I believe that to live a truly meaningful life, we must learn to balance its three basic aspects—body, mind, and spirit—by honoring the importance of each one and setting goals for achieving each aspect’s optimum expression. If you’re familiar with traditional Chinese philosophy, you have heard about the ancient concept of balancing yin and yang—the two opposing forces found in all things in the universe—to optimize chi, or life force. Ayurveda, the traditional healing philosophy from India, is also based on finding a balance in your mental and emotional states and connecting with your spirit to heal your body.
My own philosophy of living life in balance is based on the wisdom of the ancients as it is applied to the modern world. I don’t believe that you have to reject material things to achieve mental and spiritual well-being, but I do believe that you need to find a balance among all three to feel good about yourself and find true happiness in all aspects of life. Look at the following list and let it guide you to consider where you might be able to shift a few priorities in order to find more balance and, as a result, more happiness and success—mentally, physically, and emotionally—in your life.
- Playing sports
- Sexual activity
- Positive speech
- Body posture
- A comfortable home
This list is not intended to be exhaustive or definitive. Not all of these items will be equally important to you, and maybe there are others you would add to your own inventory of things that would make you feel fulfilled in body, mind, and spirit. Remember that the key here is to find balance, and the following exercise is designed to help you do that.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR TIME?
We all schedule our time, at least to some extent. We may not actually write down our schedule, but we do have some idea about how long it takes us to do all the things we need to accomplish every day. The questions included here are a way to help you schedule the time you have available, but they are meant to do more than that. By completing this exercise, you will be able to see what you really value in life and whether you’ve been directing your time and energy toward nurturing all aspects of yourself. Sadly, in today’s society, many of us are so busy just getting things done that we neglect our bodies and fail to nurture our mental and spiritual well-being.
To help you see where you are directing your energy, complete the following schedule by filling in the amount of time you spend doing each activity each week. Then add up the total number of hours.
- Traveling to and from work:
- Working in the workplace:
- Working at home in the evening and/or on weekends:
- Talking on the phone to family and friends:
- Dating or socializing with friends:
- Spending time on the Internet and/or social media:
- Spending time with family and/or caring for children:
- Doing chores and taking care of personal business:
- Pursuing hobbies and leisure activities such as reading or watching TV:
- Inner Fitness: visualization, affirmation:
- Pursuing spiritual activities, including meditation:
Now ask yourself the following questions.
1. Have you allowed enough time to do all the things you want or need to do?
Remember that you need to spend time nurturing yourself and your loved ones. You need to devote time to being the person you want to be, not just doing the tasks you need to get done. (Subtract your total from 168, the total number of hours in a week.)
2. Have you allowed enough time for physical, mental, an emotional fitness?
(You should schedule at least 10 minutes of working both your mind and your body for every hour you are at work. So, if you work 8 hours a day, you need to schedule 80 minutes for mental and physical fitness each day.)
3. What can you do to adjust your schedule so that there will be enough time for everything you want or need to do? (Go back to the first question and see which aspects of yourself you have been shortchanging and how you can create a better balance in your life.)
As I tell my clients, everything we have to do in life—except for meditation and visualization—is a stressor (and that includes good things such as getting married and playing with our children), so you do not want to create additional stress by adding more time commitments to your life. Instead, you need to find ways to intelligently redistribute your time. In other words, try to determine how much time you spend doing things (such as working fifteen hours a day) that cause you bad stress. Then shift some of that time to something that causes you good stress, also called eustress (such as working out at the gym). For example, if you eat a big lunch in the office and then sit at your desk being unproductive for the next half-hour because you’ve overstressed your body with too much food, try to use the unproductive time more productively by going to the gym (and eating a lighter meal). Think about redistributing your time and the way you think about changing your diet. You don’t change your diet by simply adding healthy foods to the unhealthy ones you’re already eating. Doing that would be counterproductive. Instead, you replace unhealthy foods with healthy ones. You can apply the same principle to how you spend your time by replacing time used unproductivity with time used to nurture your mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
Figuring out how to create your time more productively (making a realistic plan) may require some trial and error. Remember that if you are capable of honoring appointments with others, you are capable of honoring appointments with yourself.
Scheduled your workout appointments at least thirty days in advance and post them where you’ll be sure to see them every day — on the refrigerator door, for example, or on the bulletin board in your office. Make appointments with yourself for mental reconditioning (meditation, visualization, and affirmation) for the next three months.
Write them in your daily calendar and do not cancel on yourself unless you absolutely have to. Doing this will be a powerful reminder that you are the only one responsible for achieving your true core desire. This is not being selfish, because if you can’t or don’t take care of yourself, you will be that much less able to take care of your loved ones.