Life balance is one of those concepts I love to hate. Here’s why:
I don’t know of a single successful person who feels like they’ve mastered that equation. Yet the myth of the perfectly balanced life haunts many.
I also think it’s a false way to describe what the real problem is, because life is not meant to be “balanced”, never has been. To get a better understanding of this, all we have to do is look at people who have suffered enormous imbalances in their lives – survivors.
Survivors of horrendous living conditions and events often share eerily similar stories. Despite the harshness of their current reality and against all odds, they maintain some special sort of reason for not giving up.
They maintain a “why” beyond just staying alive that kept them going. Through it all, they found some greater purpose.
Viktor Frankl was one such person. He was a victim of the Nazi regime and spent several years in the Auschwitz concentration camp while his entire family passed away. As his body was slowly whittling away and as thousands of people died around, him he was deeply pondering the state of his life.
His mémoire, Man’s Search for Meaning, is interesting for one main reason: because one can watch his mind deliberate as it searches for a meaning in all the death, suffering, and apparent meaninglessness going on around him.
“Life is not primarily a quest for pleasure, as Freud believed, or a quest for power, as Alfred Adler taught, but a quest for meaning. The greatest task for any person is to find meaning in his or her own life.”
So much for trying to find balance.
We all have the ability to create the life that we want, to find that meaning that Frankl referred to. But it’s easy to let yourself become saturated, sated with possibilities, options, and distractions—and not have an inner gyroscope for direction, correction, and inspiration. Without that inner compass, some people go adrift, living a fragmented and ultimately, small life all while trying to find balance.
The self was made for better things and this blog is about living a big life. So, I say forget about trying to find balance. Rather, find your meaning in life and pursue it with all you’ve got so that you don’t end up living a life of regret. And to help, here are five steps to make sure you avoid living a small life:
1. Know your story.
You won’t be able to have a better and bigger life if you don’t know what you really want. I mean what YOU really want, not what you want based on other people’s expectations, but based on your own desires. Having clarity on what you really want and why you want it will open up the channel to unlimited possibilities and new opportunities. Your ‘Why’ will be the driving force and motivation you need to live the life you want. Once you have clarity, start setting clear goals and create a plan of action, but most of all, take action! “Those who have a why to live for can bear almost any how.” –Nietzche
2. Put yourself first.
Learn to put yourself first. In my last newsletter article, I spoke about the need to be selfish to allow time to focus on things that will propel you forward, rather than being the ladder for other people to step on to reach the top. Learn to say no to things to keep yourself from stretching too thin. Remember, if you say no to something, you only feel bad for a moment. But if you say yes to something you don’t really want to do, you feel bad for a really long time.
3. Stop thinking someone is going to rescue you.
You know, there’s really only one person who can make your dreams come true. To identify that person, hold up a mirror and point it directly at your face. No matter how you got to where you are, you’re in the driver’s seat to take your life to the next level. Once you realize that, the rest comes easy.
4. Choose wisely.
Whatever you focus on expands, so be aware of your thoughts. Choose to spend your time and energy in a productive way. Make your goals the center of all your decisions. Every time you choose in life, that choice is an evaluation of yourself. Every decision you make represents who you think you are, and it represents the value you put upon yourself. We always have a choice in everything we do. And the results we get in life are based on those choices. We are the gatekeepers of what goes on in our minds, and our lives.
5. Become a weirdo.
One of the best compliments someone can give me is to tell me that I’m different. I think you should be different as well. I don’t mean to suggest that you should be a fashionable non-conformist. But I do recommend taking a realistic view at what others do in their lives and ask yourself this question – Is what they’re doing working? If not, do things differently. Change your mindset. Figure out what everyone else is doing wrong and do the exact opposite. If most people are shrugging off their finances, be as focused on your finances as you can be. If most people are content with being stagnant and a pessimist, move forward in a bold, positive way. Remember, if you do what everyone else does, then you’ll get what everyone else gets – which isn’t much. You can’t achieve extraordinary things by being ordinary. So, be weird.
6. Live your life with purpose.
We are all here with a unique purpose. It is as unique as our fingerprints. You can find what your purpose is from what moves you deep inside, not your ego. Honoring your calling is one of the most important actions successful people take. How much work should you put into your calling? All that you can. What if Einstein or Edison had only put in 50% of what they were capable of, just because they wanted to find “balance”? Know this – not being in alignment with your true purpose in life will make you feel stuck, with a lack of fulfillment in your life. This is the very definition of living a small life. Nelson Mandela said, “There is no passion to be found playing small- in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
7. Believe in yourself.
Self-confidence is one of the keys to happiness and success. And if you don’t have much self-confidence right now, don’t worry. Self-confidence is a mental state that can be cultivated, it’s a conscious choice that you can make. There is no one that has more power, more knowledge or more access to resources than anyone else. We’re all equal and we all have the same opportunities. You create all your experiences. You will experience successes or pain and struggle thanks only to you. Accepting this level of responsibility is powerful, because it really means that you can do, be or have anything you want in life.
Remember this quote from Marianne Williamson:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?”
Have you spent too much of your life trying to shrink yourself? Trying to become smaller. Quieter. Less than you are capable of. Less YOU.
Life is a very valuable gift. Living small devalues that gift. Living small is not a life, it’s just existing.
You get from this life what you have the courage to demand from it. Demand a big life. Refuse to shrink. Dare greatly.
Let someone else live a small life, but not you. Choose to take up lot of space in your own life. Choose to give yourself permission to succeed. Choose to honor your capabilities. Choose to make success a top priority.
Know this, everybody benefits when you live the bigger life you are capable of, because as Frankl found, fulfillment and the meaning is our true nature.
Be free. Nothing else is worth it.