African American man playing with his son on couch

Three Big Secrets in Achieving Life Balance

When it comes to achieving life balance, most people tend to get it wrong. It’s not your fault – it’s the way you’ve been taught to think about it that leads to feelings of frustration when the balance you seek remains elusive. In this post, I will share with you the most common mistake people make when trying to achieve balance in life, and what you can do instead.

The Mistake: Thinking balance is a static thing

Thinking of balance as a static thing is easy to understand when you consider the dictionary defines balance as an “equal distribution of weight” (dictionary.com). The mistake people make when trying to find some balance in their lives is to think that achieving it is a one-time thing, and once you’ve got it, it should look the same and stay the same day after day after day.

In truth, however, no one’s life looks the same every single day. Things happen at home, at work, in your relationships, and even outside of them that will affect how you manage your day. If you go into it thinking everything should look just like it did yesterday then you are asking to be let down and left wondering where your balance disappeared to.

What You Can Do Instead

It may seem counter-intuitive, but the key to achieving life balance lies in the ability to stay flexible.

Instead of trying to force your life into neat little evenly-proportioned boxes, allow yourself to go with the flow and adapt to events as they happen. Keep an open mind and use your problem-solving skills to adapt to whatever challenges you may be facing.

Three Ways To Be More Flexible When Looking for Balance

If you’re wondering how to flexibility leads to balance, here are a few ideas to get you thinking about what you do when life throws you a curve-ball.

1. Leave room for change

A completely balanced, filled-in schedule leaves no room for those things that come up unexpectedly. If you open hours where nothing is scheduled, you have options to move things around if you need to. If everything flows according to how you’ve planned it, then you’ll also have effectively built it an hour or two of self-care time for yourself – something we can all use more of!

2. Have a backup plan

A common tendency when planning is to underestimate the time it takes to complete a project or task. If your concept of balance is rigid and inflexible, this can lead to extra stress because you haven’t planned for any type of setback.

When your concept of balance is more flexible, there is a tendency to build in back-up plans or at least allow for the possibility of needing extra time to finish a task, or get the kids across town. This is not to imply you should plan for failure, but to accept that in the world of juggling your job, family obligations, and taking care of yourself, things rarely flow as planned. Having the option of a backup plan relieves some of the stress of being tied to an inflexible schedule.

3. Be willing to communicate

The worst thing you can do when creating balance in your own life is to work in a vacuum. How you achieve balance in your life will affect those around you, especially if you’re trying to juggle work and family.

Keeping the lines of communication open with your spouse/partner, your children, and your co-workers will help provide ideas and solutions when your need for balance comes up. Instead of creating more stress for yourself by thinking you have to do it all alone, talking to the other parties involved can help you come up with solutions you may not have considered.

Achieving life balance really comes down to how well you are able to handle and adapt to change. By keeping an open mind and a willingness to be flexible, you can have the balance you seek in your life.

Woman with pen in her mouth thinking

Procrastination and Stress: Three Steps to Relieving Both

“Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday.”  ~Don Marquis

Have you ever noticed how, when you put something off, it just makes you stress over it more? Procrastination is a great way to create more stress in your life. Even when you think you’re relaxing by doing something later, all you are really doing is adding stress. And mores stress is exactly what you don’t need in your life.

It’s a vicious circle, when you stop and think about it. You feel stressed, so you procrastinate on what needs to be done, and by doing so you feel more stressed. The same is true the other way… If you can break your habit of procrastinating, you can also reduce your stress. It’s still a circle, but a much less vicious one.

Here are three steps you can take to start getting things done and getting rid of stress at the same time.

Step 1. Know your why

They say that knowing is half the battle, so the first thing to do is understand exactly why you procrastinate. We all have our reasons, and your reason for putting things off is no doubt very different from my reason for doing the same thing.

When you feel like procrastinating on a task, ask yourself these questions to find out what is stopping you:

Am I being lazy?

Am I afraid of failing?

Am I afraid of succeeding?

Am I putting this off just to tick someone else off?

All of these reasons for procrastinating can add more tension to an already stressful situation. Knowing why you are doing it can help you get past the need to procrastinate and relieve some of your stress at the same time.

Step 2. Have a plan

Sometimes it’s just plain overwhelm that causes your procrastination. You have so much to do; you just don’t know where to start. When that happens, you can beat procrastination and reduce your stress by having a plan for tackling the project.

When you make your plan, write everything down. Break the whole project into small steps and add them to your schedule with deadlines, so that you know exactly how much you have to do and when it has to be done by.

For example, if you have a 30-page report to create, it’s much easier to write two pages a day for 15 days than it is to write the whole 30 pages the night before your deadline. You’ll feel much more at ease about the whole project if you know you are working within your limits each day, rather than scrambling around in a frenzy at the last minute.

Step 3. Take the first step

Have you ever noticed how stressful you can get just before you start a new project? The anticipation, the fear of what’s ahead, and fear of the outcome can all contribute to both procrastination and stress. If you don’t start, you don’t have to deal with all those other fears and emotions. But the stress of standing on the start line can be a killer in its own right.

Just getting started can go a long way toward reducing stress and eliminating procrastination. Once you take that first step, and get into the task, you’ll most likely find that it’s not so bad after all.

Procrastination is something that we all do. It is human nature to be a little stressed out at the beginning of a new project, but that doesn’t mean you should put it off.  Put these three steps to work for you, and you will soon be kicking both your procrastination habit and your stress to the sidelines where they belong!

Two arrows in road, one that says habits and the other says changes

Do Your Habits Leave You Stressed Out?

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

Habits. We’ve all got them. Some help you on your way to achieving your goals yet other habits eventually hold you back from getting what you want. Bad habits, over time can lead you astray and create more stress in your life.

The good news is that habits are learned. We weren’t born with them. It all boils down to the choices you make each day. With a little perseverance and focus, you can be free from those bad habits. Your everyday choices are the key to success.

Are you on automatic pilot?

Many of our daily decisions are things we do without thinking. You go on autopilot each morning from taking a shower to brushing your teeth. Sometimes choices we make without thinking about them can develop habits that stray from your goals. It might be as innocent as grabbing that bag of chips without thinking about your health goal. Or maybe you ignore your spending habits when you are in financial trouble.

Denial can truly contribute to stress and create bigger problems in your life. The key is being consciously aware of daily choices that block what you really want. It’s time to get clear about your  choices and to stop walking through life in a fog.

“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” – Jim Ryun

So, you are clear that you’ve got some habits to shift. Here are three tips to create habits that will help, not hurt you:

1.    Pick one habit to change. One of the ways to have an epic fail is try to kick several habits at once. This is a surefire recipe to resort back to those old habits that just weren’t working in the first place. Start by committing to one small change. Maybe it’s as simple as choosing to have a healthy breakfast every day this week.

2.    Get clear about why. Journal and write down why you want to change a habit. Keep your reasons in your purse and wallet. The moment you want to return to your old habits, pull out your why list. Your reasons for wanting to change keep you on track for success.

3.    Don’t keep this a secret. If you’ve made the decision to break a habit, tell others. This is the time when you need the support of your family and friends to help you be successful. It’s so important to share what you hope to accomplish with family and friends. Those who love you will be there to encourage you, offer support, and help you wherever they can.

Breaking a bad habit can be a challenge, but it isn’t impossible. It will significantly help to reduce your stress level. Use these techniques to make your journey easier and celebrate your accomplishment when you’ve succeeded – you deserve it!

What new habit would you like to create in your life? Tell me all about it in the comment section below.

Origami on beach that says work, life, balance

Work-Life Balance and Exercise

work life balance, exercise, motivation, self careBy Grahak Cunningham

We have all finished a tough day at work and then come home from a run or the gym and felt the benefits, both physical and mental. Sweating out the problems of the day, we can feel pleased with ourselves and leave the worries and problems of everyday life behind. Something about it invokes a clarity in our mind and hearts.

So what is the connection between exercise and stress management? Firstly let us look at situations where things just aren’t happening.

Mental stress causes real problems when we are attempting something. Everybody on earth has experienced the stream of endless and meaningless thoughts that crop up in the mind, not just people who exercise regularly. Think back to a time when you have been lying in bed unable to sleep. Never-ending banter and thoughts make you agitated and restless. As a result you toss and turn and cannot rest. The mind will do this all the time unless you learn to control it.

Any doubts or negativities will directly affect your mood and performance whether it is at work or in a fitness situation. I found it happened when training for an ultra-marathon: getting myself depressed about another run or the jog meant I would I lose all enthusiasm.

For example I went for a run the other day and just couldn’t get in the zone. There was no flow. I got every single traffic light on the way to the bush trails, everything ached and I wanted to walk. My mind kept telling me how torturous this particular run was and the best thing about it was finishing. It happens to us all.

When we hit the wall exercising, our bodies have reached tipping point and our minds will chime in with it’s It two cents worth. It’s funny, though, most of us will keep going. It would be much simpler to quit, easier to catch a bus home and sit on the couch, but we don’t.

Something inside us won’t give up and we keep moving forward trying to reach the goal. Stress management techniques involve touching on this something and help to maintain positivity, health and general well-being despite being in what could be considered a ‘stressful’ situation. During a run my heart rate is elevated, I am sweating and tired…just like a tough day at work.

Combining Exercise with Relaxation Techniques

If you have never tried meditation or stress management techniques formally it is probably not that foreign to you. Everyone has meditated sometime or another. Being under a canopy of stars, the simple smile of a child, the vastness of an ocean, the power of a mountain, they stir something inside us and make us feel uplifted. It is the same when exercising.

During strenuous physical activity it’s certainly possible to maintain clarity and peace. Nature helps carry you. Your mind and body feel purified. Fitness regimes push us to take that extra step, to move forward despite obstacles, to transcend ourselves, to make progress. The further or harder you go, the deeper you have to dig. Exercise is a simple thing. We are forced to be focused and positive. If we don’t it’s very noticeable and you have a tough run, just like I did.

It makes sense to combine meditation and sport on a more formal level. Many great sportsmen talk about moments of absolute conviction before a major victory or event. They feel at peace with the race, game, or task ahead. Nothing is forced and as a result, victory or achievement just flows.

Watch any professional tennis star about to receive a serve. They are deep in concentration. Nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis meditated before his big races. “I would just go quiet and try to listen for the farthest sound away…just having my peace, where it all stops and you’re just aware of where you need to be.” He once commented. “Every record I set, I knew it was a record because it was the easiest race I ran.”

To do well in sport (or anything for that matter) you need focus, clarity, and concentration; skills that can be learnt through formal practice. The repetitive movement and regular breathing in running for example helps induce a calm and reflective mind, with it comes a positive power. I have been 1000 miles into an ultra and sometimes I felt like I had the strength of ten men coursing through my body.

A Relaxation Exercise

  • Do this exercise sitting upright in a chair
  • It is advisable to practice with your eyes open so you can use it while at work or excercising
  • Chose a quality like peace
  • Breathe in this quality into the mind and body, relaxing all your muscles
  • Breathe out the opposite, in this case anything that takes away your peace such as stress, restlessness and intruding thoughts
  • Try the same thing while exercising and try other positive qualities such as power, joy, or strength

grahak cuninhaamGrahak Cunningham is based between Australia and New York and is a motivational speaker and business speaker and four time finisher and 2012 champion of the Self-Transcendence 3100 mile race. www.grahakcunningham.com

Woman with red outfit sitting in front of computer holidng her eyes

Five Business Burnout Relief Strategies

“In dealing with those who are undergoing great suffering, if you feel ‘burnout’ setting in, if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself. The point is to have a long-term perspective.” – Dalai Lama

Woman with red outfit sitting in front of computer holidng her eyesBusiness and work burnout can seem as if it appears out of nowhere. Long workdays coupled with anxiety and lack of focus can be telltale signs of burnout. You work so hard, cranking out the next product, program or marketing strategy but find yourself numb and getting overwhelmed with details. Are you ignoring signs you are in danger of burnout?

Signs that you might be suffering from business burnout:

  • Your passion about your career has begun to slowly dwindle
  • Your creativity toward new ideas has become challenged
  • You are having increased difficulty in focusing on your current project
  • You feel exhausted, anxious and just plain worn out.

Try these 5 techniques to get burnout relief:

1. Schedule time to yourself. When was the last day you remember taking off from work? You are at high risk for burnout if you can’t remember or it’s been several weeks or months. Schedule at least two days, one for rest and the other to get our ground, and reassess your goals. The first argument that will creep up is that you don’t have time. It’s so important that you make time. What you might not clearly see is that your productivity is down at this point from the burnout. Regenerating your batteries will get you ready to move forward.

2. Shift your mindset. A business is something that gradually grows over time and requires an endurance mindset. Pace yourself, using your goals as mile markers toward your definition of success. Build your business around your life, not your life around your business. If you find yourself saying, “I’ll be happy when________”, then your risk for damage to your health and relationships are greater than you think.

3. Stay healthy. It’s important to stay in physical condition when you’re under constant stress. Make time for basic self-care, eating balanced meals. Make appointments to exercise, and other activities, such as a massage. Keep yourself at top shape. Make sure you fit in relaxation and adequate sleep. You can deal with stress much easier when you are well-rested. Remember to fuel your body in order to have the best outcomes in your life.

4. Honor your time. Set clear boundaries when it comes to work time. It make seem like you are always working when you are in a high-pressured job or an entrepreneur. Learning how to budget the time in your day more effectively will relieve a lot of this time pressure and stress. Good time management will lessen the feeling of being overwhelmed, as well as enable you to have the time you need to do what you want to do.

5. Stick to what you do best. Keep track of the activities that you can delegate and outsource during your workday. Perform at what you do best and pass along the tasks that you don’t like or take too much time. You have a specific talent. Make sure that’s where you spend the majority of your time.

Business burnout can happen especially when you least expect it. Be very conscious of the warning signs of burnout and always protect the greatest asset in your business: you.

Finish Line

How to Get Unstuck and Jump Start Your Goals

“The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.” – Albert Ellis

Settling for something less than you deserve can mean you’re stuck in a rut. Are you tired of your life and the same routine day in and day out? There’s a world out there with a lot of exciting things to offer. Deep down you know you want to get out of feeling stuck. Sure, it may be a bit overwhelming, and even terrifying at times, but you can’t let your life just pass you by. It’s time to get unstuck, take a leap of faith, and make those dreams a reality.

Read on for some powerful tips and suggestions to help you jump start your goals:

Decide what you want to do.

This might seem like an obvious tip. But oftentimes you may not be exactly clear about what you want. Write down your goal and carry it with you. Pull it out several times a day so you can be very clear about you want. Feel your passion as to recite your goal. This will help you increase your focus on exactly what you want.  The bottom line is nothing happens until you completely decide to do it.

Try this journal exercise. Pick one goal you would like to accomplish. Write down any information about the goal in as much detail as possible. Then list one small step to take toward the goal. Break through the fear barrier by taking action.

Have faith.

Faith can make or break achieving your goal. Faith is seeing the outcome of your goal in clear detail. If you are having difficulty seeing yourself at the end of your goal, you may have to create a short term goal first. When you can visualize the outcome in your mind’s eye, you will me so much more successful in achieving your goal.

Get unstuck.

Finish LineEveryone gets stuck at one time or another. The important part is not to stay in the rut very long. The quicker you take action and move forward, the less chance you will remain stuck.  Staying stuck can breed procrastination or other mind blocks that will keep you living in fear. Reach out to a trusted friend who will jump start your efforts again.

Take the first step.

It’s time to take action combined with faith. As much as you want to step outside the box and get out of this rut, nothing will happen without taking that first step. Moving forward can be scary. Keep your written goal and visualize yourself achieving the goal.

Taking that first step with break through your fear and get you well on your way to making your dream a reality. You’ll be so glad you took action – and you’ll be so proud of yourself when you celebrate at the finish line.

“We must overcome the notion that we must be regular… it robs you of the chance to be extraordinary and leads you to the mediocre. “ – Uta Hagen

Stop settling for a mediocre life and use these tips to take action on your goals. No one enjoys being stuck and just going through the motions of life. Don’t let your fears hold you back. Get unstuck and start to live life to the fullest.

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