A balanced life sounds like the right life, right? There are magazine articles, experts, and ads showing us how to balance all of the parts of our lives, giving enough attention to each so that one does not tip the scales and throw our lives completely out of whack. But I am starting to think that this is goal of balance is not helpful. It may lend itself to living someone else's life and not your right life.
Being well-rounded is highly overrated. - Danielle La Porte
So I propose the perfectly unbalanced life - A timespan that reflects who you are and what is most important to you. In the perfectly unbalanced life, you schedule your time based on your values. You consider your natural preferences, strengths and realities of your life when choosing what to do. You cut or limit tasks that are not important to you.
What does this look like? A perfectly unbalanced life may mean that you never watch the news or American Idol because you spend your nights starting a business, writing, rocking a baby, or teaching a class. You may may leave work to care for an ill parent or work two jobs to pay off debt. Imbalance may mean that your kids don't play sports or that you spend most evenings on a field because that matters. You may have volunteered in the last election or not voted at all.
This weekend, maybe you went for a hike instead of returning all of those e-mails. You forgo carpooling and cooking dinner for a while to train for the half marathon. You may have tended to your garden for hours today or paid someone to mow your lawn. Perhaps your budget reflects your value of education, travel, or therapy. You never get to deeply cleaning your house because you are deeply engaged with your family or friends.
You may never do things you think most people do. You may spend an inordinate amount of time doing what most people don't. It's up to you to determine what is most important to you.
Follow your own path, and let people talk. -Dante
This life involves saying "no" and feeling uncomfortable at times. It may mean struggling with others' opinions about what you should be doing (especially at your age or this day in age), but ultimately recognizing that the "shoulds" and "have tos" are not helpful. A perfectly unbalanced life evolves as your priorities and life circumstances change.
Here is the real beauty of the perfectly unbalanced life: By addressing what is most important, you make your life fulfilling and meaningful. Right. Now.
Unbalancing your life starts by getting to know yourself better. Here is a way to get clear on your values for direction on how to spend your time:
- On a piece of paper, list the different domains of life - Health, Work, Marriage/Relationship, Parenting, Personal Growth, Spirituality, Leisure, Community, Family Relationships, Social Relationships.
- Under each domain, write down the sort of person you want to be in this area. What do you want to do? What do you want to stand for? I find it most helpful to word this in terms of ongoing action. For example, under Parenting, I wrote down, "being present & engaged with my kids." Under Social Relationships, you may write, "being a supportive friend." If a domain is not important to you, leave it blank. It's good to know.
- Now, look at each domain and mark on a scale of 0-10 how important this value is to you right now, 0 indicating no importance and 10 indicating very important (It's ok if some areas have the same rank).
- Then, go through each domain again and mark on the 0-10 scale how effectively you are living this value right now and subtract from rank of importance.
The larger the difference for the domain, the more important it is for you to address it, to tip the scales in its favor. Throw yourself into this value. The difference between how much we value something and how we act on it is a source of suffering. This exercise shines the light on where to direct your time & attention to achieve that perfect imbalance.
Don't worry about what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and do that. Because what the world needs are more people who have come alive. -Howard Thurman
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