I’ve always struggled with it and in a quest to figure out why, I decided to get to know myself better. Eckhart Tolle once remarked “It is my opinion that true change cannot happen – whether for an individual or for society – without addressing the fundamental question of ‘Who am I?’ at the deepest level.” And so I enrolled for a Life Coaching course.
And sure enough, the course starts with a series of lectures and exercises aimed at not only getting to know yourself better, but also to uncover the many limiting beliefs we’re all clinging onto. Once we know who we are, we can then begin to understand why we react to situations and challenges in the way we do. It then becomes easier to identify the pitfalls and the potential situations where we’re prone to slip up. Most of us tend to beat ourselves down. It is a common occurrence. We are bombarded with images and ideas of who and what we’re supposed to be, to such an extent that we cannot come to an alternative conclusion, other than to think we’re not good enough. Or we’re not making it. It’s like a circus elephant being tied to a peg in the ground. From being a little elephant it was made to belief that it can’t move the peg, and guess what, even when fully grown it doesn’t even try to move it because it believes it can’t. (That’s a topic that deserves a more in-depth discussion, so more on that later).
After getting a better grip on who we are, and what it is we should be believing about ourselves, we are then ready to start identifying the areas in our lives that are not in balance. Areas that need our attention. Not all of us will necessarily have the same ‘life areas’, but for most of us these 7 areas will cover all the bases:
- Social and Family relationships;
- Career and Education aspirations;
- Money and Personal Finances;
- Health (Fitness), Recreation and Leisure;
- Life’s Routine responsibilities;
- Contribution and Giving Back to society;
- Mental, Emotional and Spiritual Health.
I won’t bore you with what follows next, but the process of identifying that which needs attention, and then taking action to rectify or improve that area is a rewarding one. One that taught me a couple of things:
- Everything is everything. Say you identified Life Area 7 (mental, emotional and spiritual health) as the area of priority, the minute you start ‘working’ on that area, you’ll notice improvement in all the other areas as well. An improvement in one area, is necessarily an improvement in all the others. An improvement in your mental and emotional health will lead to better decision making. This will positively impact on your relationships, career aspirations and personal finance. An improvement in health and fitness will see an improvement in how you handle life’s routine responsibilities, etc. etc. Never underestimate the impact and value of even the tiniest of improvements.
- Balance is not a static state. Guard against complacency. As you continue to grow and see results, the impulse to pause will creep up. Yes, take a minute to reflect and pause to celebrate the small victories but don’t be lulled into the illusion that ‘you have arrived’ or that ‘you have made it’. Balance is a precarious thing. Our lives are constantly changing, our circumstances change, the challenges we face change, so no, there’s no ‘finish line’. Obtaining and maintaining balance is a constant endeavor. As long as you’re living, there’s work to be done. There will never come a time when all your life’s areas are 100% aligned with the visions you’ve set for each. Commit to a life-time of learning and growing. You’re either growing or you’re regressing. Don’t let the impulse to coast interrupt your momentum.
- Embrace the process. Good things take time. Great things take even longer. We live in a world where we want what we want when we want it. Instant gratification dictates our actions, and in the process it wrecks our dreams. Success takes time. Stop resisting this truth and embrace the struggle. Learn from your mistakes. The true value lies not in the medal hung around your neck but in the long, hard path trodden to accomplish it. Let go of the end game. Fall in love with the process. Live in the moment. Show up for life with enthusiasm and commitment. Like I said, there is no finish line, there’s only the journey, so stay in it, be patient. It’s the journey that gives your path meaning.
- And lastly, don’t confuse balance with mediocrity. I’ve made that mistake, it is counter-productive and even destructive. Being balanced does not mean you can’t give a 100% in each and every area of your life. Yes, you can set lofty fitness goals and still be a good dad at the same time. Yes, you can have a successful career and still be a loving husband at the same time. You can contribute towards society and still find time for personal growth. The closest you’ll ever feel to ‘having arrived’ is when you lead a balanced life.
Life is a long and often complicated walk and each one of us has our own story to tell. The obstacles encountered along the way can either trip you up or launch you onto a better path. You decide. We are capable of so much more than what we believe. Change is not only possible, it’s our mandate. It is never too late to change. If a new path is what you’re looking for, keep on looking, you’ll find it and when you do, stay patient, stay consistent and watch small steps turn into giant leaps – leaps towards becoming who you really are – who you were meant to be.