from this positive standpoint, your reactions to events, people, environments become more unconscious. The generation of alternative options becomes more automatic to the point that you don't consider any negative aspects to it, you don't jump to those negative conclusions like you might have done in the past.

Having a positive mindset is not just about considering the different perspectives but about affecting our own thinking and behaviour and influencing the outcomes we get. Thinking and experiencing something positive can have an influence on actions and events which follow. A few weeks ago, my niece had a particularly stressful and pressurised day in which she had a piano exam in the morning and her driving test in the afternoon. Despite feeling naturally nervous for both and having previously failed her first driving test a few weeks prior, it would have been easy to be distracted when it came to the exam in the morning. As it was, she focused on the first task at hand. Throughout the exam she played the piano well and knew she had performed to a high standard. She carried the positivity from that through into her driving test and was faultless. It is no coincidence that the good feelings from the morning exam influenced her state of mind for the afternoon test. If she had played badly, the negative self-talk would have taken over, she would have dwelled on her previous failure and would have convinced herself that it was not going to be her day, she would have doubted her own driving ability. Going forward she can draw upon the day’s experiences and outcomes to help her through future challenges. I’m sure you can think of instances where your mindset affected your emotional state, influencing your behaviour and then the outcome, either negatively or positively. We can use our positive state and mindset in a variety of situations and challenges, to be in the right frame of mind to have a positive outcome.

People might think it is difficult to create a positive mindset but it's not, yes it takes practice; however, you all have the ability to do it and live your life more positively. Below are 9 steps to creating a positive mindset:

  1. Think positively, talk positively. Use language which is positive. Increase your awareness about how you are thinking and talking. If you the first thought you have or the first thing to come out of your mouth is negative, catch yourself and use more positive language.
  2. Use positive self-talk. Silence the negative voice. The little voice in your head is sometimes very loud and persistent when it comes to telling you what you can't do, the things you don't deserve, what kind of person you are and how things will end. Tell it to shut up, there are more important things to say like you are an amazing person, capable of fantastic things, reminding you of all the things you have achieved in your life. Let the voice that is promoting you sing loud and proud.
  3. Use previous positive experiences to get you in the right state giving you a boost when doing something which is challenging or stressful tasks. You will be surprised just how your body responds when you draw upon your previous experiences.
  4. Create a network that will stretch and challenge you, but which also supports you. They are there to take inspiration from you but nothing else, they push you to be your best and celebrate with you. Ditch the toxic people, they are not going to help you and will suck the life out of you.
  5. They say laughter is the best medicine and it is, use humour to alleviate stress and tension. You cannot be sad or upset at the same time as being funny, and by using humour, it allows you gain a better perspective on a potentially bad situation.
  6. Focus on the solutions, not the problems. By focusing on the problems, you are not moving forward and will be stuck in a spiral of doom and gloom. Switch to focusing on the solutions will create more options and whilst you might find more problems along the way, you will have moved beyond the original ones.
  7. Failures are not mistakes or world ending events, they are feedback, lessons to be learnt, opportunities for different courses of action, different journeys and different possible outcomes. Embrace them, don't fear them.
  8. Be present in the now, don't be trapped by the past. You are in control of your thoughts and actions, you choose what to think, what to focus upon, what to do. You do not have to choose to focus on the negative, you can choose a positive mindset.
  9. Be aware and practice. If you don't already, start to view the world and people in it from a different perspective. Get out of your own head and put yourself in the shoes of others and consider what might be going on from them in their world. See your life full of possibilities and opportunities, not a life full of danger, risk and potential losses. Practice to the point that having a positive mindset is your default position.

Choose to be the glass half full type of person, not the glass half empty.

The Story You Live By

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Our lives are like a book, made up of different chapters, a series of stories within one massive novel. Every day we have interactions, relationships, successes, failures, things that happen, things we do and so on. Some of these events are more memorable than others and can have a profound or long-lasting impact upon our lives, influencing how we think and behave. If we were writing a book of our life, then some of them would make into one or more of the chapters.

It is so easy to become bogged down by the past, to live your life by what has gone on before and this influences everything you do today. I have spoken about responsibility in a previous blog which you can access using the link below,

Be Responsible for Your Life

Sometimes it is difficult to get to a place where you are taking responsibility for your current situation because you are living your life by the same story you have always done. The question to ask is, how does this story serve you? Does it hold you back or does it inspire you to drive forward in creating the life you want and living life to the fullest? How does the story you are choosing to live your life by, affecting how you think?

There is a correlation between what you think and the results you get. Let me explain further using the figure below. This is a tool for you to use to redefine your story and ultimately, your outcome.

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You are thinking every minute of every day. Experts estimate we have anywhere between 50-80,000 thoughts per day. You have a thought or often, a series of thoughts, on everything that goes on in your life, but especially when it comes to making a change or doing something which is meaningful to you. For example, maybe you are wanting to go part time at work so that you have more time at home. You'll have a myriad of thoughts that go with this, arguments for doing this, counterarguments against it, experiencing the see-saw effect of weighing up all the pros and cons of going part-time or staying full-time. Some thoughts will be positive, some negative, some thoughts don't even register that much, but others will be so intense they are difficult to ignore. All these thoughts generate feelings which influences what you do next. Sometimes the feelings we have affect the thoughts we generate which can lead to an even greater intensity of feelings. There is a rapid interchange between thoughts and feelings, but what follows is the actions you then take, how you respond, effectively what you do. The actions are the culmination of what you are thinking and feeling but what you choose to then do, determines the results you get; what you see and experience.

It is these outcomes which influence what you think next. And the cycle begins again; each time you go through this process the intensity and energy which you cycle through increases. Think about the story you are living by and how this might influence the process and ultimately the results you get. If the story you live by is one you have been telling all your life and it is one that isn't serving you, it is one full of negativity, anger, hatred, shame, guilt or blaming others then what are you going to choose to do and what outcomes will you achieve?

If you want to change an outcome then change the thought; change how you view what you’re looking at, this is going to change how you feel about it. Feeling differently will impact on the choice of actions you can take, giving you a different outcome. But what if, even if you have the same thoughts and feelings, what would happen if you chose a different course of action, how might that influence the outcome you achieved? Even though your emotions are running high you can still choose to take a different course of action.

Consider what might happen if you changed your thoughts, thought about what your story now consists of. If you told yourself to create or choose a different story, how might the thought of doing this and where it might lead make you feel? We are constantly creating stories; it is in our DNA. 

The stories we create are the ones in which we live our lives by. The story you choose will determine whether you see something as an opportunity in which you will gain a positive outcome or whether you focus on what you will lose. Your story can be empowering, or it can hold you back. Only you can change your story so what’s stopping you? What story are you telling right now? Is it one in which you are creating your best possible future life? If not, then change it. The story you tell yourself and the world will not only define who you are, but who you will become and what you will do as you create your future. A story can change your life, so go create your next chapter.

What's the Worst That Can Happen?

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Sometimes, when it comes to making a change, to take a chance, we hold back. Many people are risk averse, fearing failure, rejection, sometimes fearing success because of that might bring. In some instances, we don't enjoy or celebrate our successes because we expect something bad will follow.

We are hard wired to see negatives. From an evolutionary perspective our brains have not evolved in line with the shifting landscape. The brain's perception of risk goes back to the dawn of time when man was not the top predator and there were tigers and other beasties hiding in the bushes. Danger lurked around every corner and the dangers were life threatening. Now those dangers aren't present, but the brain doesn't know that. It reacts to situations which it perceives to be risky as there is an immediate threat.

Perceived risks in the modern world are telling someone you love them for the first time and waiting for their response. Handing your notice in after 25 years of working in the same industry and going off to travel the world before it’s too late. Attending your first trade show to sell the products you have made from your hobby, going beyond just selling them to family and friends. Doing your first ever Facebook Live, opening yourself up to criticism and judgement whilst also connecting with your tribe and potential future customers. Finishing off the book you have been writing, letting others read it and sending it off to a publisher.

Moments like these can generate fear and anxiety that our brain is trying to protect us from. But, if we're wanting something to change then we must overcome these fears, we must get the primitive part of the brain to calm down and focus on reality. We need to ask ourselves, what's the worst that's going to happen? It's time to get your thinking, rational brain into gear.

What IS the worst that can happen? If you change careers, you might not like it? There are other jobs to apply for. Set up your own business and you make a loss? You're not going to be a success straight away and if it doesn't work out, you close it down knowing that at least you tried. Ask someone out on a date and they say no? Not every connection you make is going to end the way you want. Yes, it might hurt but when you find the next person you like, this moment will be forgotten.

If you're held back by fear of what might happen, keep asking yourself, what's the worst that can happen? You won't be able to come up with many things that you don't have the skills or strength to be able to deal with. That's the thing, we don't have to believe all the negative things. It is easy to lose sight that we are more than capable and adaptable to deal with what life throws at us. If something doesn't work out how we want, the sky won't fall in, it's not the end of the world. You have the ability and the skills to create a new path. Be flexible and keep at it. When you were a child learning to walk, you didn't give up the first time you fell, or the second, third... Why would you do it now as an adult? Even if aiming high, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone is scary, do it anyway. If you don’t try, what will it cost you in the long run?

We no longer live in an era where there are life threatening risks everywhere. Whilst life choices can be uncomfortable at times, you're not in immediate danger with the decisions you make. You choose what to or not to believe so pick something which will serve you and move you forward in life. Don't choose to believe something which isn't real, and which will hold you back. Take the risk of living the life you want and enjoy it.