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4 Tips to Live a Balanced, Happy Life with Fewer Regrets

Life Balance

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance and order and rhythm and harmony.” ~Thomas Merton

Balance has become an ever-elusive thing these days. The onslaught of technological breakthroughs, aimed at making life easier, has given way to a societal expectation that we are available around the clock.

This has bled into our careers, where our employers have ever increasing expectations that we can do more in less time. We have 168 hours in our week to sleep, work, rest, be with our loved ones, and pursue personal interests.

Unfortunately, the majority of people in the world today complain that they aren’t able to keep up with the competing commitments that steal much of their precious time.

It’s no longer enough to contemplate how this happened and talk about the “good ole days” when life was easier and the days were longer.

We need to identify what balance looks like for us (as it differs from person to person), work on regaining some of our time, and find more balance so we can truly show up and be present in all the different areas of our lives.

My wake-up call about my imbalanced life came when I lost my best friend to suicide a few years ago.

When you experience a sudden loss of this magnitude, you most certainly find yourself in a place of deep contemplation and restructuring. I recognized my own mortality in a way I hadn’t before.

As a result, I had to do some housekeeping in order to get my life “up to snuff,” so I took an honest and meaningful inventory of all the different parts of my life.

I looked at the people I was spending my time with, the activities I engaged in, and the places I dwelled. I asked myself if these people, activities, and places were feeding my soul, supporting my journey, and providing love and support.

It was through this inventory I realized how out of balance my life was. It’s also how I came up with the action plan I am sharing with you now

1. Start with a values inventory.

You want to sit down, grab a pen and a piece of paper, and list all of the values that are important to you. You’ll also want to put them in order of importance.

Some of my top life values include happiness, love, fellowship, integrity, and spirituality. It’s important to note that your top values are defined only by you and carry their own power and placement in your life.

For example, I define spirituality as my connection to, and relationship with, the source of all things. I honor that value through daily meditation, prayer, and my efforts to make the world a better place through my work and my charity fund. I also honor that value by ensuring I live a life full of generosity, gratitude, respect, and compassion.

2. Look at your life domains and identify the imbalances present in each area.

When I speak about life domains, I’m talking about self, career, relationships, and community.

Self: This domain includes you, your time, your interests, and your self-care.

Career: This domain speaks to your current job and your employer.

Relationships: This domain speaks to your loved ones, both friends and family.

Community: This domain speaks to your participation in your local community (volunteer work, belonging to a religious or spiritual institution, coaching your child’s little league team, etc.)

Again, you want to grab a pen and a piece of paper. For each of your four life domains, identify what the ideal balance would be. Be detailed in your description of each life domain.

For example, in the relationships domain, identify those people you would want to see on a regular basis. What frequency would you like to see them and under what circumstances? What would you need to do in order to make that happen?

You should also weave in your top values to better understand how they should support your efforts in each life domain.

For example, I would talk about the importance of my value around love and how it plays out in the relationship domain. I would write about my choice to surround myself only with kind, loving people who support me and I support in return.

The goal here is to create an ideal vision of balance in each domain.

3. Write about the current status of each life domain.

If your life domains are imbalanced, write down the details surrounding the imbalances and what you’ll need to do to get them in alignment.

For example, if your career domain is imbalanced because you’re working too many hours for a demanding supervisor, think about the steps you’ll need to take to regain your balance.

Maybe it’s talking to your boss about getting you some help or working fewer hours. If your work environment isn’t conducive with this type of dialogue, maybe looking for a better job is a consideration.

If some of your life domains are in balance, write about the steps you are committing to in order to prevent them from being compromised. It’s important to be clear on your approach to living, and maintaining, a balanced life.

4. Begin implementing the changes you want to see in a realistic and bite size manner.

You want to focus on one domain at a time, and tackle one change at time. Pick a domain and implement your first change.

Once you have grown comfortable with this change and it is now part of your “new normal,” you can move on to the next change.

When you have implemented all of the changes in your first domain, and reached the balance you desire, you can move to the next domain. I would suggest starting with the easiest changes first.

Start to build momentum with the changes that will help you create more balance right away. Maybe that’s turning off your work computer at 8:00 every night so you can be with your family, eating healthier, or committing to visiting your parents every Sunday morning.

These are small changes that can have a big impact on your life!

At the end of the day, this is all about you living a regret-free existence. Later in life, you don’t want to look back and feel regret for neglecting certain parts of your life (children, health, career aspirations, etc.) because you didn’t take the steps necessary to make things better.

Balance isn’t easy to achieve, but it is well worth the effort. Make a commitment to find your balance today!

Life balance image via Shutterstock

About Joel Readence

Joel is a Life and Executive Coach working with his clients in areas such as spirituality, life purpose, relationships, and career exploration. He partners with his clients to help them overcome fear of success, failure and judgment by others. Joel is a Certified Professional Coach, accredited through the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC). Visit him at joelreadence.com.

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  • Thanks Joel for this enlightening article. I have never thought of it this way but I will be most eager to work on this. I have never thought of taking an inventory of my values. That is very deep and I am eager to work on that one first and then move on to the others. Believe me because I have never taken the time to do these things I am a bit scared but it should be awesome to work on my self, career, community and relationship this year to make my life better. Thanks

  • Talya Price

    Thank you for this. It really helped me.

  • Joel Readence

    Hi Rose! A values inventory is an amazing way for you to get to know yourself a bit better. It’ll also help you show up better in all the different areas of your life because you’ll be able to recognize when you’re taking actions that aren’t aligned with who you are. As for fear, that is a very good sign. It means you are stretching yourself…moving out of your comfort zone…and into a space where real growth occurs. I’m excited for you!

  • Joel Readence

    Absolutely my pleasure Talya! Happy New Year!

  • lalalala its the one and only do double g, snoop dog!

  • Dan Puck Best Puck

    Love this article! Joel, you are quite an inspiring writer and I hope to read many more blogs from you on tiny buddha in the future. Thank you for being such an inspiration

  • Noel

    This article is super helpful! Thank you soo much! This is a perfect blog for the new year! I will add this to my resolution list! Can’t wait to read more from you <3

  • kimr1219

    Joel….
    In reading your article, it has made me reflect on the fact that I too need to evaluate my life & values…. Over the past year I went through a drastic change that not only affected myself, but my children & family…. it forced me to evaluate my life style as well as those around me…to see things I never noticed because I had become complacent in my day to day lifestyle…
    I am in the early stages of reevaluating myself & trying to organize or “housekeep” as you mentioned…and you have given me a valuable tool to assist in that process….
    I look forward to hearing more from you in the future…
    How can I read more?? Do you have a website??

  • Joe

    Thanks Joel. What an important reminder for us all. I agree with you wholeheartedly about a willingness to take a look at ourselves and our process differently.

  • Joel Readence

    Thanks Noel! I appreciate your kind words! I definitely think this article is timely with the New Year and the resolutions you want to make!

  • Joel Readence

    I love your name “Dan Puck Best Puck”! Thank you for your kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed the article! I’ll definitely be contributing more articles in the future. 🙂

  • Lauren

    Joel, thank you for your thoughtful insight….your words really resonated with me. I feel inspired after reading your article and look forward to future articles of yours on tiny Buddha. Wishing you peace in 2015!

  • Joel Readence

    Thanks Lauren! I’m glad you enjoyed the article! Happy New Year!

  • Joel Readence

    Glad you enjoyed the article Joe!

  • Joel Readence

    These times in our lives can be a storm, especially while we’re in the middle of them and unable to see the clearer skies ahead. But these times can also be so rewarding and life changing when you realize all the lessons and gifts they present you. I hope my suggested action steps allow you the clarity to know who you are (now) and what you want going forward! Best of luck in the next chapter, Kim!

  • The values inventory will certainly be helpful for many. But I’d add a strong dose of accountability–like a close friend, mentor or coach. Its one thing to set up a program to achieve balance, but another to be able to follow through consistently. And for the more advanced, I’d advise checking out “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, by Stephen Covey. All of the different parts of your life can have goals to be checked on a regular basis.

  • Joel Readence

    Thank you for the additional insight and tips Don!

  • Jordan

    This is a great article, very thought provoking in regard to ones time and ones relationships. It’s often easy to loose balance here and end up not leaving another time for just you. Thanks for the easy step by step guide

  • Joel Readence

    My pleasure Jordan! Glad you enjoyed it!

  • Jeevan/Mirthu/Gupt

    Thank you for sharing your story & insights…:)

  • Joel Readence

    My pleasure Jeevan! Thanks for reading!

  • Joel,

    You’re right to start with values and work from there. So often it’s easy to live in permanent conflict with our own values and that’s a sure way to unhappiness.

    Our time is like a cake, you can only slice it up so much and often the slices are pretty uneven.

    What that means is that we have tough choices to make about setting aside time for our real priorities and saying no to a lot of other things we might want to do.

    One thing I’ve done is to take some time out from office life. The time and mental energy work soaks up is often unsustainable so a break is good and great way to attend to other areas of life – family, travel, hobbies.

    The challenge I’ll have, when the timeout ends, is finding a way of earning enough without working excessively. The start is of course is beleiving that’s possible.

  • Kendra

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom, Joel! I love the idea of getting really clear on what balance means to me personally, based on my values and then making a plan to move towards it. Much better than just ‘firing off shots into the dark’ and hoping it works. Thanks!

  • Joel Readence

    Well said Peter! I especially like the cake analogy. Finding the time for everything in our life is a balancing act of energy, intention and awareness. I like your belief that balance can be had. You’re right. Belief is the first step towards making it happen. I also like what you said about taking breaks from your career which can deplete you of your energy and enthusiasm about pursuing other interests. On a daily basis, research states an optimal schedule involves small breaks every 90 minutes to maximize energy, attention and effectiveness. Best of luck on your efforts to find your proper balance!

  • Joel Readence

    Oops! I forgot to mention you can see more of my articles on my website: http://www.joelreadence.com on Facebook: Joel Readence Coaching and on Twitter @joelreadence.

  • Joel Readence

    Glad you enjoyed the read Kendra! I like what you said about not “firing off shots in the dark”. Hopefully this process will give you the clarity and direction you need to find the ideal balance and satisfaction in your life!

  • Bridget

    Joel, what a great article. Very inspiring and thought provoking. I thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to more.

  • Interesting! Very methodical and organized, which so many people (me included) can benefit from. I have definitely found that seeing something in writing helps to solidify it in my mind. I remember writing out a list of things I enjoyed most in life and just the process of reading that list every day for two weeks affected massive change in my life. I started to automatically work towards those thing, even though I had not at the time written down any concrete plans.

  • crys

    This was a really great article. I know I need to balance out my life more because I have neglected myself for a while. Your breakdown really helped me to see things in a different perspective. I know see how I should be breaking things down and what areas I need to be focusing on more.

  • Joel Readence

    Hi Crys – glad you enjoyed the article and hapy to hear it offered you additional clarity about your life and how to better balance it. One thing I end up sharing with all of my clients is the fact that we can’t be there for other people if we’re not there for ourselves first. In fact, self care will help you show up for others in a much more impactful way! I’m confident you’re going to make some amazing changes in 2015!

  • Joel Readence

    Hi Mark – glad you enjoyed the article! I always tell my coaching clients to write it down. We have a hurricane of thoughts, plans, arguments and excuses swirling around in our heads. Whether we know it or not, putting things down on paper adds an additional layer of clarity and understanding. I truly believe all great plans/changes/personal growth involves a pen and a piece of paper. Have an amazing New Year!

  • Joel Readence

    Thanks Bridget! Glad you enjoyed the article! Happy New Year!

  • Franco D

    Great reading and advice. I’ve begun making my lists and have already started the elimination process. 2015 feels better already.

  • Matty B

    Great article! very actionable ! I will definitely implement some of these strategies!

  • What a great article! I am really happy for you that you have managed to find balance in your life and thanks for sharing your story with us!

    I have also gone through a similar exercise some time ago and I found to be the most difficult step was to identify what my values are. I could list plenty of values that I thought should be mine but I wasn’t sure if they were really mine or they were just things I thought I should value. What eventually helped me to create a list of values that felt right for me was looking deeply in what my emotions are telling me.
    I must say finding your values is not an easy exercise but definitely important one for anyone who wants to live a balanced life.

    All the best!
    Joanna