Thirteen tips to rebalance your life and gain laser focus
In today’s world many things compete for our attention, not only work, family commitments, our boss’s expectation, our friends, social engagements and our own interests, but also the media with its allure for the things we should do and should have.
If our own priorities are not in balance, we therefore can be left feeling torn into many directions. This can leave us feeling overwhelmed, disconnected from ourselves and resentful; as if on autopilot, going through the motions, powerless to time flying by and the things we dreamt of doing feeling further out of our reach. But all hope is not lost, there is a lot we can do to regain control of the balance in our lives.
The foundations for a balanced and happy life lie in the continuous focus and development of who we are, building our lives around the things that matter and are important to us (not to others, but us) and in developing the things that we are great at, says the late founding father of flow and positive psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
When we have inner balance, we know what we want out of our life. We are centred and connected and in return, make choices and decisions based on furthering those ideas by saying yes to the things that get us closer to these goals. When we allow ourselves to follow this inner compass, the natural reaction is calmness and happiness. We know we are on the right path, using our time here for what matters to us and what we are great at. We are in our flow.
Every time I feel irritated, frustrated or overwhelmed, I know I have lost some connection to myself and need time to go inwards and refocus. When we connect to our self, things start to ‘click into place’, we don't feel we need to compare ourselves to others, as we will be guided by the rules and timings of our inner guiding system, our own goals and feel happy doing what is true to ourselves. Below are some points that will take you back to basics and start to reconnect yourself with what you truly want to find balance in your life.
What do you want?
Write down the things that you want to be, do or have. Without this knowledge we are kind of lost, easily blown into different directions (I’ve been there), influenced by any trend from the outside. The first thing is to revert back to the inside: ask yourself - What is important to me in different areas of my life (career, home life, friendships, partner, location)? This might take some time, but persist. The long term benefits are huge! Is this what I really wanted/want to do? Does it fit in with who I am? Or am I doing something others expect or want me to do?
This is a great tool to help you to connect to the things you want to do. Dreaming about the things you want to be or have and then explaining to yourself why you want them and if they fit in with who you are and your future.
The why behind the how
For us to strive and achieve an aspiration and not tire out midway, there needs to be a big motivating factor behind the dream that will keep us going. This motivating factor is also linked to our balance in life. If we are passionate about what we do, we are far more likely to succeed in its pursuit and feeling happy and balanced at the same time. Ask yourself, What are the reasons for wanting to achieve this goal? If the reasons are frivolous or you can’t find any real reason, bin it. Pursue the ones that really excite you.
If we are constantly rushing around without stopping and reflecting (especially when we feel we are not doing what we want), taking time to create ‘brain space’ is really useful. ‘Brain space’ for me indicates a certain disconnection from our situation through immersing ourselves in a pleasant activity or an activity that requires little thought.
A great way to create ’brain space’ and disconnect from all the demands is to do something you love, something that immerses you in the activity and lets your brain rest. Exercise and meditation are great ways to create ‘brain space’ too, as is taking the time to stroll through nature without thinking of what's next, just marvelling. Once you start to disconnect from the hustle, you can move your focus back to yourself – in ‘me time’.
‘Me time’ or centering
Start by making time to be with yourself. Me time means no devices, no children, pets or partners. The activity really has to focus on you being on your own, without distractions. This is the space where you can focus on the part of you that connects you to your inner balance. Meditation and stretching or just sitting still with a cup of tea in your hand relaxes the mind. When your ‘me time’ is due, take out your goals and ‘things that are important to you’ and visualise them happening. Research has shown how important visualisation is, not only for our emotional health but also physical health. Build on your goals.
When making choices daily, ask yourself: Is what I am about to do next in alignment with who I am and my goals? A recent study researching ‘me time’ found that women in their 30s get only 17 minutes of ‘me time’ a day. I can relate to this as I was once there too. Making the time to focus on ourselves and prioritising the important things gives us back the balance and opportunity to be in charge of our life and the balance in it. Once we have our priorities right, we can start to align everything that happens in the day with our goal and decide to say yes or no according to whether an activity brings us closer to our goals or not. The end result is balance.
Women are still doing most of the housework, research suggests, even if both parties are in full time employment. Creating and focusing on ‘me time’ to do the things we want can feel uncomfortable for some of us, at first. Acknowledging this feeling, writing it down and giving it a positive reason why you can and should do it will help. Allowing ourselves to follow our dreams and aspirations is evolution in itself. We are paving the way for new generations of women to do what interests them and not what is expected of them. A pretty amazing thought!
What do I love to do?
If you are finding it hard to think of things you love to do, think back to your childhood, teenage years or life before a family or marriage. What did I like to do then? Do I miss doing these activities? What did I initially dream of becoming? What stopped me? Does this dream still whisper to me at times? What do I like to do now?
Research has shown that people who love what they do are happier and no longer view work as ‘work’. This is because they are honouring themselves, their interests and skills set when choosing a goal. When we are great and natural at something, it in return boosts our confidence.
If you are used to only thinking of others, doing something for yourself can be uncomfortable. Allowing ourselves to go out there and just try new (or old) things is a great way to understand if this is an activity that could lead to more or become a great centering exercise. No trial is wasted but takes you closer to where you want to be.
When we have slept well, we also feel better able to connect to ourselves and be in balance. I never make decisions if I am tired. In those times we are more likely to think from a tired and negative point of view over a decision and will make less optimal choices. As Arianna Huffington suggests in her book Thrive, make bedtime an important appointment not to be missed. Staying active and exercising is important as it helps us sleep at night, among all the other health benefits it brings with it.
Leaving work on time
Work can be all consuming and if it is something we resent, we can be sucked into it finding it harder to disconnect and come back to our own goals. Having your own goals with you and reviewing them in your break or when you feel frustrated will help you see your job as a ‘temporary necessity’ to get where you want to go, lessening the hold on you.
Leaving work on time is a way to not let work eat into your own time and thus not enabling you to focus on your next move in your time off. Of course this is easier said than done, especially with a culture of ‘presenteeism’, or arriving first at your desk and leaving last. But if your wish is to make a change not following ‘presenteeism’, in the short term will lead to the time you need to make your next move. If we know what our priorities are, we are also more likely to leave work on time as we value ourselves enough to go after these goals.
Not switching off our devices when at home relaxing or having quality time with family and friends is a big distractor and it seems has health risks too. Professor Gail Kinman of Bedfordshire University says checking our phones and emails first thing in the morning and taking calls after office hours makes it hard for us to switch off and raises our blood pressure, spiking our stress levels. This in return doesn’t enable our body to go back to our natural state, hinders a good night sleep. If we don’t rest well our body’s immune system is weakened, as it is in our sleep that our body regenerates itself.
It however also disturbs our inner balance when in that delicate state after waking we are already infiltrated with other’s demands instead of allowing ourselves to wake up in a centred and balanced way focusing ourselves our life.
See also ‘How to create a productive day in 11 steps’ by Petra – the Flow Styler.
There is a lot of psychological pressure around how we are seen to spend our free time. Social media and the selfie culture increase the pressure on comparing ourselves. It is OK to just spend your downtime reading your favourite book. There is no need to be doing something fancy like skydiving from the Shard. So when you arrive home leave other’s opinions behind and just focus on your goals.
Positive and supportive circles
Everything is easier done together. Positive, self-respecting friends who want to develop themselves and rejoice in seeing you develop and focus on yourself are the ones you want on board. Not everyone is happy to see you focus on yourself and do the things you want to achieve in your life. Sadly this can be a by-product of growth. Send these people love and hope that they join you on your path to self-development and generate that balance in your life.
If you feel there is no time to go through these motions, this is a great indicator that the time needs to be found. Start by taking just five minutes out of your day to look at the things that centre and excite you. Your brain will start to focus on these areas automatically and if you really want to find the time, you will start to give yourself a bit more for this amazing activity. Before you know it, you will have created a space for yourself to reconnect, work on your unique goals and in return, the balance in your life. You will have lessened the impact of other’s demands and the social media’s power to revert us from gaining laser focus in our aspirations and our true purpose in life.
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About Petra Tourunen
Petra Tourunen is a women's authenticity and transformational coach - theFlowStyler. She specialises in working with women who are 'this close' to quitting their job, want their work/life balance back and who want to create a career around their uniqueness and passion. Their Flow.