I always cringe when I hear people talk about “work-life balance.” It’s as if work isn’t part of your life, and part of your life isn’t spent at work. In fact, your life is made up of a lot of parts, only one of which being work. Depending on who you are, your life can be comprised of: relationships, friendships, learning, relaxation, fun, etc.
In actuality, its the balance of all of these parts that literally makes up your life. And It isn’t about balancing any one of the parts with your life, it’s the balance of all the parts with each other that is your life.
You can think about a “part” of your life as anything you do consistently that takes up time. If you divide up the 24 hours of a typical day into categories (yes, even sleep), you’ll identify the parts of your life. Some have a few, some have many, but regardless of the number, the key is balance.
As a space nerd, I view life like a solar system. Your “life,” as you have come to know it, is at the center, like the sun. Every part of your life, whether it be work or play, orbits your emotional center like the planets. Some parts, like family or finances, orbit closer to your center and have a stronger pull due to the high value you place and the effort it takes to maintain.
Other parts of your life, like exercise, which are still important, but not supremely so, orbit your emotional center farther away. These parts, although having a weaker pull, help keep your life centered and in balance.
By pushing and pulling on your center, it’s the symbiotic orbit of all your life’s parts that keeps yourself in proper alignment.
Although some of your life’s parts have stronger pulls than others, if any one falls out of proper orbit, it send your entire emotional center out of alignment. On a smaller universal scale, think about the relationship between the Earth and Moon. The Moon, although small by comparison, would destroy Earth as we know it if it’s gravitational pull disappeared.
Much the same, if any of your life’s parts pull on your center more or less than it should, it throws everything off.
If your social life is going well, for example, but you’re completely neglecting exercise, you might feel depressed even though you have a wealth of friends. If you have a loving family, but you’re financially unstable, you might not be able to enjoy the family memories you’re making.
A lot of the negative emotions and lack of purpose we feel is because our life’s center is out of alignment. We need to balance all of our parts against each other to keep ourselves moving happily forward.
When you think of your life as the Sun, orbited by parts, putting yourself back in alignment is simply a reallocation of time.
If you’re feeling unmotivated, like I often do, it could be a matter of reallocating your free time from watching TV to reading. When you spend more time reading, it pulls on your emotional center through an expansion of mindset, moving your life closer to alignment.
Once you start reading more, it may motivate you to start networking and building relationships. Through a more focused effort to read, it strengthens that gravitational force in your life’s ecosystem, which, in turn, pulls harder at the relationship part of your life.
In reaction to the expanded mindset, the relationship part begins to pull harder as you become more interested in spending time talking with people about your new views. This moves your emotional center even closer to alignment. And so on and so forth.
It’s up to you to adjust the way you spend your time so that you’re focused on keeping your life in balance.
The secret is that there’s no “proper” alignment. A balanced life will have a different meaning for everyone. Regardless, for me, I’ve been able to get closer and closer to true center by:
1. Identifying my life’s parts
2. Tracking the amount if time I spend on each part
3. Valuing each part in relation to the importance it has on my life
4. Comparing the time I spend against the value I place on each part
5. Adjusting my time and focus so it aligns with the order of my values
6. Rinse, repeat
The second secret is that life never stays in proper alignment for long. Attention waxes and wanes, values change, and “proper” takes on new meaning. But if we view a successful life as a movement toward center, the process of aligning, and then realigning, gives our life purpose and direction.