All this month we've been talking about how your beliefs about yourself and your life shape what you do and what you become. You might call this "mindset" or "worldview" -- the point is that what we carry around in our heads wields huge leverage for how our lives You CAN Achieve Life Balanceunfold.

Today I'm going to talk about promoting life balance as a whole by examining your own beliefs about what is required of you . . . and what would be required to live out the life of your dreams.

The short version: it's going to take hard work, but the heavy lifting probably won't be about putting in more hours. It will be about having the courage to simplify, focus, and say "No" to all the things that don't move your life in the direction you want it to go.

Take a Hard Look At Your Behavior

From my own painful experience and from long observation of others, I believe too many of us try to solve our problems in one or both of these ineffective ways:

  1. Plowing on through them by working longer and harder.
  2. Averting our attention from the real underlying issues.

Option #1 can easily turn you into Sisyphus, pushing the boulder up the hill over and over, only to see it come rolling back down again. We pour our energies into endless to-do lists -- and then wonder why we're so exhausted and why we keep not getting what we really want.

It's because we're expending our energy on the wrong things in the mistaken belief that applying more horsepower to the problem (more hours of work, more sweat, more worry, more to-do's crossed off) will solve problems that actually require deeper thinking.

Option #2 is a recipe for failure because it allows us to keep pushing the boulder up the hill when in fact the right answer might be to blow up the boulder, walk away from the boulder, or simply choose another place to push it around. As the great business analyst Peter Drucker put it, "There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all."

So take a look at yourself and answer these questions:

  • Are you just struggling instead of achieving?
  • Are you spending your time on endless minor tasks instead of focusing on the Big Things in your life?
  • Have you ever been honest with yourself about what the Big Things are?

If you genuinely want balance in your life, it's time to change course.

Be More By Doing Less

Here's the practical advice that works for me: carve out 20 minutes each day -- maybe early in the morning before anyone else is awake -- to pull back, look at EVERYTHING you're spending time on, and test those activities against your big priorities.

(This begs the question: have you written down your big priorities? If not, do it now. Show some courage and do it NOW.)

Every time you do this exercise, pick one or two projects or tasks that you can let go. Examples:

  • Send a short note to the committee chair, begging off from helping with the next PTA or church or community event.
  • Talk to your boss about that one report you "have" to file each week that never gets read and never moves anything forward. Suggest better uses for that time.
  • Make a list of the television shows you watch regularly and decide to stop watching the two you like least.
  • Unsubscribe from the e-mails that waste your time.
  • . . . (Please suggest more in the comments.)

This process won't be easy, because you've spent time establishing expectations and habits around these activities. But you DO have the ability to change those expectations and habits.

Repeat the process as necessary (and I predict several times will be necessary) until you're not feeling crazy. And for each item that you feel guilty about cutting, remind yourself that you're aiming for the higher ground of reclaiming your sanity and paying attention to the things that REALLY matter to you.

The effort is worth it. Life's not about a forever-incomplete to-do list, or about doing a bunch of dissociated tasks that don't move you in the direction of your dreams.

Believe it.

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Tim Walker, Life Balance Blogger for CareOne Debt Relief ServicesTim Walker

Tim is a writer, marketer, and social media pro living in Austin. He joined CareOne's blogging team as a contributing writer for the Life Balance blog in 2009. As a blogger who has personally overcome debt challenges, he draws from his own experience to provide tips on living a balanced life and keeping fit. You can read more of his thoughts (on fitness and everything else) at his personal blog, What I've Learned So Far. Compensated Blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services.

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