Have you ever had one of those moments when you set out on a mission to do one thing, and end up achieving or learning something so much better than what you originally planned? If so, (and perhaps even if you haven’t) you may be able to relate to my recent experience.
Over the past few weeks I chose to start following a bunch of bloggers on Instagram, particularly those that share a blogging niche similar to mine (faith + lifestyle), to see how they used social media to complement their blogs. Because of this choice, my Instagram feed became filled with positive, edifying, and uplifting content. I’m not talking about generic affirmations, although those are good too, but posts and statements grounded in biblical truth.
Why is this significant? Because by filling my mind with biblical truth and light, I was encouraged to invest more in my faith, and when I invested more in my faith, I was even more abundantly filled. Not only that, but a lot of negative thought-patterns I was struggling with started to give way, and were replaced with joy, peace, and other fruits of the Spirit I was missing by not continually seeking out God’s presence. The process reminds me of what Paul says in the book of Romans about being “transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
It’s almost like a tree transplanted from a desert to a rainforest…
By not filling myself up with truth, I was keeping myself in a desert ecosystem, where lack of nutrients and rain made growth difficult. But now that I’m purposely cultivating a rainforest ecosystem with abundant rain and nutrients, I can grow, bear fruit, and be a healthy tree.
If you want to grow, not just spiritually, but in other areas as well, you have to be intentional about what you take in. Follow people, both in real life and online, who encourage and inspire you. Consider the music you listen to, the YouTubers you watch, and the posts on your timeline and ask, is this helping or hurting me? As I discovered, you have to be proactive, not passive, if you want to succeed.
“[And] [f]inally, brother and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”
Maybe it’s time to walk away and take a different route. Maybe just “grinding” through isn’t the answer. Perhaps it’s even time for a break.
For the past month or so, even though my courses have finished, I’ve been stuck in a school mindset. This really became obvious when I tried to write a blog post and it turned into a quasi research paper. 👀😂
At this point, a very wise individual reminded me to take a break and think about what I’m trying to accomplish. And, that’s exactly what I did. I walked away, and came back with a renewed sense of purpose. Yes, it meant abandoning a blog series I was really excited about, but in the grand scheme of things, it was worth it.
When a friend suggested that I blog about creating a reasonable balance in university, I was somewhat dismayed. Me, with my workaholic tendencies, advising others in an area that I struggle with and have only recently begun improving? This would be worse than than the blind leading the blind, it would be the blind leading the seeing masses!
Ok, so maybe my life isn’t that off-kilter. In fact, I would even say that I have recently made large improvements in this area. With this in mind, I am finally emerging from weeks of procrastination to write this post.
What is balance, and why does it matter?
balance: An even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady.
Oxford Living Dictionaries
Most of us are familiar with the consequences of being physically off-balance, having fallen or tripped at least once in our lives.
But what if we took this understanding of balance, and applied it to different areas of life? Does evenly distributing the weight we give to different aspects of life, and the energy we dedicate to each area, help us to remain steady?
As someone who went from completely dismissing this idea, to considering “balance” to be my theme of the year, I agree with most of the above statement. However, I don’t think that even distribution is always necessary or ideal. I’ve found the following analogy helpful for considering the idea of overall balance as opposed to constant balance.
Whenever we walk, we have achieved balance in the sense that we are standing upright, on our own two feet, and moving forward in a somewhat orderly (or maybe not) fashion. However, the weight distribution across each foot, and on each leg, is always changing. We might stop for a few minutes, and stand with our weight mostly centred, or lean to one side. The area over which our weight is centred constantly moves and changes in the process of maintaining balance. If we attempt to stand completely still, or even on one leg, for too long, then we get tired and may even fall over.
In the same way, I believe that life is a process of alternating between different phases, when it’s necessary to put more or less weight on a different foot or area of life. Sometimes it’s necessary to put more time and effort into school or work, and other times we need to invest more energy into relationships. At some point, it’s important to sit down, take a breather, and just do nothing at all. The key is to figure out how to distribute your time and energy in a way that works for whatever season of life you’re in, and not focus exclusively on one area for too long.
Unfortunately, I had to learn this the hard way. Pouring all of my time and energy into one thing, mainly school, meant that any threats to my success in that area seemed catastrophic. Just imagine investing so much time and energy into a project that you neglect almost every other area of your life. If anything seemed to endanger that project, it would be pretty stressful, wouldn’t it? I felt that same way about school, which pushed me to work even harder to ensure success. This stress often led to burnout, which meant that from time to time, I was unable to accomplish anything at all. Creating a more balanced lifestyle was a huge factor in cutting short this constant negative cycle.
Walking Towards a More Balanced Life
Talking about the importance of balance is one thing, but what are some practical ways to be a more balanced individual? The following points are steps that helped me, especially in the university context.
1. Start necessary tasks early.
Beginning projects and assignments early gives me the flexibility to break them into super small chunks, so that I evenly distribute them across my schedule. This way, instead of having to spend entire days on assignments, I have the option to intersperse time spent on school with other, more enjoyable activities.
Bonus: If you get really good at this, exams and final papers can (I make no promises, people) become virtually stress-free.
2. Schedule time for school, family, chill time, etc.
Chances are, if you’re struggling with balance, you tend toward one of two extremes. You may be more inclined to spend too much time working, or you may struggle to find motivation. I, unfortunately, have spent time on both ends of the spectrum. Either way, setting aside specific time to spend on school, with people, or simply doing things I enjoy, has been very helpful.
I like to set aside an entire day each week when I don’t do anything school related. Another thing I have found helpful is having a designated family night that happens on the same day, every week. Without forcing myself to take a break and focus on other things, my natural tendency is to spend all of my time on schoolwork. By the same token, I use most of my time on campus to work on papers, and most of my weekday evenings doing class readings, so that I can make the most of unexpected opportunities when they present themselves.
3. Find what helps you function efficiently.
If you’re functioning inefficiently, then everything, including balance, gets harder. My productivity skyrockets when I have adequate sleep, nourishment, and exercise. Other things, like figuring out that my brain seems to stop functioning after 9:00 pm, have been total game changers. Developing healthy habits that help me function well, reduces the time required to accomplish tasks, giving more time for enjoyable activities.
Experiment and see what you need to do in order to work at your best. Maybe you need to work in a completely silent space. Maybe you study best late at night, or right after lunch. Make changes until you find what works and what doesn’t.
4. Discover what motivates you.
I find that working on some goal or project related to my hobbies helps motivate me to “get my life together,” so to speak. Recently this has taken the form of my blog, but it could be anything, as long as it relates to what you enjoy. Setting a goal, such as posting once a week, is essential because it means I have to be consistently organised and efficient with other areas of my life.
5. Don’t box yourself in.
There is no one formula for living a perfectly balanced life. As time and circumstances change, you may have to adjust.
General rules and habits that work most of the time might not work during busy seasons, but don’t let this discourage you. Make changes as necessary and try resuming regularly scheduled programming once things calm down. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made is throwing out perfectly good routines, just because they didn’t work out when things got a little hectic.
In closing, here is a continuation of my walking analogy/preview of a later post:
When we walk, we don’t usually think about what’s supporting us. We take it for granted that the ground will just stay there, making it possible to do…well basically everything. Just imagine a sinkhole that spreads throughout the entire planet. What happens then?
It’s almost halfway through January, and we all know what that means. Some of us have given up on our New Year’s resolutions, some of us are still plugging away like dedicated soldiers, while others of us…well….there’s always next year, right?
Why does this happen? What is the difference between a resolution that lasts and a resolution that fails? A successful resolution will usually align with your top priorities, while an unsuccessful one will not. Obviously there are other factors, such as how realistic and achievable a goal really is, but there are still individuals who have accomplished what many deemed impossible. Why? Because they were determined; their goals matched up with their priorities, giving them purpose and a passion for what they were attempting to achieve.
Sometimes the failure or success of different resolutions can even reveal what our values are. For example, in previous years, the rather academically minded author of this blog has made a list of priorities, and attempted to match them up with goals for the new year. However, she (yes, I’m referring to my past self in third person) was mildly disappointed to find that it was only the goals related to academic achievement that came to fruition. Now, let us warp forward in time to our poor, disillusioned author in the present year of 2019…
Being a person of faith, I would like to believe that my relationship with God is my number one priority. However, the fact that I would set very small faith related goals, such a reading my bible on a daily basis, and fail (not just by a little bit folks, we’re talking about serious neglect here), while setting and fulfilling very high academic goals, shows what I really valued more. Upon further examination, I discovered that my aspirations of doing well in school was taking up much more of my life than was healthy, and resolved to take some remedial measures. The failure of my resolutions drove me to revolutionise my priorities, and so far I’ve been much more motivated to stick to my 2019 goals.
Struggling to keep your New Year’s resolutions may be a sign that they don’t match up with your priorities. If a resolution is really important to you, but you’re repeatedly unsuccessful in keeping it, maybe it’s time to reexamine what’s really important to you. So, what do you think, will 2019 be the year of the New Year’s Revolution?
P.S. If you’re not the New Year’s resolution type, I’m sorry you have been grievously neglected in the post. The fact that you’re still here in this remote corner of the interwebz is really quite astounding, and I must offer my most profound thanks, as well as the hope that I can make it up to you in my next post.