Maintaining a healthy balance: tips for leading a balanced life
Posted on November 27, 2010 by Yolanda E Kruger, One of Thousands of Executive Coaches on Noomii.
Analogy between fulfilled life and the emergency landing of an aircraft on the Hudson River. Tips for a balanced and happy life.
Maintaining a healthy balance
March 2009 Special edition
I am sure that the heroic landing on the Hudson River at the end of January is still fresh in everyone’s memories. Would any passenger or crew member in their wildest dreams have imagined that soon after takeoff they would go through an ordeal second to none and that this would be caused by beautiful otherwise harmless birds which do not appear threatening under normal circumstances?
Click on the link to watch a graphics simulation of the disastrous flight path of Cactus 1549.
If balance between work and life is not maintained the result is more than often a crash.
This usually happens when one least expects it and can least afford it.
While everything is running smoothly we do not give balance one thought. Just like when we are planning for a trip. We expect to arrive at the airport, go through the final preparation and formalities and at the appropriate time we expect to board the aircraft and we expect it to take off and fly without incident to its destination where we can carry out the activities for which we flew there in the first place. If there is bad weather, a breakdown in communications, a threat of some kind, security systems out of order or any other eventuality that might affect our journey we are normally more than upset.
Similarly, as long as our businesses; our jobs; our studies or relationships, etc are up and running we pay minimum attention to them and expect everything to just work. If any part of us or those close to us or anything in the business goes wrong, we simply “crash”.
If any part of the aeroplane is malfunctioning or missing the journey is not going to be completed. The plane will simply not reach its destination. Similarly, we will not reach our destinations or goals when aspects of our lives are malfunctioning. Is this an option for you?
I don’t know about you, but for me, failing is not an option. Therefore by drawing an analogy between the almost catastrophic and heroic Hudson River Incident and the ever present issue of balancing work and life I have put together a few key principles which would help in maintaining a healthy balance between work or business and the rest of you and yours. May you find wisdom in this article and may you too, succeed.
Let us take a look at what causes acceleration, what structure keeps it all together for us, what inspires “our pilot”, what can derail us and how we can recover from disaster.
Airplanes were invented and are designed for travel. They have to be able to move to fulfill their purpose. Jet engines are responsible to provide the thrust to drive the plane forward. On January 15 2009 jet engines pushed Flight 1549 forward until it hit so many birds that they stopped. It is the same when you want to reach your destination or destiny. If what drives you stops, it is impossible to meet your goals, fulfill your dreams or reach for the stars.
Now that I have made the point of how important the accelerators are and most of us would rather keep going than end up in the Hudson, it is important to dwell on what the jets or boosters or propellers in your life may be. What is it that you have that accelerates you or ultimately helps you reach your goals?
In a business setting one may ask what motivates and inspires those around you to deliver above client expectation, which is why customers would be returning.
The principles explained in this article apply, whether you own a business, work for a corporation or are simply getting on with trying to live your life and maintain relationships.
Here are a few examples of our own propulsion mechanisms:
• The degree or level of inspiration to which you perform
• Your inner drive (what helps you set your course)
• Your mental attitude
• Your level of determination
• Your competitive spirit
• Your accomplishments or goals
• Resourcefulness and creativity
• The degree to which you are willing to take risks
• Your level of motivation (in a given situation)
• Your ability to prioritize and deal with the priorities
• Understanding your energy levels and how they fluctuate during the day and using that to your advantage
• Tapping into your natural talents and what comes easily for you
The above list only serves as an example. I am sure you can come up with many more that are unique to you and your circumstances. Perhaps you could make a list of your own.
Once you have a list to work with consider these two questions
1. What would clog up these boosters so that they perform sluggishly?
2. What would optimize these boosters?
The answers would differ from individual to individual. If you find it difficult to answer these questions you can find help on www.infusionlifecoaching.mydiscprofile.com
The fuselage of the aircraft provides protection for all the critical parts of the aircraft. Similarly, we have critical parts which we need to maintain. These are our bodies, its health, relationships, work, leisure time, spiritual activities, time management, planning abilities, scheduling, systems, research and the ability to bounce back.
Being out of kilter can be compared with a pendulum swinging from side to side. There is a baseline which resembles equilibrium and is ultimately what we are striving for. Being off to either side means one is further from the base line and more influences are at work which takes more time with greater effort. If one can manage to stay close to the baseline, emotions, health and decisions would be much more stable. Confidence and speed would also improve.
If one can identify techniques to bring oneself back to the baseline at an early stage of starting to swing, it would make a major difference in our relationships, our wellbeing as well as in our work.
Knowing ourselves and listening to our bodies is a crucial start and knowing, heeding and understanding our bodies’ warning signals prevents unexpected crashes down the line. The same can be said for relationships and understanding personalities and their strengths and weaknesses.
What steps can one take to maintain our personal ecosystem?
In a business setting one may ask what motivates and inspires those around you to deliver above client expectations, which is why your customers would be coming back. If one were to take this seriously and attempt to come up with just 3 possible answers and put steps into place which enable the identified actors, it would make a major difference.
In relationships (I am sure I don’t have to tell you how important relationships are.) it doesn’t matter how mature we are, human contact is a very basic need throughout your life.
Maintaining relationships takes time. People can live in the same family and have very little relationship with one another. To me this is a very sad phenomenon and I would like to share something with you that I am using in my own relationships as I have as much or little time as everybody else and I am constantly running out of time. Take a moment and think about your meaningful relationships. This includes your significant other and children. What makes them excited and enthusiastic? When do they feel loved? It is different for every person, some may need:
A gift (something small, maybe picked up at an airport on your travels)
Time with you (a breakfast alone; a board game or sport game)
An act of service/help (help with sorting out a pc; sorting the washing; solving a problem of some sort)
Communication (listening to my day and telling me about yours; listening to a venting session without judgment, telling me what is important to you right now, telling me your fears and hopes)
A Touch or a hug (this is especially important to children, but some close relationships may depend on it too)
There are many others and you can come up with your own examples now that you know the line of thinking.
Both at home and in an office setting time management is important, because tasks normally expand to fill up the available time slot whether it was allocated to it or not. If you do not manage the 24 hours that you have, it will naturally take its course and the outcome may be quite different to the outcome that you desire.
Planning for leisure can make a big difference in your quality of life. One has to do what you love other than work. I really love my work and have my PC and data card with me wherever I go, hoping to find unexpected minutes to engage with my clients. I love it, but doing the same activities all the time dulls my ideas and makes me one dimensional and then I don’t have as many breakthroughs. I also find that I move much further from the baseline without noticing it, which makes it harder to get back into balance. Doing other things that I love helps me to stay close to the baseline and then I notice so much sooner when I am swinging away from my core.
Doing other things that you love does not necessarily include a hobby. It may be an activity once a week or a daily habit. This includes quieting your body and soul and listening to and feeding your spirit. This will be different for every person. For one it might mean yoga, for another a massage, yet another might prefer meditation or prayer or listening to classical or spiritual music, etc. What ever it is that feeds your spirit, plan for it in your week as this should not be optional. Equilibrium cannot be attained and maintained in activity and business alone.
The points mentioned above are merely touching on the subject and are meant as thought stimulators. What elements are crucial in your circumstances in order to maintain your ecosystem?
The captain: decision maker
What secret did Captain Sullenberger have that made him stay so calm under those circumstances and work out what to do so swiftly? Even while Control tried to work out an effective plan as to where they could land, the captain knew there wasn’t enough time. He looked for the best possible solution himself knowing that they would not have the minutes to follow external solutions. He picked a runway with a different type of surface than what Control had in mind, but a runway to safety nevertheless.
The captain worked the solution and not the problem. He did not get hung up on the problem or stare himself blind or even took the luxury to indulge in panic. Following any of these options would have ended in disaster, not only for him, but for everyone on board.
When we realize that our lives are out of kilter or that some areas are affected adversely we have choices just like those facing the captain. In these times we can concentrate on what it will take to get to the solution and not the detail of the problem. Don’t allow emotions to get hung up on the problem and distract from working out the solution.
Also ask yourself who is making the choices in your life. Is it you out of a position of equilibrium or is it you, but swinging all the time. This position leads to solutions that are not properly thought through, may need to be revised down the line or could have bad consequences.
The flock of birds – Encountering the unexpected
Let us dwell on the Hudson River landing for a moment. Why was the captain caught by surprise by these seemingly harmless birds? The birds were not flocking together, which made them hard to notice…
It is exactly the same with the obstacles that get in the way of success. The birds were representing many relatively small issues. One bird is not threatening in any way and so also are a few extra pounds, headaches, relationship problems, exhaustion, etc. not really life threatening. Put the symptoms together and now your life is possibly falling apart.
The truth is that what caused the near disaster is nothing but lots of small issues which could not be seen until it was too late to avoid them. Larger issues might have been more easily spotted and divertive action taken.
Denial doesn’t help. Admit to yourself that the birds are there.
Take the key issues in your life. Take a sheet of paper and draw a bar graph of your life. Each bar represents a key area. Initially the order doesn’t matter. It matters that you should give yourself a percentage out of 100 and that each bar should be approximately 10 cm long, with each cm representing 10 percent. As you decide on a value for each bar, color the appropriate number of cm blocks to represent your life. The following are key areas that are relevant to most people:
• Health and wellbeing
• Self esteem
• Home and family
• Work and career
• Fun and recreation
• Partner relationship
As in the example on the right, I invite you to score your percentage of satisfaction with each of the mentioned key areas.
What does your graph look like? Are you happy with the scores?
So what can one do with this data? This is where a recovery plan comes in….
The recovery plan in the case of Flight 1549 was that the captain could land on the water runway that was the Hudson River. He knew his aircraft and its limitations. He knew his job. He knew his responsibility. He knew his abilities and limitations and those of the aircraft. He took a calculated risk. He knew the alternatives. So he landed on the river…………..
The crew knew the emergency procedure. The passengers knew the evacuation procedure. They could execute the evacuation procedure, because plan B was in place. Remember the endless announcements over the PA system just before takeoff: “In the event of a water evacuation……”
In every situation it is vital to have a plan B. Plan B also needs to be practiced. Where would one employ a plan B. Start with the areas identified through the bar graph Look at each area where the score was less than 100 and the graph not completely filled. Regard these as birds.
I invite you to identify the birds (the issues that might derail you) and acknowledge them. List the elements contributing to why the score was not a 100, scrutinizing each one:
1. Identify the best solution(s) for improvement.
2. What action can be taken to improve them in the best way possible?
3. What constraints are relevant in terms of time and money?
4. What other options are there at our disposal?
5. Break down each issue into small steps.
6. Draw up a step by step action list for these.
7. What other obstacles might get in the way of dealing with the issues?
8. How can we prepare for them?
9. Now systematically stick to the plan.
10. Build flexibility into your week to allow for emergencies.
In closing I want to encourage you to think through and perform the exercises I outlined above and make the lists that I have suggested. I guarantee it will make a big difference in your life. Times are tough and each of us needs to be the best we can be.“Success is not measured by what you accomplish, but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds”.
I guess the above quote by Orison Swett Marden, American author and founder of Success Magazine sums up my view on balancing life and work. We can choose how we fly the plane. We can choose how we live our lives. We can choose how we do our daily work. We can choose how we impact others. It may not be perfect in the eyes of the world and the outcome cannot always be predicted, but can you affirmatively say that you are balancing to the best of your ability?
I do hope that this article has added value to you. Please let me know by dropping me an e-mail. The answers will differ from individual to individual. If you found it difficult to answer the questions you can find help on www.infusionlifecoaching.mydiscprofile.com or contact me:
This article is provided free of charge.
Please take a moment and email us this feedback.
• Did you find it useful?
• What type of business you are in?
• Are you interested in more such publications?
Thank you for your support!