We’re pulled in so many different directions—work, family, church, and so much more. How in the world can we find balance?
“How can I have a more balanced life?” This is perhaps the most common question I hear from professional, Christian women. Hidden behind the idea of “balance,” what they’re usually really looking for is a to-do list. They want me to explain the secret to getting more done, in less time, without as much stress.
My answer usually shocks them. I always tell them that they need to focus less on the things (or people) they need to take care of, and more on themselves.
Why? Because balance starts with you. If you want to have more balance in your life, you need to know yourself well, manage your commitments, and steward the gifts God has given you.
This is a case where knowledge is power. You cannot expect to make good decisions about your time, talents, and resources unless you know who you are, what you’re good at, and what motivates you to be your best.
During several different stages in my career, I’ve made it a point to critically assess my personal and professional strengths, weaknesses, and goals. I’ve done so using resources like the Myers-Briggs personality assessments and Gallup’s StrengthsFinder program. Through these assessments, I’ve learned more about who I really am. I’ve realized that I thrive best in situations that call for practical, process-based problem-solving; that I’m a natural relationship-builder; and that I value open communication and challenging, collaborative environments. I’ve also identified workplace essentials—values that are critical to me in the workplace, such as respect for my faith and my family focus. Understanding myself better in these ways helps me to be more effective with my time and energy because I can distinguish between opportunities that will give me life and ones that will drain me. It helps me know when to say yes and when to say no.
We all talk about wanting “balance,” but balance isn’t a static thing that you achieve or don’t achieve; it’s really a series of decisions that you must make in any given day about how to allocate your limited resources. For some, each of those decisions will be fraught with doubt, stress, and even guilt. But if you know yourself well, you’ll begin to make better, more confident decisions about when, how, and where to spend your time and energy.
Manage your commitments
As you probably already know, your career alone could easily consume you. Add in your family responsibilities, volunteer requests from community organizations, and all the ways your church would like you to get involved, and all of a sudden you’re on the brink of burnout. If you say yes to everything, you won’t be able to put in your best efforts anywhere. In order to make your commitments count, you must learn to say no to a lot of worthy causes and endeavors. Pick a few key areas to focus on that will provide the most value.
Remember that there is a time and a season for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1–11). You may be in the stage of life where focusing on your career and family is all that you can do well—and that’s okay. But if you can take on some other commitments, choose carefully. I never served as room mom for my kids’ classrooms because I knew it wouldn’t have been a good fit, but I did lead a few scout troops and I even coached my son’s basketball team for a few years (until I felt like the boys had gotten better—and taller—than me!).
By not overcommitting, I’m able to do a better job at the few things I’ve chosen to do. I can also set and enforce boundaries much more effectively and help others to respect those boundaries when they see that I’m exercising good judgment over my commitments.
Be a good steward of yourself
You are God’s unique creation. Your health and sanity are resources that God has given you, and they should be stewarded accordingly. When life gets crazy, it often seems expedient to put everything else before your own needs, but over time that approach will burn you out and cripple your ability to manage well. In the long run, martyrs don’t make good managers, mothers, wives, or friends.
Maintaining balance between work, family, and faith requires energy, creativity, determination, and a healthy dose of optimism. A half-hearted or crippled effort simply won’t work. You’ve got to be in fighting shape. That’s why, if you want to succeed, you must guard your physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Nurture your relationship with God, exercise regularly, eat well, and set aside some precious time for pure joy and relaxation. A little investment in “you” will yield huge dividends. You’ll have more energy, a clearer head, and the emotional capacity needed to balance all that life throws at you.