By Theresa Conti
In Part 1 of Eight Obstacles to Attaining Balance and Solutions to Resolve Them, we talked about Mental Chatter, Beliefsand Self-Talk – and how they work both for and against us. (See my July 9th post to view the article)
Today’s post takes a deeper dive as we look at the next three obstacles on our paths to balance and how to overcome them.
But first, what is life balance?. For me, balance is a fluid state and includes fulfilling our goals and dreams and the aspects of our lives we consider most important and want to give our time and attention to.
The components of life balance may be different for each of us. For instance they may include our relationships, career, finances, health, fun, spirituality, travel, hobbies, contribution, family, and educational pursuits, among others.
While attaining balance may seem overwhelming, we can design our lives so that we have time to focus on each area – if only for brief intervals.
As we engage in creating a healthier and balanced life, it’s important to be specific.
For instance, I recommend my clients choose nine aspects of life that are important to them and that they may or may not already be pursing or satisfied with. I then ask them to visualize what they would like each of these areas to look like, while seeing themselves engaged in the experience. No holds barred. We then break each component down into manageable pieces, followed by a list of actions they will take to reach their goals, including the type of support or information they’ll need in order to succeed. You can think of the process like a road map: you decide on a destination and the route you’ll take to get there.
So, let’s take a look at the next three obstacles in this three-part series and the solutions for overcoming them.
As always, I’d love to hear how the tools work for you, should you choose to try them!
“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”
– Joseph Campbell
Obstacle #4: Fear
Fear can be a helpful ally. For instance, we may have a gut feeling about something, which serves as a warning of impending danger, and is important to pay attention to. However, when fear inhibits us from fulfilling our goals and dreams, it no longer serves a useful purpose.
Fear is often based on past experiences, the stories we tell ourselves, the things we’ve heard on the news or from authority figures, as well as the brains’ tendency to focus on the negative.
In order to obtain balance, we need to recognize and address our fears, so we can live with greater peace and harmony.
Solution #4: Drawing on the past
I once had a therapist who told me to walk toward my fear. It was one of the most valuable lessons in my life, to date.
As with any change, pursuing our goals and dreams can be both exhilarating and scary. This was certainly true for me before moving from New York to Trieste as a single woman at the age of 64! However, drawing on our past experience builds our confidence and affirms that we can handle whatever may come up!
If you like, try the following exercise. I suggest writing your answers down for greater clarity and effectiveness.
Think of a goal you’ve accomplished and the steps you took to get there. You may be surprised to learn just how many decisions you made and how many actions you successfully completed!
- Think of a goal you’ve accomplished in the past that required making a significant change.
- What steps did you take to achieve it?
- What obstacles, if any, did you encounter?
- How did you address them?
- If you experienced any doubt, anxiety or fear, how did you work through them?
- What did you learn from the experience that can help you in the future?
If you hadn’t mapped out your goal methodically, you’ll likely see that you took a series of steps as you review your past accomplishments! You may find it helpful to repeat the exercise with several goals you’ve successfully achieved!
Obstacle #5: Vulnerability
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.”
Bene Brown, Ph.D.
Oh my! Just the word vulnerability makes most of us cringe or want to run in the opposite direction!
However, vulnerability is the secret sauce! It’s saying “yes,” when we’d rather say “no.” It’s going out, when we’d rather stay home. Starting the project, when we’d rather watch old reruns on TV! Vulnerability is also the door opener that leads to new adventures and opportunities we might never discover otherwise.
Solution #5: Courage
I don’t know about you. I don’t necessarily like feeling vulnerable. After all, it’s the opposite of control! Yet, letting go, trusting our inner callings, and the goals we wish to achieve, require change, which may not be particularly comfortable. But, I beg the question, what is the alternative?
So, how do we build courage? By clarifying our goals, gathering information, seeking support, and taking steps to follow through.
Embrace the Future You!
- What’s one goal you would like to realize, but haven’t yet started or completed?
- What steps would you need to take in order to achieve it?
- What information or resources would help you to move forward?
- What’s beliefs, or other obstacles, may be standing in your way?
- How can you address them? Think outside the box.
- Who are your greatest allies?
- How can they support you?
- Is stepping out of your comfort zone worth the risk of realizing your goal or dream?
- What’s the worst thing that can happen if you fail?
- What will you gain if you succeed?
- Stand on the shoulders of giants! Who’s walked the path before you and how did they succeed?
- What other needs might you have to fulfill your goal, and how can you best meet them?
- What’s one small step you can take this week to attain your goal or dream?
You can use the exercise with any goal. However, if your dream is moving to Italy or another foreign country, use that as your primary focus!
Obstacle #6: Shame
“Feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back.”
Shame can be debilitating and make us question our value. As a result, we may underestimate our abilities and believe that we are not good or worthy enough to have what we want or desire. This is a fallacy that keeps us from experiencing balance. We can step out of the quagmire by learning to embrace ourselves with gentleness and kindness.
Solution #6: Compassion
The self-compassion letter, posted below, originated from the research on self-compassion pioneered by Dr. Kristin Neff. although other researchers have also validated it.
Several studies have tied the self-compassion letter to various benefits, including a greater motivation for self-improvement, (challenging the assumption that self-compassion fosters complacency), improved relationships, and living with greater ease.
According to Dr. Neff, self-compassion has three main components: mindfulness, a feeling of common humanity, and self-kindness.
Here’s how to do it:
First, identify something about yourself that makes you feel ashamed, insecure, or not good enough. It could be something related to your personality, behavior, abilities, relationships, or any other part of your life. Once you identify something, write it down and describe how it makes you feel. Sad? Embarrassed? Angry? Try to be as honest as possible, keeping in mind that no one but you will see what you write. The next step is to write a letter to yourself expressing compassion, understanding, and acceptance for the part of yourself that you dislike. As you write, follow these guidelines:
- Imagine that there is someone who loves and accepts you unconditionally for who you are. What would that person say to you about this part of yourself?
- Remind yourself that everyone has things about themselves that they don’t like, and that no one is without flaws. Think about how many other people in the world are struggling with the same thing that you’re struggling with.
- Consider the ways in which events that have happened in your life, the family environment you grew up in, or even your genes may have contributed to this negative aspect of yourself.
- In a compassionate way, ask yourself whether there are things that you could do to improve or better cope with this negative aspect. Focus on how constructive changes could make you feel happier, healthier, or more fulfilled, and avoid judging yourself.
- After writing the letter, put it down for a little while. Then come back to it later and read it again. It may be especially helpful to read it whenever you’re feeling bad about this aspect of yourself, as reminder to be more compassionate.
Note: I did the exercise regarding a change to my physical appearance as a result of having Lyme disease, and likely changes due to age. I modified the letter and wrote to the part of my body I wanted to make peace with. My experience was transformational. I gained insight I wouldn’t have had otherwise, and have developed a deeper level of compassion and self-acceptance.
Give it a try! Dr. Neff’s recommendation is to write a self-compassion letter once a month on the same or different topics.
I hope you found this week’s blog helpful! If so I’d love to read your comments in the reply section below.
Stuned for Part 3 of Eight Obstacles to Attaining Balance and Solutions to Resolve Them. Coming Soon!
Article and Photo Theresa Conti 2020
Theresa Conti was born and raised in New York. She is a Certified Life Coach, Energy Healing Practitioner, Workshop Facilitator and Author with more than 25 years’ experience. Her books include Alphabet Affirmations: Transform Your Life and Love Yourself, and I Am the Treasure.
Theresa specializes in helping her clients manage their stress, and develop inner resources, like confidence, courage and resilience, so they can live with greater ease, realize their goals and dreams and better meet life’s challenges. She offers a 30-minute complimentary consultation to get acquainted, discuss your goals , and see how you might work together. She can be reached at Theresa@reconnecting2you.com.
Sources for the Self-Compassion Letter:
1) The Science of Happiness, University of California, Berkley
2) Kristin Neff, Ph.D., University of Texas, Austin
For additional references and tools, please see Part 1 of Eight Obstacles to Attaining Balance and Solutions to Resolve Them, published on July 9, 2020.