Steps to achieving optimal balance and synergy in your day.
“I believe that being successful means having a balance of success stories across the many areas of your life.” -Zig Ziglar
While completing my Masters in Social Work I had to take an unpaid leave of absence from my full-time job as an addiction counsellor to complete an internship. A few weeks before I began, I found out my wife was pregnant, and I was catapulted into a manic state of furious work and productivity.
I decided going into debt was not an option. So I made it my mission to do whatever it took to avoid it. I began working three part-time jobs, in addition to clocking 35 hours a week at my internship as a therapist in an eating disorders program.
During this time, I worked as a server and bartender at Boston Pizza, I facilitated evening community addiction education groups, and I worked at my father’s pharmacy. I was literally counselling and educating people on the dangers of substance abuse, addiction, and eating disorders, and then changing outfits, driving three blocks, and spending the rest of my night serving copious amounts of alcohol and binge food.
All this came crashing down about three months later. My wife had a miscarriage. I lost weight, became depressed, picked up the worst flu I’d ever experienced, and my coworkers began to voice their concerns for my mental and physical health. I went long hours between meals, days on end without seeing my wife, and stopped seeing my friends altogether.
I wasn’t fully present in any aspect of my life.
I avoided going into debt, sure, but I did it at the cost of not being there for my wife when she needed me most – time I will never get back.
In the hot pursuit toward success and achievement, we can forget important aspects of our health and wellness. The irony is that by focusing too much on something like making money, you will actually have a harder time getting it and enjoying it.
Balance is literally the definition of health. The first thing taught in the study of anatomy and physiology is that diseases of the body (including the mind) are described as “disruptions in homeostasis” – otherwise known as a break in balance.
Health can be dissected into numerous domains: physical, mental (psychological/emotional), social, environmental, vocational, and spiritual. These respective areas do not exist in isolation; they complement each other. When balance exists between these domains, you have a wheel that rolls smoothly.
For example, I recently committed to sleeping more (setting a 10 p.m. bed time). Immediately I had less anxiety, more energy, improved focus and attention; I was more effective at work, and I just looked better. This was only one small change amongst many, triggering a cascading effect on all other areas of my life.
Optimizing Your Synergy
Despite our best intentions, we all fall into these unhealthy, unbalanced patterns from time to time. Energy and time are the two currencies you have to work with, and they are both limited; optimizing distribution is essential. Putting all your energy into one domain is like putting all of your weight on one leg. Your wheel becomes heavy on one side, creating a lopsided shape that does not roll.
Here are some steps to achieving optimal balance and synergy:
1. Take an inventory of your different health domains and recognize your deficits.
Determine what you are not doing enough and what you are overdoing. Once you have identified what’s missing, you need to decide what to change and how to go about changing it.
Here’s the secret: before you can determine how, you need to determine why. Why do you need to make balance a priority? Why do you need to make changes? This is the step most people don’t consider and it simplifies everything. I call this the core of the wheel.
2. Identify the core of your wheel, and the direction it is headed.
What is most important to you? Your higher purpose, your mission, your reason for being?
It could be many things: a person, a passion, a project, a career, Whatever you choose, this is your core: the thing motivating you to make changes. For me it’s my wife and my twins.
Ask yourself: what is your vision for your core?
Your vision will undoubtedly change over time but having the vision sends you in the general direction of happy destiny. My vision is hard to put in words, but essentially it involves providing my family with all they need to thrive.
There is literally no end to the practical resources and ideas available to addressing the different domains of health separately. This can be confusing and overwhelming. Knowing your core and then determining a direction provides instant clarity to the question: what do I need to do and what is the priority? This is the key to synergy because the answer to this question goes beyond any one domain and brings them all together.
3. Make the changes and track the results.
Take the time to notice how making changes is leading to positive outcomes.
I always recommend writing it down in a journal and scheduling time for certain activities. Journalling has the double benefit of engaging the higher order parts of your brain geared towards “big picture” motivations, as well as giving you a space where you can self-evaluate and reflect. Scheduling is a great way of keeping yourself moving in a planned direction and keeping you accountable.
Keep in mind the process of achieving balance is just that: a process. It is not an outcome that is achieved once, perfected, then forgotten. Life will continue to throw you curveballs, you will get distracted, you will lose your focus. Remember to check in with yourself periodically to assess your own degree of balance and direction. Is your wheel starting to spin of its axel? What changes can you pursue to help ensure it is aligned once again?