The other day someone told me the word well-being is replacing the phrase work/life balance. It makes sense seeing work as part of our life; there is not life, and then work as a separate entity. To me, well-being means living life with more balance and awareness. In order to feel enriched and fulfilled in our lives, I believe we need to have the four fundamental human needs in balance: physical, social, mental, and spiritual.
In Stephen Covey’s book First Things First he describes these needs by the phrase, “To live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy.” “To live” addresses our physical needs such as food, shelter, and health. “To love” falls into our social need to belong, give and receive love, and relate to others. “To learn” includes our mental need to develop, grow, and become the best version of ourselves. The desire “to leave a legacy” is our spiritual need to make a contribution to this planet and have meaning and purpose to our lives.
Seeing as how all these needs are vital, focusing on any in either excess or lack reduces our happiness in life and leads to imbalance. Imagine if you spent 80% of your waking time just attending to your physical needs of eating, sleeping and exercising? You may be healthy, but would would be missing out on your need to connect with others and expand your mind. If you spent most of your waking time focused on your mental needs you may become smart and financially abundant however, your relationships and health would suffer.
After learning at 17-years-old that the key to a happy and fulfilling life is balance, I made it my life mission to achieve this and see if I really could have it all at once. By setting my priorities and staying focused, I was able to achieve most of the things I wanted in my life by the age of 30.
While building a professional career in marketing and design, I traveled to over 42 countries, lived in 5, spent 15 hours a week engaged in sports activities, competed as a triathlete on the world-stage, studied to be a yoga teacher in an Indian ashram, meditated with Buddhist monks in the Himalayas, built close connections to people around the world, and became a qualified personal trainer.
Here are some of the guidelines I set for myself to accomplish all this and stay focused on balance and well-being.
1. I created my own success formula.
We all have different gifts, talents, and things we are here to achieve. There is no standard model of what makes someone successful unless it’s in alignment with their own principles and guiding system. I noticed early on that those individuals who most people called “successful” had material wealth but were failing when it came to health and relationships; they may have been “successful,” but they also were not happy.
So I decided to look at my values and passions to determine what a successful life meant to me. I then addressed each fundamental human need and wrote out what activities and goals in each area I needed to focus my time on to feel successful. My main physical goals were to be strong and super fit; my mental goal was to reach my full potential; spiritually, I wanted to experience self-actualization and help others do so; and socially I wanted to connect deeply with others.
What physical, mental, social, and spiritual needs do you need to fulfill in order to be successful in your own unique way?
2. I set priorities.
We only have a limited amount of energy and time, so choosing where to focus our energy is vital for a successful life. Once I made my list of goals for each fundamental need it now came down to keeping the first things first. I knew I couldn’t say yes to every offer that came my way; I had to make choices and feel good about doing so.
For my physical needs, as I had the gift of endurance and an abundance of energy, it became important for me to work out at least once a day. I made it my priority where ever in the world I lived to go to the gym, run, cycle, swim, or do yoga once or twice a day. This meant I had to say no to some social activities. For my mental and spiritual needs alongside my career, personal growth and self-actualization was a major driving force in my life, so I dedicated my evenings after working out to these activities as well as some vacations.
3. I eliminated time-wasting activities.
I often got asked how I had the time to do so many things at once. I remember when I was at university, as a full-time student I worked a part-time job 15 hours a week, exercised 3 hours a day, read a ton of personal development books, plus had a thriving social life. The secret is to eliminate time-wasting activities such as watching TV, surfing the web, checking Facebook, complaining, gossiping, reading trash novels, and other mind-numbing activities. If you calculate how much time you spend engaging in these non-beneficial activities, you will have a lot more time up your sleeve.
4. I limited my work hours.
In order to gain proper rest and make time for my sporting pursuits, social activities, personal growth and traveling, I set a limit to only working up to 40 hours a week. Although deadlines occasionally extended this, I knew that if I continually worked more I would be choosing work over life. Not only do studies show that people that work 50 hours a week are no more productive than those that work 40 hours a week, I was also observing the health and social decline of my friends who worked late evenings and weekends.
Engaging in activities you enjoy and that bring you fulfillment provide you with energy and drive when you are working, to be more productive. This way you can get more done then just say someone who is burnt out and poor in health. The secret to balance is about quality not quantity.
5. I set up my week.
In order to stay focused and on track with your goals, it’s important to do a weekly review and planning session. Every Sunday, I would look at the list of activities I needed to do to keep in balance and schedule them in for the following week. I scheduled in my exercise, meditation, work, personal development, social time, and spiritual growth activities. I then kept to the plan 90%, to allow flexibility for last-minute situations. Having this regular routine and schedule also helped keep me grounded.
6. I meditated daily.
Meditation brings us the clarity and energy we need to keep steering our lives in a more purposeful direction. It provides us the rest, guidance, and calmness we need to stay balanced. Meditation can also be viewed as a mental shower that washes away our subconscious junk. Just like we wash our physical body daily to clean it, our mind also needs to be cleaned daily.
Although a regular meditation practice took me a few years to develop, the effects have been life changing. By starting my day with meditation, I set my energy and intention for the day to stay focused on my path. A morning meditation practice also helps you handle any challenging situations that may arise that would otherwise through you majorly off balance.