Is life always about balance?
A life in balance
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"What makes you happy?" Asked Jasmin a few weeks ago. Is it good money or our health, a harmonious partnership, the offspring or even work?
I don't think any of these things make us happy - at least not alone. A full life does not exist just from work, just from travel or just from family. Even if we were fully satisfied with any of these areas, we would not be overall happy. At least it wasn't me.
After graduation, I invested most of my time and energy in work. I was successful professionally and made very good money. But it was one-sided luck, because I was overweight, had only a limited social life, no partner and rarely left the house. Later I discovered other things that make life worth living. I became increasingly interested in healthy living, traveled the world and invested more time in friends. Happiness became less one-sided, but several times a year I went through a depression that was marked by sadness. Obviously, despite everything, I was still missing something essential, namely a relationship.
I was able to close this last gap a year ago. Since then, I have experienced a balance in my life for the first time. Of everything that is important to me, I have at least as much as I need. Of course I could from anything still want to have more - more trips, more friends, more success. But since every goal is connected with an expenditure of time and energy, I would have to do without something else and the newly found balance would change. Maybe my life would be out of whack. That's exactly what it's not supposed to do. A balance only arises when I all give enough space to important things instead of preferring one and neglecting the other.
The elements of my satisfaction
The idea of viewing my life as the sum of different elements first occurred to me six years ago. I read the book then Feel the fear and do it anyway. In it, the author Susan Jeffers speaks from Whole Life Grid, so the grid of a complete life. In this, she presents nine areas that make a balanced life, including: partnership, friends, work, hobbies, etc.
At that time, I was at a crossroads in my career and thought for a long time about what I wanted to achieve besides the work that had previously occupied the most space. The Whole Life Grid helped me.
Recently, when I discovered that my life was in balance, I thought of that concept again and pondered the elements of a fulfilling life. However, I do not define it according to Jeffer's grid, but only for myself. I have identified eleven areas that are important to me. At the moment I can devote time and energy to all eleven elements, which makes me very satisfied.
1st work: In most people's lives, the job is likely to take up most of the space. Eight hours of regular working time, plus overtime, breaks and journeys: this quickly adds up to ten hours or more. Not counting the time when you are mentally still at work at home. During the week, almost everything revolves around this one area in life. While many people complain about it, it is usually called normal accepted.
I used to spend so much time myself. After work, I sat at home on the laptop and kept working. It was fun and lucrative. However, my life was not in balance. Today I doubt whether a balanced life is possible when the work alone takes ten hours a day. That's why I'm happy to be able to work less.
However, I don't want to demonize work. It is not only used to make money, but plays its part in a balanced life. I can feel that especially now, because this is where my life has lost a bit of its balance in the last few weeks. I missed the mark by too little worked. For about a month now, I've been doing next to nothing that would commonly be called work. I just didn't feel like doing it.
But no work is also no solution. Because life without work feels unfulfilled to me. Some retirees will be able to tell a song about it. That is why early retirement, as I discussed in my text on financial freedom, is not an issue for me. The question is rather which work fulfills its purpose for me.
2. Creative productivity: My work contains creative elements, but some tasks are simple-minded. That doesn't bother me, though. As long as I can express my creativity in other ways, I might even get satisfaction from a dumb job. Especially when my motivation is impaired, I prefer to do a manageable task that I just have to work through than a task that requires my creativity and is therefore more time-consuming and strenuous.
Nevertheless, I need opportunities to act creatively, because only through creative performance can I create something new that I can draw on for longer. I am not musical, I do not draw and I am also not very talented with my craft. But there are other ways. Most recently, I dealt with investments and retirement provision. Doesn't sound exciting, but it became the more I got used to it. Over the months I developed a strategy that was right for me. I am also planning an upcoming move that will also challenge me.
In both cases, I feel creative and at least reasonably productive. But both will pass, so that I will focus more on work in the future.
3. Partnership: One of the main reasons for my satisfaction is my partner. For many years I felt that a life without a relationship is not complete. Even if I often felt good, there were phases of depression. I don't have this anymore.
Since I am not completely absorbed by my work, I have enough time and energy to be a good partner. We don't have to go by my calendar. I'm so flexible that I can make time for togetherness, even though her job is very demanding. I can also get more involved in housework, go shopping more often - all those things that are an additional burden in a busy everyday life.
But the most important aspect, from my point of view, is that I not only have time but also energy for these things. I don't feel drained because I was on the road for ten hours, had to deal with colleagues and customers and somehow have to do sports, cooking and household chores in the evening. I probably wouldn't be nearly as balanced.
4. Social life: A partnership is not everything. I need a social life that goes beyond a romantic relationship. Since I have no colleagues, my social life consists of meeting friends and acquaintances and occasionally going to my family. I also play soccer and do strength / endurance sports with other people.
As an introvert, I'm frugal in this regard. I don't need a lot of social activity to be satisfied. But a minimum should be met. Since I am flexible, I manage to find enough time for my social life in most of the weeks.
Since the beginning of our relationship, however, I have been spending less time with friends and acquaintances in order to still have enough time to myself.
5. Time for me: Time alone is one of the most important elements for me to stay balanced. I need this time to take a deep breath, think, and generate ideas. I enjoy the luxury of being alone for at least a few hours most days during the week.
That would be unthinkable in a full-time job. I used to work in open-plan offices for many years - that was fine as I was alone in the evenings and weekends anyway. Today, as I also want to spend time and energy on my partner and my social life, it is all the more important to be more free in my work.
6. Learning: I like to develop myself further. If I don't learn anything, I'll be dissatisfied after just a few days. In most areas, I don't become an expert, but rather am interested in one topic for a few weeks or months and then move on to the next.
In the last few years I have been intensively involved with introversion, healthy eating, self-publishing and, more recently, investing. I tried my hand at guitar for a while (and gave up again), learned to plant flowers on my balcony, cook meals, tried out sports and improved my writing skills.
I learn most of it from books. I spend a large part of my free time reading. This year I managed to read more than ever before. The fact that reading relaxes me is a nice side effect of learning.
However, I see some catching up to do with my skills. In some areas I would have to try more, e.g. B. in handicrafts. I would like to know better how Things work. That's why I want to acquire more skills in the future.
7. Hobbies: I don't have a lot of hobbies, but I have time to pursue them. I like to be entertained by novels or TV series. I also like playful elements because they are fun for me and I can switch off easily with them. This includes football and table tennis games, but also chess. However, with the latter, I lack a playing partner who can also spend a lot of time. I played online for a while, but that didn't relax me. I just hung on my smartphone more often.
I also used to play on the computer and on a game console. However, I haven't used such devices for years, because otherwise the play instinct would get out of hand and my life would be out of balance again.
8. A beautiful home: A nice home is particularly important to me now that I spend a lot of time at home. I used to take little effort to furnish my apartment - and that's what it looked like. Lastly, I put more brainwash in my home to be comfortable. Even after more than two years, I still enjoy going back to my apartment. I will be moving soon, but we will make sure that it is comfortable again in the new home.
This also includes looking after the apartment. I like things to be clean and it's best to calm down when everything is in order. That costs time and energy, but I can afford it.
9. Discover: Even if I feel good at home, I only stay relaxed when I discover something new every now and then. In everyday life, that means using the opportunities that a big city offers me: trying out restaurants, going to concerts and other events, going to the cinema, or getting to know a part of the city where I usually don't spend much time.
I also like short breaks on weekends, even if they are only small trips. I just want to come out and see something different. Long vacations also contribute to my balance. After traveling for years, my wanderlust had fallen asleep for a while, but it is slowly being reawakened. I can imagine more of it again.
10. Nature: There is hardly anything that grounds me better than nature. Whenever I'm not feeling well or I feel restless, I look for the way into nature. As a city dweller, I need that as a balance. Some days it's just a stroll through the park or on the nearby canal. Sometimes an hour on the balcony is enough, which is why a balcony is an integral part of a beautiful home in the city for me. Should I stay in a big city for the long term, I think an allotment garden is conceivable - also to learn something and to be creative.
Sometimes I also treat myself to longer excursions on foot or by bike - but I would like to do that more often. Even when I'm on vacation, I'm sometimes drawn to nature. Two years ago I hiked in Germany and Italy with a friend. This year I moved to England with a friend. There we walked about 20 kilometers through nature every day. It was great.
11. Physical health: Most of the elements serve my emotional and mental health. However, I am only happy when I am physically healthy. That's why I invest time and energy in my diet and in sport. I cook several times a week, even if I don't always feel like it or if I have no ideas. I plan two to four sports units in which I either play soccer, take part in the boot camp or go jogging.
In addition to doing sport, I do most of the everyday trips on foot or by bike and hope to keep that up for a long time to come. I could move more, but at least I should be significantly higher than other people's physical activity. As long as I don't get too lazy, I'm happy with my workload.
Stability vs. Change
The important elements of my satisfaction are currently in balance. However, this is not rigid, but is in constant change. I keep “balancing” anew. I have different priorities in different phases of my life. If my work was the most important element for years, it has recently faded into the background. So far that I now wish to be more productive again. I would also like to work more on my skills in the future and spend more time in nature. This will create a new equilibrium again.
External influences can also disturb the balance. Perhaps my health is changing, or I have a tempting business idea, or one day we will start a family. As soon as an element changes noticeably, a new equilibrium is established. Only if a change is too radical or if I don't react to it does my life run the risk of being unbalanced. My overall satisfaction would likely decrease in that case.
Ideas for you
Perhaps you would like to find out for yourself how things are in balance in your life. Of course, you can (and should) define for yourself which areas are important to you. There will probably be a lot of overlap with my elements, but there are probably also things in your life that are important to you that don't matter to me right now. Common examples are:
- Consumption (car, home, luxury travel, etc.)
- Family (children)
- Belief (e.g. religion)
My finances are also important to me, but I don't count them among the essential elements because money is only a means to an end. There is no point in having money if I do not pursue other goals with it.
After you have identified your important elements, you could determine the actual and the target state in each case. One possibility is to evaluate the time you have available. How much time have you devoted to the individual elements so far and how should the distribution change so that you become more satisfied?
Another possibility is visualization using the Wheel of Life, which is often used by coaches (examples can be found here, here and here). In this circle you enter your satisfaction for each element and you can quickly see which adjusting screws you should turn.
Whether you are on Whole Life Grid or on Wheel of Life orientate yourself or develop your own model is irrelevant. However, I find it useful to think about what is important to you and whether you are devoting enough time and energy to these things. After all, a life in equilibrium is a happier life.
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