Finding Balance

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In my mind’s eye I picture a scale where the heavy side is about to tip the entire apparatus over. On one side there is so little, and on the other side it is loaded with clutter. Sometimes, this scale represents the worrisome thoughts that overload and throw off any peace I may have had. This usually ends in a night of insomnia. Other times, it’s a heavy load of creative ideas that just won’t stop coming. This is my writer’s flaw – thinking and re-thinking story lines. At any rate trying to find balance can be quite difficult. My mental scale is always swinging and seldom fully balanced.

I would love to say I have found the key to finding balance, but that is so far from the truth, that I can’t even attempt a fictitious version of that story. The best I can do is talk about recognizing when it’s time to take something off the scale. For me that looks like full conversations with myself better known as introspection. “What’s going on with you, Pat? Are you stressed? Do you have too many projects going on at once? Are you working on fumes due to lack of sleep? Are you carrying someone else’s burdens? Have you taken the time to prioritize things – first things first? Do you need some help? Have you asked for help? What’s the real deal?” These questions usually slow me down enough to consider why my world is out of balance.

One of the most common things that weighs me down is saying yes to too many things. Too many good things are just as harmful as too many bad things. Before you know it, you have agreed to do more than you have the time to do or more than you want to make the time to do. Whether work or volunteerism, the tendency to overcommit can definitely throw your mental and emotional scales out of balance. Getting to the root reason of why we can’t say no is a critical one. Relationships that can’t handle an occasional no may be relationships that need to be reconsidered. Yet, it is up to us to prioritize our activities and our relationships. Date books are very old school, but I find I do a much better job of balancing my life and my time by keeping a calendar in front of me. Before I give answers about my availability, I literally check my availability. Whether it’s your smart phone calendar, a day planner, or sticky notes on the window, it’s important to plan and schedule your commitments realistically.

Have you ever overscheduled yourself? I have, too many times. Recently, I agreed to pick up my granddaughter from college for her spring break, signed up to attend a writer’s conference, and committed to fill in for a teacher friend all on the same dates. All of these things are important to me. They all need to be done. Yet, it is impossible for me to be in Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina at the same time. As I was saying yes to my teacher friend, I had this nagging feeling that the dates were an issue, but instead of looking at my calendar I agreed to do it. Now I have a dilemma. The writer’s conference is definitely out. Perhaps I can get someone else in the family to pick up my granddaughter, but asking someone to drive to Tennessee is not a small thing. Perhaps I can find someone to work in my place for my teacher friend. I haven’t worked any of this out yet. On top of being over committed, I feel bad because I’ve got to let someone down. The scales are leaning.

Yesterday, I had the thought: I don’t want to be needed anymore. That is evidence that I need to find that balance that keeps me mentally and emotionally stable. Balance includes work, leisure, rest, relationships, personal discipline (This will link you to my blog entitled: A Disciplined Life), quiet time, and personal getaways. I love those signs that say: “Live, Laugh, and Love.” True balance has to have those elements as well. Finding balance isn’t a one-time event. It is a practice in daily living. So don’t beat yourself up, just find a strategy that works for you. Whether you use a day planner or introspection, therapy or a life coach, you can change the weight of your scales.

Say yes when it’s right for you. Say no when it’s best for you. Make the rest of your life, the best of your life. Manage your scales in a way that brings you peace, joy, and fulfillment.

What if you could choose how you want to feel as opposed to simply reacting to the reality that surrounds you? Amazon

A Disciplined Life

What do you think of when you hear the word discipline? Do you think of parents spanking their children or a course of study at the university, or perhaps martial arts? Has the word become obsolete for you? There is a lot more to this word than corporeal punishment and academics. The word discipline means “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character; a rule or system of rules governing conduct or activity.” (Merriam-Webster). While I’d love to chase the etymology of the word down the proverbial rabbit hole, I won’t. (You welcome!😊) Let’s just say discipline is a necessary part of life. We can usually all agree on this point.

We admire people who demonstrate discipline. We honor them with medals, awards, scholarships, and other means of recognition. Excellence in sportsmanship, musicianship, academic achievement, military prowess, and other life pursuits happen because of personal disciplines. These types of discipline may include practice, exercise, time management, and lifestyle changes. Disciplined individuals focus on the end goal; they will do whatever is necessary to achieve their goals. People like Serena Williams, Yo Yo Ma, Michael Jordon, and the U.S. Olympians are just a few individuals whose skills and high-performance levels depend on how they live and handle themselves, we call that self-discipline. These persons have demonstrated world-class achievements because of their willingness to lead a disciplined life, but what about the rest of us? Do we need personal disciples as well? How much more could we accomplish if we led a disciplined life, personally and professionally? I have no doubt that I could produce more as a writer if I were more disciplined about writing, such as scheduling time to write everyday.

Sometimes discipline is a matter of priority, and believe or not writing isn’t my highest priority. This accounts for my missed deadlines. Different priorities/goals may require different strategies and disciplinary habits. We may have to start off with small changes to build up the necessary disciplines for achieving our prioritized goals. (I certainly did.) I am not saying we all need to go out and hire a life coach or a trainer (although it may help to have an accountability partner), but I am saying we need to become more intentional about who we want to be and what we want to achieve. Then we can set the perimeters for what we must do to achieve our goals and dreams.

I recently read an article by Jennifer Cohen, a former contributor of Forbes. According to her “self-discipline is the number one trait needed to accomplish goals, lead a healthy lifestyle, and ultimately, be happy.” (Google: Five Proven Methods for Gaming Self Discipline,, June 18, 2014.) Like Jennifer, many believe (and so do I) that people who practice personal disciplines are not easily swayed by peer pressure, emotional impulses, conflict, or failure because disciplined people are focused on the end game. They make decisions and adjustments based on factual information and personal objectives, rather than peer influence or the latest trends. On a daily basis they chart their progress and revisit their targeted short and long term goals.

Your goals may not be, nor do they have to be compatible with anyone else’s goals. Personal disciplines are self-imposed changes to your lifestyle and personal habits. According to the article mentioned above, there are five proven methods for gaining better control of your habits. (If you get a chance read the entire article.) “1. Remove Temptation. 2. Eat Regularly and Healthily. 3. Don’t Wait for it to “Feel Right.” 4. Schedule Breaks, Treats, and Rewards for Yourself. 5. Forgive Yourself and Move Forward.” I would like to add just one more to this list: Don’t expect others to understand or agree with all of your choices.

Here is an example from my own life. I have to stock sugar free products for my consumption and avoid the temptation to overindulge in carbohydrates. I can’t remove the temptation by forcing others in my home to eat like me, but I can remove myself by having high protein choices easily available. I also have to resist eating out of boredom or depression. I can’t award myself with food. Substituting fresh fruits and raw vegetables is a healthy choice for me rather than my favorites: chocolate cake and ice cream. When I fall off the wagon, I try not to dwell on it. I admonish myself and start again. I revisit my short term and long term lifestyle goals (to lower my A1C and eliminate the need for certain medications). Living a healthier life is my true motivation. Others tell me that I should give myself a break. After all, they say “sugar free products aren’t very good,” but my decisions aren’t based on the opinions of others, nor do I expect them to understand.

Monitoring carbs is just one of my personal disciplines for living a healthier life. Some of my other disciplines are journaling (for personal and spiritual reasons), meditation and prayer, spending time in nature, solitude (my husband calls this being anti-social) and practicing gratitude. (You may remember my gratitude jar from a former blogpost.) Why do I need these disciplines? They help me control my emotions, my actions, and my thought life. They help me stay motivated and grounded. They help me examine my motives and my desires. They help me focus on the person I’m want to be. They stimulate my creativity and establish a sense of contentment and peace. Career and professional achievements are only a small part of the whole picture. My objectives encompass my entire life because I try to see myself holistically rather than compartmentalize each factor of my life. (Check out What is Your Net Worth from 8/22) Lastly, these personal disciplines are checkpoints, they help me to have a realistic view of my progress or regress as I seek to be the best me I can be.

Years ago, I read a book about spiritual disciplines. (Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster) It included forming intentional habits such as: retreat, fasting, simplicity, celebration, silence, academic pursuit (studying), and service (in the community or abroad). I can’t imagine how many disciplines there may be, and I’m not suggesting that we try all of them. I am suggesting that all of us have an opportunity to improve ourselves if we consistently practice self-discipline. Much of the media world around us appeals to our base instincts of self-indulgence and compulsion. Just watch three consecutive commercials on your favorite TV station or live streaming platform, commercials appeal to our appetites for temporary pleasure. They want us to act or react without thinking. They offer us temporary happiness. But don’t we want more than temporary happiness? (Actually, I prefer the word contentment to happiness because of its lasting value. Happiness seems to depend on something happening.)

What if we were motivated “to achieve our goals, live a healthy lifestyle, and ultimately, be happy” as Jennifer stated? Would that change the world? Would it change the marketplace? Who knows? The real question is would it change us, and how would it change our immediate world? It starts with introspection. Where am I and where do I want to be? Who am I and who do I want to be? What steps can I take to reach my goals? What habits do I need to get there? What habits do I have that hinder me? What kind of habits do I need to develop? What personal disciplines are the best personal disciplines for my dreams and goals?

I’m grateful that I was introduced to personal and spiritual disciplines early in my life. They guide my life decisions. They make me more self-aware. Achieving my personal, spiritual, and professional goals is viable. Being healthier in mind, body, and soul is in reach, and experiencing happiness (contentment) on a daily basis is attainable. How about you? Are daily habits and routines leading you to a better life or hindering your accomplishments? I would love to hear about your personal disciplines and how they are helping you achieve your goals.

Stay safe. Stay Sane. Stay on your game! Practice joy!

Powerful lessons in Personal Change (Amazon)

Finding Your Roots

First off, let me announce, this blog content is not about finding your roots, as in heritage, which is very popular these days. This blog is about how is your life rooted. I had the experience of feeling like my life had lost its tether, like I was just floating from one experience to another with anything holding me down. These times were very unsettling. I was sure I was going to lose myself, as well as all that was dear to me. The ground of my life seemed to give way to shifting sand. One day I realized, I had to find and return to my roots.

So much has happened in the last couple of years. The things that once gave us stability began to waver. The pandemic, the economy, the political agendas, racial tensions, loss of loved ones, enterprise failing – all these things robbed us of our feelings of security and reliance. In the midst of it all, I asked myself what can I depend on. Clearly the answer wasn’t a job, a title, finances, or possessions. Everything in my life was changing, not only in my life, but in the lives of everyone around me. We were all waiting for “the new normal” to come and stabilize our lives again. Some are still waiting.

Self-evaluation and introspection have become my go-to when I feel out of sorts, or off balance. I start by journaling my feelings. (See blog post 12/7/19 Journaling for Personal Change and 05/29/20 Journals or Diaries – Is That a Question?) How do I really feel? What feelings do I have that I wouldn’t dare share with anyone else? Am I distressed, am I depressed, am I suppressing anger, am I afraid, do I feel hopeless? You can tell your journal anything, good or bad. Am I desiring romance, am I in need of a retreat or a vacation, is someone stepping on my dreams or impending my progress? My journal knows. It may take several days or weeks of writing, but sooner or later the answers become clear.

The next step is to evaluate the sources of input, feedback, and external sources that have an impact on my perspective. This can include people’s opinions or advise, social media, TV news, books, or overheard conversations. Sometimes we are unaware of the effects of outside sources. We subconsciously take a lot in without really realizing it. That’s why introspection is so important, not just when things are going wrong. Periodic examinations and self-reflection helps us to make the necessary adjustments to weed out the negative and hone the positive. Questions like: why have I been feeling so good lately, how did I get through that situation, who was really in my corner, how much rest did I get last night, where did that point of view come from, are these my thoughts and opinions or am I repeating something I heard?

This past week, someone very dear to me walked out of my life. It was abrupt and very disturbing. My husband and I had done everything we knew to do to help this relative. We gave of ourselves physically, financially, and emotionally over a long period of time. Yet, when this person left we were accused of trying to hold them back. My husband was outraged, and I was confused, devastated, and exhausted. For several days, I tried to process everyone’s comments and opinions. I rehashed the words that had been spoken by all parties. I began to feed my despair with carbohydrates (binge eating). My sleep habits changed. I was sad, and somewhat fearful. The “what-ifs” scenarios were taking over my thought life and self-talk. One day, as I was talking to a dear friend, I realized the state I was in. It was time to journal. It was time to return to my life roots.

If you have been reading my blogs for awhile, you probably already know this: My life is rooted in faith, family, and friends. There is nothing more important to me than faith, family, and friends, and in that order. So, when I process and evaluate what’s going on in my life, my writing, my relationships, my mind, these are the priorities I consider first. Faith, family, and friends are the source of my life’s nourishment and nurture. My identity and creativity flourish from this foundation. My worldview and community involvement grew from this base. My outlook and citizenship stem from these mainstays of my life. Faith, family, and friends is the soil where I want my legacy to grow.

I came to the conclusion that I had done all I knew how to do to help that relative who walked out of our lives. There is nothing I would change, and I have no regrets for extending our help, our home, or our resources. By faith, I trust that all is as it should be. They cannot forget what we’ve done, and someday it will make a positive difference in their lives. We will always be family, therefore the door is not closed. We will still be available. Lastly, true friends accept and support our decisions and actions whether they agree or not, because they love and respect us.

My life is well grounded. It’s roots are strong and holding. Like a palm tree in a storm, I’m shaken, but still standing. What about you? Have you found your roots? In the midst of instability, what’s holding your life in place? Whatever it is, I hope it always brings you back to a state of hope, peace, joy and love.

Happy Thanksgiving. Be strong, be wise, be well-grounded!