The problem is, our life's container is time, which we perceive through the concept of a 24-hour day. All of those other influences come and go, but no one, not even Einstein and his theory of relativity, has found a way to increase the hours in a day.
Balance as a Life Stabilizer
The definition of success I work with includes goals that are stabilized by balance. Creating a dream inventory where you wish and brainstorm to your heart's content is one thing. Flooding your to-do list with tasks is another. Your sense of balance in your life is your thermostat telling you when to adjust how many goals and tasks you have in play at one time. Too many goals overwhelm you; too few goals give you little sense of fulfillment.
What Balance Is Not
All areas of your life, e.g., work, children, aging parents, home repair, finances, social life, hobbies, professional development, do not have to get equal time in order to have balance. Trying to do so will guarantee you won't have any sense of balance at all.
What makes you feel a sense of balance will change with time, life circumstances, your health, your finances, and other aspects.
There is no one perfect balance to strive for. This is where the "if onlies" can really derail you: if only I had more time, made more money, exercised more; if only the kids would clean up around the house; if only I had a more understanding boss; and so on.
The Big Rocks Story
Steven Covey in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, tells a story learned from an associate who attended a seminar. The seminar presenter used a glass jar, rocks, sand, and water. The jar represents your life. If you fill the jar with sand and water to fill every conceivable space (the tons of little stuff that lands on your desk), then you have no room to put in your big rocks (the people and activities that mean something to you).
Building a sense of balance in your life requires recognizing that you are dealing with an inflexible, limited boundary we call time. Just as jamming too many rocks into a glass jar will shatter it, putting too much in your life can cause painful breaks in your health and relationships.
A Practical View of the Time Container
I will go into more detail on this in a later post, but through another book I discovered that using Microsoft Outlook 2007's weekly calendar view as my "jar" works wonders in my ability to manage my time, and therefore, my sense of balance. Dealing with my life in weekly chunks with occasional forays into months and the whole year has made a world of difference in managing what I need to do and what I need to let go of.
I cannot locate the originator of my favorite definition of balance, but here it is anyway:
Balance is time for your passions.
How much time are you spending on your passions?