Finding a Balance: Ten Life Lessons for Healing Harried Lives, Part 1

by DR. MOM®

The following life lessons represent Dr. Mom’s ten step prescription for leading a balanced life and finding true contentment. Getting off the fast track doesn’t mean that women need to stop making meaningful contributions, setting lofty goals, juggling competing priorities, or aspiring to be their best. It is about relinquishing the need to live up to others’ expectations, embracing our authentic selves, and living in sync with our cherished values.

1. Identify Contemporary Sources of Oppressive Role Overload.    

The Superperson Myth is the false and destructive belief that it is possible to be “everything to everyone.” In pursuit of “having it all,” unrealistic performance expectations can lead to toxic role overload, frustration, exhaustion, and career burnout. When we acknowledge our human limits and the physical and emotional toll of trying to do too much, we can choose to reject the ideal of perfectionism and accept the challenge to be “consistently adequate.” Leading a balanced, integrated life is fundamental to personal and professional satisfaction and fulfillment. 

 What personal price am I paying for trying to do too much?

 2. Enhance Your Self-Esteem.    

Self-esteem is the conviction that we are lovable and capable—intrinsically worthy and able to handle the choices, challenges, and changes of life. When we doubt our own worth, we may pursue significance by taking on too much to gain the approval of others. Many people confuse being of use with being of value, and embrace the belief that the more we do, the more we are. Identifying and using our signature strengths—those strengths and virtues that are deeply characteristic of us—can raise our self-esteem and make our lives more authentic. Self-awareness and self-acceptance form the basis for self-improvement.

 When have I said “yes” to gain the approval of others?
How can I use my signature strengths every day in more life arenas?

 3. Identify Your Sense of Purpose or Meaning.    

Our purpose is the glue that holds our life together–the vision that inspires us. However, many successful people have become masters of delayed gratification by embracing the “psychology of postponement.” They tell themselves they will spend more time on their highest governing values “when things slow down” or “this crisis is over.” Too late, they discover that “life is what happens while you’re making other plans.” Worry less about doing things right and focus more on doing the right things. Using our signature strengths and moral attributes on behalf of some-thing larger than ourselves enhances our sense of purpose and gives our lives greater meaning.

Write an inspiring Mission Statement encompassing my significant life roles, signature strengths, and highest purposes that will daily shape my character and guide my actions.

4. Establish Priorities and Manage Your Time Wisely.    

Clarifying our sense of purpose and mission helps us prioritize our daily actions and keep “first things first.” We must learn to say “no” to some good things in order to say “yes” to our very best. Urgent tasks structure our days, while the important things that characterize our lives often have no timetable, and easily get postponed. We must daily make corrections to live more authentically and in greater alignment with our governing values.

 What are some “good” things I am doing that keep me from achieving my “very best?”

 5. Downscale and Simplify Your Life.    

“Busy, busy, busy” is an all-too-familiar mantra, and activity overload is the new norm. Being too busy fuels our sense of importance and gives us an identity, while jeopardizing our health, relationships, and well-being. The more things and commitments we accumulate, the more anxiety we feel about protecting our material possessions and retaining our prestigious titles. When our lives get so fast-faced, hectic, and over-scheduled, we become less productive and forget to celebrate the fundamental goodness of life. We can cut back, cut down, and cut out unnecessary excesses and schedule regular Sabbath time–consecrated periods of rest and reflection—in order to heal from the violence of busyness.

(Continued in Part 2)

Copyright © 2011  Marianne Neifert, MD, MTS     May be duplicated if authorship is cited.