Hey! It’s been a long time (shouldn’t a left you, without a dope beat to step to… so here’s some Aaliyah for you). Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Anyway, I’ve been on vacation, visiting the exotic land of California, relaxing in the suburbs of Ohio, then back to the beautiful chaos of NYC. And now, here I am in BOSTON about to start living the exciting (hopefully) and busy grad student life! So, for this post I want to write about new beginnings and what balance means to me. This reaches a bit out of the food and fitness realm here, but bear with me.
It’s August. The end of summer. Things are changing for a lot of us right now. Whether you’re starting at a new school or just getting ready for a new semester… whether you’re transitioning to a different job or just taking on some additional tasks at your old job… whether you’ve decided to get serious about your diet and workouts… organize a room in your house… plan a wedding… Whatever it is that you’re embarking on, you’re probably thinking:
“This time I’m going to be Perfect.”
We’ve all said it. Or thought it. Maybe you’ve slowly been coming to the realization that you can’t be perfect. Good. Great! Aside from being IMPOSSIBLE, perfection is boring. No one can relate to that. But I know you. I know you still have that idea in your head. That you’ll make time for this and that. That this time will be different. By sheer willpower you will see it through. You won’t fail. You have your “willpower,” and you’re going to “go hard or go home.” NO. Forget that. Let me tell you this: you won’t ever be perfect, but you’ll come a whole lot closer to achieving self-satisfaction if you let go of this excuse of willpower and the All-or-Nothing mindset (my next blog post).
I’ve been there. And trust me, I’m trying so hard not to go there right now. I’m starting fresh with a great deal of things right now. I just moved in to a new apartment, new city, new everything. I have the opportunity to:
- restock my fridge and pantry (funny I thought of this first, you see where my interests lie… food & nutrition!)
- reorganize my room
- make friends and reconnect with old friends
- start a new job with new coworkers and clients (not to mention new gym layout and equipment)
- recreate my entire schedule
- plan the next 2-3 years of my life
It’s exciting. It’s daunting. And it makes me want to say, “Ok, this time, I can really get it right.” But it won’t be perfect. It’s not succeed or fail. It’s not all or nothing. It’s about balance. A balanced life. You can read more about the meaning of “Balance of Chaos” in the About section.
I believe that a balanced life is achievable. It’s possible, and it’s necessary. Balance is about being your best self. Not just the best at your job, the best physically fit, the best friend, the best lover, or the BEST ______. But your best all-around. When your life is balanced, you are your best all-around, and you are your best in all of the individual things as well. No one thing subtracts from another, all of your activities compliment each other. Everything benefits from everything else. They are mutualistic. For me, balance is made up of 7 sections of your life (in no particular order, each is just as important as the other): Work, Physical Activity, Creativity, Sleep, Social Life, Self-Care, and Food. Let’s take a look:
- Work– Whether you get paid to be in an office or a gym, whether you study in the library or on your bed, it’s still work. This usually dominates people’s lives. Then again, in this economy, lots of people could definitely use more of it.
- Physical Activity– Walking, biking, running, weight training, gardening, flipping, tricking, dancing, swimming, bowling… the list goes on.
- Creativity– Everyone has it. Everyone needs it. Don’t deny it. Would you be a bit more open to this if I called it Freedom? Fine, your body needs freedom, your mind needs freedom. Drawing, writing, dancing, nail-painting, putting on make-up, cooking, creating a new computer program. Yes, it all involves creativity. Stop thinking inside the box all the time! Be creative with where you get your creativity fix!
- Sleep– Of course! You spend about third of your life sleeping! Can’t have a balanced life without it.
- Social Life– Family & Friends. Everyone needs companionship. Someone to bounce creative/work ideas off of, someone to discuss problems with, someone to exercise with, someone to eat with, someone to sleep with (yes, it’s in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs!).
- Self-Care– This is all about caring for YOU. General hygiene. But also physical and mental preening: making yourself look and feel presentable and confident. Perhaps it’s shaving your legs (or face) or plucking your eyebrows. Smiling at yourself in the mirror and complimenting yourself. Thinking positive & loving thoughts about yourself all day instead of constantly putting yourself down. Or even just taking 5 minutes out of your day to journal or meditate. This section also includes relaxing and alone-time. Reading that guilty-pleasure book or magazine, enjoying nature, laying on the beach, whatever it is that relaxes you. We all think about the physical aspects of preening and general hygiene… but usually forget to mentally pamper ourselves.
- Food– Eating a balanced diet. Unprocessed foods. Adequate intake of nutrients, for your body and your mind. But I didn’t call this section “nutrition” for a reason. It’s not just about the nutrients. It’s about the taste, the culture, the cooking, the growing of the food. It’s about eating food with people. Enjoying the food. Learning where the food came from. Knowing how to prepare it. Knowing the history, the culture behind it. Memories associated with the food. You don’t have to read an entire textbook before you put it in your mouth, but be open to all the experiences connected with food.
*I believe that each of these sections is of equal importance in achieving/maintaining life balance, but they certainly don’t all require the same amount of time invested. It’s up to you to figure out what your ratio is. If you didn’t notice, each one bleeds into the other. You have friends at work, you play sports with your friends, you cook creatively, you relax by painting, you sleep at work (haha)… etc.
So that’s what I mean when I say a balanced life. Balance of Chaos. In this blog and in my job, I’m working to help people balance their lives, mentally and physically, through food and fitness. But it doesn’t stop there. Balance must also come from the 5 other sections. Keep all 7 of these things in mind the next time you think, “This time, I’ll be perfect.” The perfect what? The best what? Aim for balance, not perfection.
And no one has perfect balance, either. Trust me, I tried. I tried to micro-manage my schedule to make time for all of these things. I booked 2 hours for creativity, 1 hour for pampering, 8 hours for sleep… That’s no way to live! How is it balanced if you have to force yourself to the extreme? Go with the flow. Schedule and block out times that you have to, such as work and gym time. Keep a general idea for meal times and bedtimes. If you start feeling overwhelmed or unbalanced, think to yourself, what’s out of whack? What are you lacking of the 7 sections? What is dominating?
I guess this is just my own general take on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. A way to look at it on more of a weekly basis, in terms of your own life. The “MyPlate” version of the pyramid (hierarchy), if you will. It’s not perfect, but nothing is. :)
So, here’s to new beginnings! Setting yourself up for success by aiming for balance, rather than perfection. Life is built up of a great deal of successes and a whole lot of failures. Dust yourself off, and try again.