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Life is a balancing act

June 20, 2016

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A while ago, I happened to surf a bit on Facebook after my evening workout. I spotted a shared link to an article in Kauppalehti about not overdoing it ”Ankara treenaus vei toimitusjohtajan liki burn outiin – ’hyvä kunto tärkeää, ei huippukunto. The article really made an impression me. Although it discussed the stressful everyday life of an executive, the issue itself is much wider: Finding balance in your life, and how my friends and I really are doing. Do we have balance in our lives?

8+8+8 = impossible?

Your life may be out of balance in more ways than one. Some years ago, a politician was criticised for following an “8+8+8 rule”, i.e. 8 hours of work, 8 hours of leisure and 8 hours of sleep. The critics found it impossible. And it’s easy to agree with the opposition. People are no longer expected to work for eight hours; rather, they are expected to commit themselves and be flexible whenever needed, even when flexibility stops being the exception and becomes the rule.
With no more than 24 hours in a day, increasing something requires decreasing something else. When facing an increasing workload, the question is: do I cut down on sleep or leisure time? Either way, you’re disturbing the balance. Too little sleep means you’re tired. When you’re tired you have less energy for working. On the other hand, giving up your evenings to work means that relaxing with friends and family is just a distant dream.

When relaxation should be accomplished

I have come to understand that your life can be imbalanced even if you’re following the rule of eights. An optimised schedule takes planning: Strict morning routines, breakfast, morning jog and off to work. Work, without forgetting regular meals during the day, and preparing for the gym. Take an energy booster 30 minutes before working out. Work out as planned: a bad day at work should be compensated with a tougher session. Rush home to eat. You have to take care of your body. Relax a while and then take the dog out for a walk. Stretch to tone the muscles.

On the days I don’t go to the gym, I feel restless. What should I do in the evening? Lounging on the sofa makes me sick. To feel better, I jump on my MTB or just head out for a while. I switch on the wrist computer and hook up the heart rate monitor so I can analyse the workout – why was my average heart rate so low?

I know my leisure time has been successful when I’m so physically exhausted at nine p.m. that I almost fall asleep standing up. A perfect 8+8+8 day, but where the middle section has not been about recharging the batteries but getting things done. It’s almost like at work – I have to be better than yesterday.

Do we dare to care?

Balance in life is often equated with being physically active or inactive. Work out more and your life will remain balanced. Life smiles at you and you’ll feel more energetic. If only life were so black and white! There are many forms of imbalance in life and each of us has a different way of finding balance. It’s only natural – after all, we are individuals. But the means of establishing balance are the same for everybody.

A better tomorrow is about caring. As Juha Sarsama’s example shows us, on our own we’re blind. We keep on pushing, unless people around us care about us. Super achieving, insanely long days at work, physical inactivity, etc. Sounds familiar. I felt there was nothing wrong with my life and turned defensive if somebody questioned my way of spending my leisure time. Writing this, I finally see that I really have to give myself time off from goal-orientated performing and just relax and recharge. Maybe then I can find my balance.

How are you?” may not sound like a significant question, but its power lies in what we expect when asking it. Is it the embarrassed standard-Finnish reply ”Fine” or ”I’m alright” or are you genuinely interested in hearing how the other person is doing? In order to help, we have to care and be prepared to give up of our time and listen to others. We have to be responsive and even dare to challenge the other person’s opinions if we detect imbalance in his or her life. We have to understand, and provide support and encouragement. It’s up to us if we dare to take part in the balancing act that is life, or if we are happy with “Fine”.

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