Here's a brain teaser for you: How is it possible to add "a lot" to an already full plate and wind up feeling less burdened and more energized as a result?
Here's a hint: It depends on what you're adding.
We hear and read a lot about living a joyful life and seeking to achieve balance between work life and the rest of life. But what does achieving balance actually entail? What exactly are we balancing?
Work life and personal life? Sure, but let's drill down a little.
We're multidimensional beings who require care and feeding on several different fronts … the physical, spiritual, emotional, financial, family/friends, and career fronts to name just some of the most basic ones.
And when certain aspects of who we are fail to find expression in our everyday activities, we experience that lack as "something missing." We don't feel as fulfilled, as "together," or as complete as we might.
Add in those activities and your experience of life changes. Shine your light in new or neglected areas and you feel re-energized.
And that brings us to the answer to our little riddle. You can add quite a bit to your plate, as long as it's something that expands and completes who you are, rather than piling on more of the same.
In my case, as a business owner, more of the same would be work, and I'm guessing that would be the case for a lot of you. Ugh. Just thinking about it makes me tired.
Don't get me wrong. I love the work I do, but there are plenty of other things I want to do to and it seems I never get around to doing them. And the older I get, the more I'm beginning to resent the amount of time I spend working.
Rather than continue to feel resentful of work, always stressed for time, and woeful about a lack of focus on other aspects of my life, I decided that 2012 would be my year to simplify and renew.
This simplification and renewal is both physical and spiritual. On the physical side, my husband and I rented two dumpsters and have begun to clean out 28 years of accumulated junk in our garage, storage sheds, and my office. One more dumpster load and we'll be done!
On the spiritual side, we joined a church we love and I've become very active, joining the worship team, volunteering in various church activities, and participating in a weekly Bible study group.
I've also enrolled in nutrition school. I'm a competitive athlete. I'm absolutely passionate about health and nutrition. Over the last year, the appeal of gaining more formal education in this area has grown, and so rather than waiting until the "perfect" time, I jumped in and enrolled in a year-long program at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.
And I'm feeling more alive, joyful, and balanced since I added these things into my life. If someone had told me at the beginning of my "year of simplification and renewal" that I would actually ADD things to my already crazy schedule and feel more joyful, happier, more purposeful, and balanced as a result, I would've said they were crazy, but it's true.
And the bonus is that I now have more energy, enjoyment, and space for my business. I'm working fewer hours, but I'm doing MORE! Why? Because adding to my load actually helped lighten my being.
So, how might this work in your life?
Are you familiar with "The Wheel of Life?" It's a quick exercise that helps you evaluate where your life might be out of balance. (Click here to access the Wheel of Life assessment: www.businessbreakthroughinstitute.com/subpages/Wheel%20of%20Life.pdf )
The idea is simple. A wheel that's flat in one spot doesn't roll very well. It's out of balance. Why not take a few moments to assess where you might benefit from concentrating more of your time and attention as a way to round out your experience of life.
Do more and feel less stressed? I wouldn't have believed it was possible if I hadn't experienced it, but maybe putting less on your plate isn't necessarily always the answer to achieving a more joyful, less stressful life. Maybe paying attention to and adjusting what you're doing is just as important.
Mencer is a professional coach and co-founder of Business BreakThrough Institute, a coaching, consulting and training company dedicated to helping business owners and professional service providers grow their businesses. She can be reached at Barbara@BusinessBreakThroughInstitute.com.