By Harvey Schachter.
The notion of a balance point for our lives is compelling, if elusive. What exactly is it? How do we find it?
Christina Stein offers two images that help us to understand, and seek, our balance point. The first, on the cover of her recent book Find Your Balance Point, co-written with her father, famed motivational speaker Brian Tracy, is of a precarious tower of stones, all marvellously, if bafflingly, in balance. It’s the ideal that we seek, lining the rocks of our life up properly.
The second, more prosaic, is of a continuum, with career at one end and family at the other. The balance point is not the midpoint necessarily, but the exact spot where you feel comfortable, those two sides of your life getting appropriate attention. Ask 100 people to pick their balance point and each would probably pick a different spot on the continuum. “What keeps you in balance won’t be the same for me. There is no one recipe,” she said in an interview.
Both are connected not just by the concept of balance but of conscious choice, which is your pathway to balance. She asks you to think of the rocks as representing the different things you care about. “We’re unbalanced when we’re not consciously choosing what we do with our time. We are in balance when we consciously choose what we do with our time and it reflects what matters to us and our goals,” she said.
For that, you need to be clear about your values, not something most of us think deliberately about. If that doesn’t seem challenging enough, she delineates three different forms: Character values, life category values, and role and identity values. The first group harbours what we normally consider to be values, notions such as being brave, forgiving, generous, prudent, sincere, truthful, wise, and zealous. The book offers 85 possibilities and similar lists are available on the Internet. She asks clients to read through the values, pick the ones that best describe their character and guide their choices today, and then to further winnow those down to the top five.
“This is the beginning of getting clarity on how to spend your time. If you value generosity but don’t have time to do it, you’ll be happier if you can integrate it into your life,” she notes.
Life category values refer to the various parts of your life. You need to consider how much value you place on romantic relationships, family, friends, money, career, travel, fitness, work, health, material things, education, community and other such factors. Finding your balance point will involve deciding which is most important to you.
Finally, you play many roles in your life – child, mother, stepmother, sister, aunt, professional, citizen, and so on. You need to again consider how much you value each role and identity. “For most women, we have our professional identity and mother identity. We need to know which we want to devote more time to in order to be balanced,” she said. But there are multiple categories in our life – and they will change over time, so you need to readdress them regularly. For now, however, she urges you to pick the ones that are most important today, and rank them.
Again, create a pie chart, this time showing the slices according to the percentage of time you spend on each. Then compare those percentages to how you ranked them in importance. “You may say being a father is the most important, but you spend 80 per cent of your time at work. This helps you to be more self-aware and make choices,” she said.
Finding your balance point will reflect these three elements – the rocks, if you will, of your life, which must be placed in alignment. It also helps to illuminate what’s holding your back, usually getting off track with your values or embracing self-limiting beliefs that compromise your values. We usually desire the approval of others and that can be a big obstacle to living in harmony with our values. Also, we’re told it’s selfish to put ourselves – and our happiness – first, and that limits our efforts to be successfully in balance.
Her father has written a series of books that help people to achieve their goals in a simple, direct, planned way. That holds here. With your values in place, you want a vision of your perfect life, goals and priorities, and plans to achieve them. “In the end, it’s time management – people spending time on things not reflective of their values, putting themselves out of balance,” she said.
In managing your time, she suggests there are four steps: You can do more of some things, less of other things, start doing things you are not doing today, or stop doing certain things altogether. She suggests writing down everything you did in the past few days, rank them, and then plan for tomorrow by considering the four options in light of your values. That will help you find your magical balance point.