Before marriage and before becoming a mother, I was a workaholic. I worked ten to twelve hours a day and I traveled all over the world, keeping a suitcase ready and packed at all times. The lifestyle was not healthy and my body suffered. This was my first sign that change was needed.
Further signs came along during the pregnancy and births of my two children. Both of my children were born pre-maturely. My son, now twelve years old, was born seven weeks early and spent time in the neonatal intensive care unit. My daughter, now eight years old, was born even earlier. Was the world telling me I needed to find balance and time to take care of myself or what?
In my daughter’s eight years of life, we lived two years in Portland, OR, two years in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, two years in Bangalore, India and two years in Seattle, WA. My past experiences and my life as a globally mobile family taught me that if I want balance, if I want time for relationships, and if I want time for rejuvenation it needed to start with me. I alone was responsible for making this happen.
In his book Change the World, Robert Quinn speaks about changing within first. He discusses how we may change the world if we can look within, clarify our values as we go and then discipline ourselves to live those values. I took this to heart. Below are the steps I took. It is my journey and it still continues to change as my children grow and my life’s opportunities present themselves.
1. I acknowledge what makes me happy (what fuels me) and what makes me unhappy (what drains me). I do this in a time of reflection and without judgment. This process happens two to three times a year.
2. In reviewing the list, I determine what I want more of and what I am willing to let go of, delegate, or simply accept.
3. I check in with myself every morning to assess what my needs are. For example, last weekend I spoke at a conference and several weeks prior I was fully engaged in preparing for the conference. After it was over, I realized that I needed two things: time with my family and sleep.
So, I looked at my schedule for this week and the next week to determine how and where I could fit it in. Once I made the decision, it was interesting to see how things fell into place. I even had a last minute cancellation and was able to use that time to mentally relax.
4. I look at two weeks at a time on my calendar to ensure that I have time carved out for various aspects of my life. I make sure there is time for work, for spending time with my children, for meeting a friend, for my spouse, to participate in some physical activity, and to simply relax with a book or a good movie.
I look at two weeks at a time because I believe in flow and know that if I put pressure on myself daily, I would not get done all I want to get done. This allows me to be gentle with myself.
5. I believe in fate. When we moved from country to country, sometimes I did not know where we were going and what we were going to do. I simply took it on.
6. I give myself a monthly theme for my family and my work. For example, last month my family focused on thinking of other people’s feelings in their interactions (practicing empathy). In my work, I focused on having a speaking engagement at least once a week.
7. I am learning to be mindful and present. This is a work in progress.
8. I embrace change. I finally feel comfortable with change.
9. I make mistakes. I acknowledge this and try to learn from it.
10. I have learned that I am going to enjoy the journey and not only the destination or outcome. The journey is so interesting and is made up of so many wonderful moments.
This view of balance and rejuvenation has worked for me so far. I love learning and will continue to change and adapt as I gain more knowledge. With increased knowledge, come wiser choices. I look forward to building bridges as I walk on them and I hope you do too.