9 Easy Decisions to Improve your Balance Today
Don’t forget the small stuff. When your life is out of balance, focusing on the small decisions you make each day is enough to get you out of your rut and back in control.
By the time Marta came to me she’d had enough. Her work life balance had been out of kilter for what felt like years, and she was sick of it: not seeing enough of her friends and family, not having any time to herself, not having any control over her life. She was overweight, unfit and always overtired. “It’s my job” she told me in a tone of voice that revealed just how close she was to breaking point. “I just can’t take it any more so I need to leave and I need you to help me do it”. Marta was ready to make the big decision – the one that would fix everything that was wrong in her life.
I’m not in the habit of calling my client’s melodramatic. But if you came to me with this kind of all-or-nothing thinking I’d consider it my duty to stop you in your tracks, get you to take a step back and insist that you answer the following question: What else could you do?
When your life is out of balance or you’re stuck in a rut it’s tempting to think the only solution lies in making a big decision, like changing where you work, who you work for or what you do. And it’s not only in your professional life. The notion applies just as easily when things aren’t going well at home. When your relationship is on the rocks and things have been out of whack for a while, even changing your partner can seem like the big decision you need to take.
Such big decisions are not taken lightly. But they are often taken prematurely, when there is still another very viable option on the table: changing yourself.
When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves” – Viktor Frankl, Holocaust survivor
I had a hard time helping Marta to see this. It’s difficult to feel in control when so much of your daily experience seems to depend on others. When things aren’t going well for you, it’s easy to identify your boss, the culture where you work, a demanding friend or bullying partner as the root cause. And there are times when you may just be right about that. But if you want to be in control of your life, then the single most powerful thing you can do is to strive not to change others, but to change yourself. And the way you do that is easier than you realise:
Just concentrate on the small stuff.
What’s the small stuff? Well, it’s all those little decisions you make everyday, that seem like nothing but in fact have a massive impact on the quality of your relationships, your success and your day to day experience of life. They are the hundreds of decisions you are making everyday: what to do first on your to do list and what to ignore; what to eat and drink and what to wear; what to read and what to watch; what to say yes to and how often you say no; when to sleep and when to get up. This is the small stuff, but big change comes from making these small decisions every day.
Here are nine decisions you can make right now that will change your life:
1. Get up earlier
Not enough time to yourself? Get up half an hour before you need to start your day and dedicate it to your life goals and dreams. Think about them, visualise them, and take one tiny step to action them. If you’re not a morning person, read The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. It will totally transform the way you see your mornings forever.
2. Drink more water
Always tired? Drink a glass of water when you wake up in the morning – dehydration has a surprisingly negative impact on mood, concentration, performance and sleep. The habit of drinking more water will make an extraordinary difference to how you feel.
3. Read fiction
Always thinking about work? Commit to reading five minutes of fiction before you go to sleep every night, no matter how tired, drunk or stressed you are. It will help your mind shut down from work, stimulate your creative thought and give you something more interesting to talk about at dinner.
4. Do it the day before
Always rushing? Get your clothes ready, prepare your bag and write your to do list – all the day or night before. You’ll be amazed what a difference this makes. You’ll wake up feeling in control, and won’t have to use up valuable decision making energy (What shall I wear today? What shall I do first? Where are my keys?) before you’ve even left the house.
5. Be grateful
Always frustrated and feeling unfulfilled? Take ten minutes at the same time every day to identify five things in your life you are grateful for. Don’t just focus on your loved ones and the material things you feel you couldn’t live without, give thanks for blue skies (when they appear), for morning dew, for a great song you hear on the radio.
6. Say an affirmation
Always low in confidence or moral? Look in the mirror every morning and say out loud “I am wonderful and clever and in control of my life. It’s a great day to be me.” Seriously, try that or some version thereof. Every single morning. Then email and tell me what happens.
7. Smile at a stranger
Feeling fed up and angry at the world? Decide to smile at five people you don’t know on the way to work. Nothing too stalky, just a brief genuine smile to acknowledge a stranger’s existence and wish them well on their way. Not everyone will smile back, but when someone does it feels surprisingly good. You just created a moment of happiness in someone else’s busy day.
8. Listen more, listen better
Frustrated by your relationships? Whether it’s at work or at home, make the effort to listen better – “the quality of your attention determines the quality of other people’s thinking” says Nancy Kline, author of the fabulous Time to Think: Listening to Ignite the Human Mind. When someone talks to you, here’s an idea: listen to every word. Shut down that voice in your head that’s thinking about what to say next or deciding what to have for dinner.
9. Move your body, even just a little
Never have time to exercise? Do 10 sit ups or press-ups everyday without fail before breakfast and watch what happens over time; or make it a rule to always walk up the same flight of stairs on your way to work. There are countless opportunities to fit small bits of exercise in your day. It’s simply not an excuse to complain you don’t have time to go to the gym.
“Life is a sum of all your choices.”
– Albert Camus
Marta is still my client and the jury is out as to whether or not leaving her job is the right decision for her. But the small decisions I challenged her to make to her daily routine have made a phenomenal difference not just to her work life balance but her whole mindset and well being. They have helped her feel in control again, and she is starting likes it.
It’s good to share. What small decisions do you consciously make each day that keep your life in balance? Why not leave a comment, or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org