It seems that I touched a nerve with my last article on a balanced life. There was a tremendous out-pouring of comments, and I'd like to share two of the responses that I found especially remarkable. The writers are two women at different stages of their lives, yet their wisdom is very relatable. I hope that their words educate you as they did for me.
“This is an excellent article and if people reflected early in their careers rather than learning the “hard way” there would be many benefits. It is very important to find the balance, and I did learn the hard way. I worked in DC during the workaholic 80s and saw many lives and marriages ruined. I am a “recovering” perfectionist and worked full time with a travel schedule and went to grad school at GW part time. My life was segmented into 15 min. intervals during grad school. At work, I hit the wall many times due to too much work which left me totally drained. I worked too hard for over 20 years and got sick. I never had 2 weeks off at one time during that 20 years—just short vacation breaks and back to work. I drove myself much too hard and have learned a lot.
Finding a place to work which recognizes a life-work balance is important. Exercising is important and when you are busy, it is very hard, but find something you like and try to build in the time. Make sure you are doing something for someone else and it’s not always about work. I always have a volunteer activity. I have a very deep faith life, so that puts a lot into a perspective, and I keeping learning every day. I find time every day to be with God and get guidance.
One’s health is very important and work can take a serious toll on it. You have to take care of yourself and learn about yourself. Don’t compare yourself to others. Everyone has a different immune system, a different level of stamina, different emotional levels. I work hard, but I know I need a day or two to recover and I take it and expect to sleep and relax. I know I need recovery time. Others do not.
I am still not good at seeing the signs that I’m overworked. I still will tend to hit the wall. So that is something I’m still learning about for myself. What are the physical and mental and emotional symptoms that you have to slow down or take a break? I’m an achiever and driven and can work 100 mph for a period of time, but there is a consequence.
These insights and habits need formed because a person may be also including caregiving into their responsibilities at different times of their lives. Then more balance and room is needed.
I once had a friend tell me that I had no “white space” no “margins” in my life. She showed me a piece of paper that had handwriting going off the page in all directions. The balance is the white space, the margins. Like you set up your Word doc with margins, set up your life with margins. You may have to customize and change them, but at least you are starting with standards and expectations for yourself.
Thanks Arnie. It’s a real pleasure to know you and know that you can see what’s important in this life. Best, Mary”
“I got some time yesterday to read up on the "Balanced Life" article you wrote, and I couldn't agree with you more that people get carried away with their jobs and their lifestyles. I know several people who are addicted through the high-intensity environments but don’t realize how their addictions are affecting their health, mentalities, and relationships. I am certainly guilty of the "perfectionism" and "control" behaviors you listed, but I make an effort to do yoga everyday to meditate and relax, read during lunch, and go out for walks when I need a break. It does wonders for my productivity.
I wanted to share an experience with you from college. My favorite professor is a man named Darren Schrieber. He teaches classes that intersect political science and neuroscience/behavioral sciences. He’s now travelling the world conducting research and being an inspiration to even more around him. The last lecture of every class he taught, he would sit down with his students and talk with them about finding their missions—about finding that 'thing' that steals you away at night when you have nothing else to worry about.
He would ask us to turn off and put away all of our technology and relax. Then he would ask us to close our eyes while we mentally answered questions like: "Where does your mind go when you day dream?" "What do you desire to do during your spare time?" "What brings out true joy in your life?" "What are those activities that you always want to be doing?" “Who inspires you?” “What about that individual inspires you?” And he made sure to remind us that what we've been told to do all our lives by our parents/friends/professors may not be what WE find to be those 'things.' What we tell other people we want to do with our lives may not TRULY be what we want to do.
Then he left us with our thoughts, and recommended we find our missions using the following three steps:
1) Quiet your surroundings. (Get rid of those voices that have an influence in your decision making.)
2) Listen to your heart and soul (ask those questions listed above)
3) Go out and do what those voices help you realize because then you know you're going to be happy with whatever you do in life.”
I applaud both of these readers who are on a journey to better understand who they are – the journey of a true hero.