I hate feeling controlled.
I’ll admit it; I have a slightly rebellious nature at times, and one thing I crave more than most other things is a sense of autonomy; of self-determination. To take a page from my old friend Merriam-Webster:
(self-de•ter•mi•na•tion): “free choice of one’s own acts or states without external compulsion”
There is much to be said for the feeling of being the reader of one’s own life compass, the forger of your own trail, the captain of your own ship. In fact, I think that often the desire for further autonomy and expertise is part of what drives people to work harder and better.
In general, I tend to feel a bit suffocated by routine and requirements. I’m great at following rules, don’t get me wrong, but as I follow the rules there is a tiny version of myself with blue war paint smeared on marching around inside my brain waving a cardboard sign and chanting “Freedom!” in protest.
Habits always start out for me as an exciting, shiny new proposition which I carefully selected for myself from off of the self-help shelf at the IntelliMart, that clearly is going to be not only easy to follow but also, at times, fun! But without fail, within the first few weeks of implementing my new habit, I start to feel a smoldering grudge against being “forced” to do something lurking, growing ever bigger as I make more sacrifices in order to abide by my habits. They get less shiny, they get less new, and they start to feel more and more restricting if you allow yourself to hold a grudge against them.
However (and this is a BIG however!), I have learned that without positive habits (i.e. routines that we choose for ourselves), it is very difficult for me to find balance in my life.
I have always kept some type of regular exercise routine as a part of my weekly schedule, but for a year or two after a running injury I let myself “be flexible” with when and how often I exercised. But when “being flexible” became code for “I never go to the gym anymore and I hate it when I do go because I feel so out of shape,” that is when I started to miss the habit of running and strength training on a weekly schedule, because it offered me accountability that I began to miss (and so did the screaming seams on my blue jeans).
I love spending time in deep conversation with good friends. I have learned that it is an integral part of who I am to have serious chats with people I respect on the regular, but for long spurts I allowed myself to be starved of those wonderful times with good people because I was “so busy” with “important things to do” that I just “didn’t have time for it.” But then I realized that my loneliness was my responsibility, and I started scheduling weekly exercise and telephone dates with people whom I respect and care about so I could have those talks. Although sometimes there were weeks with nothing much to say, on the weeks when one of us needed a shoulder to cry on I was so glad that we had made the arbitrary schedule to create a space for it.
We all have similar stories, of giving up our healthy habits in exchange for the drive-thru Dollar Menu version of what can make us truly joyful. For one person that habit may have been deep breathing techniques to reduce anxiety, for another it may be something quite grave like sticking with a vow to be sober.
The habits that bring balance to your life all depend upon you. Your unique personality, needs and values determine what brings energy to your day. But as I said to the waitress at the fabulous bistro where I ate lunch today: “If this were my last meal on earth, what would you recommend that I eat from your menu?”
In the same way, if this were your last week on earth, what would you want to fill up the hours in your day with?
I believe that by simply having the desire to change ourselves and find our balance, we have already moved halfway there.
Challenge #1: Take some time to truly reflect on the activities, relationships, nourishment, and places in your life that bring you balance and fulfillment.
Challenge #2: Find time and physical space in your calendar which is filled with items that are unnecessarily keeping you from the things you brainstormed in Challenge #1, and clear them from your calendar. That’s right, just do it. If it were your last week on earth, I don’t think you’d regret it would you? Now fill that time and space with the beautiful things that bring you balance.
Would you like help thinking of ways to create more balance in your life? I would love to help. Email me at halfway2harmony (at) gmail.com to start the conversation.