“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance and order and rhythm and hamony”,
Finding balance in one’s life is a difficult task indeed: many people travel through much of their life without balance, whether or not they have addictive illness. When addiction is present, the task of creating balance becomes far more difficult and far more important as well.
There are activities that can help locate those important aspects of one’s life that bring a sense of grounded existence. While everyone has a general concept of what life balance is, it is critical to remember that balance is unique to the individual. Balance in one’s life is also redefined as life circumstances change, as it is necessary to adjust focus and energy to address the areas of one’s life that require more attention from time to time. Essentially, life balance is found when a series of emotions and behaviors are working in unison to create a synergistic effect that brings ‘balance and order and rhythm and harmony’.
When one is out of balance, a cascading effect of various symptoms occurs:
Finding balance in one’s life may seem difficult at first thought, however there is an effective process that can be used if one is willing to invest the time and energy into the self-improvement effort.
One must begin with one where is at, so it is essential to build some self-awareness around those areas wherein balance exists, and those areas that need work to create balance. One of the most effective methods of building self-awareness is through working with a professional clinician: if it is possible to do so, it is highly recommended. It is not always possible to work with a clinician, so alternative methods of building self-awareness include self-help programs, family and friends, and self-help exercises such as journaling and/or meditation. Regardless of the method used, write down those areas of life that seem to have appropriate balance, and write down those areas where balance is not sufficient.
With planning, comes intention and organization: both necessary for any change management effort. Planning must encompass the maintenance of one’s working balance efforts and incorporate the new balance efforts discovered in the analysis phase. An effectual plan will start with the overall goal/objective and break down the measurable component parts responsible for achieving that goal/objective. Each of the measurable component parts, or actions, will have a target date for completion. If possible, each action will also have an accountability partner in place as well.
Once a solid plan is in place, it is time to put it into practice. Be open about the change effort: perhaps ask those around you to provide support as well. It is normal to be nervous about the change effort: there may be false starts and stutters; do not let that discourage the effort.
Measure the actions and keep the status updated for the goal. Be careful to be realistic with the progress made. Life changes do not happen suddenly, they take time and persistence. Be certain to reward positive efforts and progress toward the goal.
Sometimes the goals are too great to accomplish in the time allotted: that is OK. Action plans such as these are meant to be revised. It is important to have realistic goals and to be able to achieve them. If it is simply not possible to obtain a goal at this time, revise the goal and implement.
The effort is not finished once balance has been obtained. It is one thing to get into balance, and it is entirely another to stay in balance. It is now recommended that one introduce a routine into one’s life in order to facilitate long-term life balance. A routine implies repetitive duties that must be done regularly or at specific intervals. When integrated with the balanced living goals, a routine will extend the benefit of living in balance until life circumstances change and it becomes necessary to revisit life balance and develop a new routine.
Up to this point in the change effort, motivation has been rooted in accomplishing something new and realizing immediate benefit. Now that goals have been accomplished, the motivation to continue may dwindle somewhat. This is when the proverbial ‘rubber meets the road’ and one must establish a long enough period of time to develop new habits. In order to assist in this effort, a process approach may be helpful.
One must be honest with yourself; what really motivates your activity? What is the real reason why change is being pursued? If one can identify the true motivator, success is far more likely.
Does the day happen to you, or do you act as the primary influence throughout the day? The healthy mindset of understanding that you are the primary influence throughout your day will assist in creating a routine that you can stick with, day after day.
Do you need to schedule every last detail in your day, or can you take a look at a bullet point list and accomplish it all? Everyone has different needs when it comes to scheduling out the daily routine. Perhaps a calendar or day planner would be helpful, or a smart phone, or a checklist? Whatever the method, keep track of your schedule each and every day.
Take some time early in the day to review your routine the following day. This way you can be a better influence on what happens today and tomorrow. Less urgencies will interfere with your routine, and when they do you will be better equipped to modify your routine to accommodate the urgencies.
Always measure your progress. Your success depends on the positive reinforcement of your daily routine and the life balance you will enjoy as a result.
Every so often, take a personal inventory of the balance in your life. Are you headed in the direction you choose? Has the progress you have experienced been worth the effort? Is your quality of life improving?
You will need to revise your plans from time to time. Things will get in the way of your routine, and when they do, you will need to invite flexibility into your determination. Make short-term changes in your plans to accommodate adversity. Sometimes long-term changes are necessary, particularly when major life events happen. Your routine is made to be flexible, so allow it to change with your life journey.
Accomplishing major change efforts is fantastic. Developing routine around life balance will benefit your entire life. These accomplishments must be celebrated!
As you move forward in your balanced life, you may have the inclination to forget what life was like without balance. On occasion, think back to the time in your life when you did not have balance. What was life like then? What was your anxiety like? This will help you to stay proactively motivated moving forward when life begins to feel off balance once again.
The effort of creating balance in life is difficult, however the benefits permeate every aspect of one’s life. In recovery, routine helps provide stability and confidence in living a fulfilling lifestyle of recovery and experiencing the joy of the journey of life.
By Andrew Martin, MBA, LAADC, SAP, CA-CCS