Life Balance – stay in tune to achieve your potential

Life Balance – stay in tune to achieve your potential

Balance – One Version:

“A state in which two opposing forces or factors are of equal strength or importance so that they effectively cancel each other out and stability is maintained to form a harmonious and well-proportioned whole.” Microsoft College Encarta Dictionary

So what does leading a balanced life truly mean?

Can it be defined?

Is it possible to arrange our life to be a harmonious and well-proportioned whole?

The answer is yes!

But, I know that for all of us, achieving this balance is a life-long endeavor. We are constantly on the go, eating in the car, on the phone, texting, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and etc. from one appointment to the next meeting, game and practice.  We live in a time where excess is the norm.  Very few people actually sit down, relax and enjoy life’s gifts often enough.

From my perspective, it seems that time management is one of the biggest contributors to a lack of balance.  We have our day scheduled and interference comes knocking, disrupting any sense of normalcy we were planning. When obligatory deviations occur in our daily routine, it is important to stop, take a deep breath, remain focused and prioritize.

Know your limits

I have learned to say “no” more often (albeit not while shaking my head yes – I am working on that) and, “that will have to wait until…”, or “that does not fit into today’s schedule.”

Learning to plant your feet firmly on the tightrope and walk the line between balance and imbalance can leave one feeling like they are teetering over the abyss. I consider balance as keeping oneself in tune with what allows you to achieve your full potential.

So, ask yourself, are you achieving your full potential? What does that mean for you? Is it stretching your limits, stepping outside your “box”, rising to a challenge, living a healthier life, expanding your knowledge or helping others?

To view the glass as “re-fillable” instead of as “half-empty” or as “half-full” makes living a balanced life achievable.  Wishing all of you peace, harmony and a well-proportioned whole life.  

Tara

Finding purpose and meaning in life

Finding purpose and meaning in life

holding-hands-858005_960_720When I was asked to write this blog about innovation, ever-the entrepreneur and rule breaker, I asked if I could actually write about purpose and meaning? Lucky for me, the answer was yes.

As chance would have it, while studying for my certification in Applied Positive Psychology in the last few months, I learned that having clear meaning and purpose is one of the most innovative ways to have a longer, healthier and happier life. This applies to companies too. Those with a very clear sense of purpose actually perform better than those without one.

ViktorFranklDuring my own happiness quest, I came across this article about Viktor Frankl, a neurologist and psychiatrist from Austria who was imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps for three years. The article suggests that deep fulfillment and contentment comes not from seeking happiness, but from seeking meaning through serving others.  Frankl wrote that life offers you purpose and meaning, but it doesn’t owe you fulfillment or happiness.

Frankl believed, as do I, that most people no matter their age want to lead meaningful lives and contribute to causes that are greater than their selves. His seminal work, Man’s Search for Meaning references an early 1900s study of American university students, 78% of them said their first goal was “finding purpose and meaning in life.”  This remains true today; a recent study found that the number one factor 21-31 year olds wanted in a career was a “sense of meaning.”  Frankl didn’t think just college students were seeking meaning though. He thought that every one from juvenile delinquents to criminals to drug abusers were seeking meaning. And if we pre-suppose this is the case, then we will “elicit a spark from [them], and make [them] become what … [they] are capable of becoming.”  Frankl is one of the reasons I am currently researching how the desire for meaning and purpose has driven some young people to join terrorist groups and gangs and why I think its important to develop alternative pathways to help these young people uncover their purpose and lead meaningful, constructive lives instead.

We know that meaning and purpose has clear health benefits not just for young people or juvenile delinquents, but also for those perfectly well adjusted folks in middle age and beyond. National Health Institute funded research suggests that you could live up to seven years longer if you have a clear and compelling purpose guiding you. Researchers have also found that a strong sense of purpose may actually reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, arthritis and stroke.

So, perhaps you buy into the fact that meaning and purpose is key to flourishing. Now, you may be asking how best to uncover your own purpose and meaning? And, how can you keep it at the forefront of everything you do?

For me, the core of purpose and meaning in life is about making a difference in the world. I believe that no matter who you are, where you come from, or where you’ve been- you have gifts, skills and abilities to solve problems in the service of other people. Some people will use this formula to derive meaning from a 9-5 job, for others it will be through the companies they build, and for others in the volunteer work they do or in how they show up for their families.

Ultimately, when you know and use your gifts in a way that lights you up and serves others, I believe you have found your reason to wake up in the morning—your purpose—and your life will be better and in fact, happier for it.

Eliminate Tolerations: increase your positive energy

Eliminate Tolerations: increase your positive energy

tolerationTolerations are things we put up with.  We tolerate other people, situations, environments, bad habits, our health, restrictions, indulgence, stress, the list goes on and on.  These things drag you down and clutter your mind.  They take up energy and devour your personal bandwidth.  Tolerations suck!

Labeling something as a “toleration” helps us identify it, and separate it from ourselves.  Kind of like baggage we carry… instead of carrying it, we’re able to mentally put it on a shelf and look at it objectively.    My car is dirty because I don’t make time for the car wash.  My desk is messy because I throw mail and paperwork on it.  The neighbors dog poos in my yard because I haven’t brought it to their attention yet.

Tolerations take a toll

We often overlook or disregard the cost of tolerations.   Emotional tolls can be feeling agitated, annoyed, hurt, and result in loss of energy. Feelings like these easily distract us from being open to opportunities we desire.   “I was so annoyed with the dog poo between my toes, I didn’t hear the phone ring.”

Addressing a toleration will renew your energy because you fall back into alignment with yourself.

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Tolerations Exercise:

Grab a piece of paper and list all of the things you’re putting up with. Carry the list around with you. Visit all the different environments in your world: office, home, car, relationships, personal, financial… notice what you are putting up with in each area. Write down everything you notice.

Take action!

  1. Do it! Take immediate action.
  2. Delegate it! Give it to someone else to do.
  3. Defer it! Put it on the back burner until you have time or resources to deal with it.
  4. Dump it!  Be done with it – it doesn’t matter anymore.

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Do you feel positive energy flowing already? I do this exercise annually when planning for the new year. Eliminating junk on a regular basis feels empowering, and ensures I always have maximum capacity to deal with life.

“Be master of your petty annoyances and conserve your energies for the big, worthwhile things. It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out – it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.” – Robert Service

 

Feeling unappreciated? Gratitude is the solution

Feeling unappreciated? Gratitude is the solution

FeelingUnappreciatedOverworked and underpaid?  Doing more than your fair share at home?  No one values your contribution?  Wish someone simply appreciated you?  

If you are feeling unappreciated, you aren’t alone.

If you want to get unstuck I have an unconventional and counter-intuitive cure for what ails you; focus on someone else.

It sounds crazy, in fact your friends probably told you to stand up to your boss and ask for a raise.  Your best friend likely told you to stop doing the laundry until someone notices.  Your therapist probably told you to read “Codependent No More”, and your family probably thinks you should change jobs.  

I know from personal experience that the cure for ingratitude is gratitude.  Since all of that stuff hasn’t been working out for you I’m going to suggest a radical notion.  Try this crazy idea whether you believe it will work or not and see what happens.  You really have nothing to lose.

Here is my prescription to the cure for the non-appreciation ailment:

Write one thank you note each day for 30 days. (And once you see the benefit you might just keep doing it.)

A real thank you note—on paper—in your handwriting sent via snail mail. I believe wholeheartedly in the power of thank you notes. If you want a simple way to change your life, your work, your relationships, your business, or your personal happiness then this is it.

I first learned the amazing benefits of thank you notes at an unlikely time for me to feel grateful. I had a really bad year where I lost my job, my home, and my husband in a span of six months. Life crashed in around me, and I had to take whatever work I could get.

I ended up taking a job as a commissioned sales person in a furniture store. My boss was a jerk, my co-workers routinely sexually harassed me, and I worked long hours.  On top of that there were many days that I didn’t make a single sale, which added to the discouragement. Needless to say, I often found myself feeling unappreciated.

As is the case in many commission jobs, we were required to write a thank you note to every customer who purchased something from us. At first it was just a task. In time though, I really started to feel grateful. 

The more notes I wrote, the more grateful I became.

I became so truly happy in my work that it carried over into my life. I started writing thank you notes to customers that didn’t buy anything. I wrote thank you notes to people outside of work.

I felt good.

There was a wonderful payoff, I started selling a lot of furniture. I’m not sure if it was because people appreciated the notes or because I was more joyful, less stressed and ultimately a better employee when I was grounded in gratitude. What I do know is that it worked. I learned it worked best when I started my day writing thank you notes for the previous day’s sales. It set my frame of mind for the whole day. None of the bad things about the job changed, the only thing that changed was me, which of course is the only corner of the universe we ever can truly change anyway.

I carried this habit with me through the next few for-profit gigs that I worked before finally returning to my first love: the arts. Any time things got too hard or too stressful I’d eventually realize I’d gotten out of the thank you habit. Once I started my day with gratitude again everything would turn around.

I know that everyone at times feels overworked and underpaid, most of us have times where we feel unappreciated or under-appreciated for our contributions. Never have I experienced the discouragement of that more than when working in a non-profit.  And, I know I’m not alone.  I’m sure that is part of the reason for high burn-out and turnover in the non-profit world. Non-profit workers are always paid far less than their private sector pals whilst having a greater feeling of passion and personal investment.  Interestingly, I let the thank-you habit slip for a year and it’s amazing how hard my work became.

I sat down and wrote over 30 thank you notes to people involved with my organization.

First I wrote the easy ones, the ones to people who are always positive and helpful. Then I proceeded down the list until I got to my most mean spirited critic. I stared at that blank note for a good long while. I thought about all the reasons I was hurt and angry, but I wouldn’t let myself get up until I could push that aside and find my gratitude. In time I was able to think of 3 things I truly appreciated about that person and I wrote the note.

The transformation was incredible. My heart had changed. I realized that I had real loving and appreciative thoughts about every person in my immediate sphere. Almost instantly all my hurt, anger and anxiety were gone. Not one person other than me had changed and yet I no longer felt taken advantage of or undervalued.

In time that energy spilled over into some positive and unexpected shifts in our situation. A major donation that was critical to operations was pledged, several people from outside my organization made a point to thank me for my service and I was able to sleep at night.  And it turns out there is science to support this.  The practice of expressing gratitude changes our outlook, our behavior, and in the end the way that others perceive us.

But Writing Thank-You Notes is So Hard! I Don’t Know What to Say?

I used to hate writing thank-you notes, and really it wasn’t for lack of gratitude, I just didn’t know what to say.  Once I said, “Dear Aunt Margaret, Thank-you for the lovely sweater,” I really didn’t know what else to say and I still had several square inches of dreaded white space staring at me.  

Then I learned that the trick is to end with the thanks, not start there.  Here is my easy 4-step authentic thank-you.  It works for all occasions.  Business, personal, someone you know well, a relative stranger.  It’s 100% NO fail!

The 4 Step Authentic Thank You Note

  1. Open with their kindness.

Dear _____________,

It was so kind of you to _______________________

What did they do that was kind?  They thought of you?  They came to your party?  They took time for a meeting?

  1.  Gratefully describe their gift/contribution and what you will do with it

The ______________ is __________________ and I will __________________

What did they give you or do for you?  How will you use it or will the contribution be applied in your life/work?

  1.  Describe how it will positively impact you

Every time I ______________ I will think of you.

What good will this do for you?  How are you better for what they did for you?

  1.  Say Thank-You

I can’t thank you enough.

Here is a template:

Thank-You-Template

Here are two examples.  One personal and one professional:

Thank-You-Personal               Thank-You-Professional

You’ll notice that in both examples I embellished a bit and that is always great.  Creativity is always a good thing, but stick to the format.  There is a real psychology to the process.  It helps facilitate authentic gratitude that impacts your thinking and has an impact on the recipient.  If you consciously focus on thanking others your whole world can and will change.

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