Life: A Balancing Act?

Sometimes it seems that life balance means simply juggling plates and successfully keeping them all up in the air. Consider what balance means in other processes. In accounting, things must add up. In physics, what goes up, must come down. In life, we can’t live like a gazelle being chased by a cheetah all the time — we’d be a code red, high adrenaline, super stress, possible heart attack or stroke waiting for a place to happen.

Balance is more about a calm and stable mindset that allows us to make decisions based on personal values helping us learn to be intentional in the moment. Life balance may best be defined as the calmness and security of being able to manage the things we treasure, i.e. feelings, thoughts, talents, attitudes, behavior, personal well-being, etc. so in effect, we are able to assertively confront issues in life without an ongoing feeling of being overwhelmed.

A consistent balance allows our lives to continually improve, not necessarily with more money or more stuff, but by simply having an awareness that every day holds challenges and successes, and that truly what we look for is what we will find, be it good or bad.

As for me, I choose to live with the mantra, that indeed, Life is Good and, I’ve got the tee shirt to prove it! 

What does your t-shirt for the way you do / have done life read?

Sheri 

Begin with the End in Mind

How often do we neglect developing new habits because we think a positive outcome will take too much effort? Or maybe we start to improve our lifestyle only to give up prematurely because we don’t get what we want fast enough. It’s easy to allow today’s challenges to become tomorrow’s excuses.

Have you wondered how you became  a member of the Start-Big-Finish-Small-if-at-All-Club? Perhaps, you’ve set targets that are difficult to reach. Often, the pain of disappointment may leave you feeling burned out with little desire to follow through. Remember, you do have options. The breakthrough you’ve needed could be to practice thinking small to help you transform your life.

Often, we may be full of ideas and eager to establish a new plan. We may soon realize it’s easy to bite off more than we can chew. We want rapid success and no hitches. The size of the task and the time it takes to get there may make it tempting to throw in the towel. By focusing on the here and now, it is easier to find a steady pace.  Besides, slow and steady worked for the tortoise!

Whatever you hope to gain in your endeavors, you need to decide precisely what it is you want, and be specific as you define what exactly it is you hope to achieve. Reflect in why you desire this outcome. Goals are often more “real” if they are written. Decide what is a reasonable length of time to realize your desire and be realistic. Make it measurable so you will have a target at which to aim. Once you have a clearly defined idea of the what, why and how long to reach your goal, you can break down the entire process.

Here are a few tips for breaking it down into bite-size pieces:

1. Brainstorm all of your options and determine what can be divided into smaller, detailed steps. Each task is a stepping stone towards achieving your end result.

2. Simplify the action plan. Think of the steps as actions. When you understand what actions are needed to achieve your desired result, you can pull these together into a plan.

3. Establish daily and weekly tasks. When you create your action plan, work out a series of targets that you believe are possible to reach on the way to your goal. Keep it simple with many small victories to keep the momentum.

4. Keep on track. The small-scale approach is flexible and allows for instant changes.  Continue tweaking and completing the simple tasks so the end result will be well within your grasp.

5. Focus on your daily actions plans and not so much on the end date. Like the tortoise, concentrate on one small step and repeat consistently.

6. Master the art of delaying gratification. Though you may be tempted, avoid trying to rush things and bite off more than you can chew. Refer to the reasons why you want the desired goal. Concentrate on where you are in the journey, and not on what’s next. Reflect on how far you’ve come and what a waste it would be to throw in the towel.

In order for us to grow, we will need to allow ourselves to be stretched at times. In most endeavors, if we don’t grow, our plans and goals won’t either. Long-lasting lifestyle change requires an investment of your time and effort, as well as some patience. The road to achieving great things is much less intimidating when you break down the end result into smaller steps.

And absolutely nothing can compare to how you will feel when you finally make it to the place you wanted to be.

If this encourages you, share it with a Friend!

Sheri 

How can we handle people we are close to who have very different opinions?

Being easily offended or defensive when someone has a different opinion that does not support our views is a negative response that hinders emotional maturity.

Allowing respectful diverse view points into our thinking helps us grow and gain insight from different perspectives. Limiting ourselves to ideas only from people who agree with us can inhibit or destroy significant relationships.

Assuming that we are being rejected if others do not perform as we desire or show support in our endeavors results in unhealthy thought processes.

If we work to communicate with one another with kindness, patience, and understanding, we can cultivate ways to operate in love and empathy, opening opportunities for growth and strong relationships that impact us personally, spiritually and professionally.

Might it be possible that God intended diversity to mature and teach us how to love in a way that transforms us as well as others?

I believe it is worth pondering… 

Sheri 

What Steps Can I Take to Live More Simply?

This journey isn’t so much about eliminating the number of shoes or books we own, the square footage of our house or giving away every non-essential item we own.

Simplicity, for me, has become the removal of the unnecessary things that tend to distract me from discovering and enjoying what I value most in my world.

5 Steps to consider if you want to live more simply.

1. Simplify your wardrobe. Adopting a minimal wardrobe has afforded me less stress when choosing what to wear each day. Eliminating items I rarely wear and only purchasing clothing, shoes and accessories that I feel most like myself in, has given me more time each morning and the ability to eliminate chaos.

2. Eliminate digital distractions. When meeting with someone, I intentionally allow my phone to take a coffee break. For me, multi-tasking simply means I am able to screw up two things at once! I work when I’m at work. I am intentional when I am in a meeting. I continually strive to remember that I own the phone, it does not own me!

3. Learn to be vacationally-minded in your work. Changing the mindset in how we view our work can transform the way we work. God designed us to create! Realizing that creating is our work makes getting to it a lot easier. If the goal is only for a promotion, prestigious title, or a larger paycheck, it will not be enough to fulfill us in the long run. On vacation, we are intentional in getting the most out of the moments we have and creating special memories. Focusing on seeing ourselves as ‘creative’ beings helps us to view our work as our gift or contribution to something bigger. We develop pure intentions and ultimately greater joy in doing it.

4. Learn to say no to things. It’s tempting to believe that saying yes to everything is the path to success. However, if we treat everything as a priority, we will not reach a high level of success. Unnecessary commitments and obligations can cause stress and friction in our relationships with family, friends, and colleagues. The ability to say no provides space to focus on the things we value most. It’s not about being involved in everything, but rather learning not to trade off “best” and settle for “good”.

5. Embrace the mundane. Life is truly lived in the morning coffee chats on the porch, car rides to school or work, standing in the grocery line talking to a neighbor, reading to your kids before bed time, caring for a loved one, walking the dog, and clearing off the dinner table as a family. It is these moments that we often hurry past. Yet it is these simple memories that last a lifetime. These are the experiences that write our story and shape our lives.

I invite you to consider what ‘keeping it simple’ could mean for you…

Sheri

What is the Value of Living Simply?

I don’t know exactly when I fully realized that what I really enjoy is a small, slow, simple life!

It’s here where I recognize that truly special days can be a rainy afternoon and a good book, or a lingering lunch with a friend or loved one where we reminisce about the goodness of God or share the ups and downs of life.

Enjoying simple things allows me to manage my stress and reserve my energy for the unplanned and unexpected times and be prepared to respond in a manner that will not bring regret.

If I allow it, life can be a noisy place with loud voices pushing or driving for me to hustle, to improve, build, strive, yearn, acquire, compete, and grasp for more. All the striving can leave me drained of joy and wondering if I am simply not enough.

When I stop spinning, I can listen for God’s still, small voice whispering for me to know that He is in control.

What if I never really achieve accolades beyond the people who are my primary circle of impact? What if life as I have chosen it is good, even amazing, in light of the fact that my heart is fully engaged?

Since leaving the frantic pace of life and learning to not keep up, I have found that I truly enjoy solitude and calm, an abundance of rest, and swaths of unscheduled time in order to be healthy.

I have found great delight in sharing my deeply rooted faith, doubts and insecurities, in quiet ways and through genuine relationship with some very special women in my life who have invested in me.

We haven’t had a fairy tale romance and I follow hard after God to be the wife that will always be for Jeff’s best. This keeps me humble and I need it!

I am a mom who delights in her girls and in knowing they are free to choose their appointments with life. I consider it a special privilege to affirm and support them in their passions!

I seek the Lord often to learn to embrace my limitations and stop railing against them. I am at peace with who I am and what I need and believe it to be an amazing gift of God to walk in this knowledge.

I enjoy a simplified life. A beautiful, quiet, gentle life. And for me, it is enough!

Sheri

How Can I Live a Life of Passion?

How Would You Describe the Speed in which YOU Do Life?  Life balance isn’t about having it all or how many plates you can juggle, but more about relinquishing what doesn’t work for you so that you can be rightly aligned and fully intentional with what does.

Resisting the Hindrance of Resistance…Growth requires becoming an expert at navigating inevitable life change by learning to accept what you cannot change and eliminating excuses for not changing the things you can. Reflecting on where you and how you are impacted by things outside of your control is an excellent exercise for some super new habits!

You Are What’s Eating You… How much sleep are you losing, or how many ways are you indulging yourself over unresolved issues, relationships or projects? The more baggage we carry, the sooner we show signs of aging. So travel light to find the fountain of youth.

Live Free… Give of your resources generously. The level of your ability to freely give is directly proportionate to how ‘free’ you truly are. We can’t do everything, but we can do something. Avoid the temptation to clutter your life or schedule with unnecessary weight. To the one who has much, much will be required.

Live Out Your Passion… Find ways to do what you love and share it with others. Express love as often as you are able. Do all that you do as if God were your employer.

Be intentional… All work and no play dulls our senses to the beauty all around us in the people love and the things we enjoy. Learn to adjust your speed of life to take time to smell the roses, experience the beauty of a sunset or the warm hug of a dear friend. The day may come, that you will be very glad that you made the effort!

Sheri

How can I let go of my fear of what others think of me?

Choosing to do something or not do something based on what we “think” others would say about our choice prevents us from having the freedom to make the best choices. Having to first “check in” with a panel of judges, internal or external adds confusion to the decision-making process.

Accountability and support are extremely important. And the folks in our life, who are committed to our well-being without attempting to control us, can provide excellent guidance for us. Having listened to our hearts and shared in our joys and sorrows, they are in the best position to offer objective advice.

A good indicator of these supportive relationships is that we feel valued and not judged, when sharing our thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams with them. When we are making choices that align with our overall direction in life, those who support us are willing to cheerlead and urge us on. And, if we are considering a choice that may not appear to be the best for us, they have the courage and our permission to remind us of our values and question us on the choices we may be considering.

The key difference in someone who believes in us, respects our choices and our right to make them, is that they will ASK questions as opposed to TELLING us what they think we should do.

To get over believing what other people think about us, it is wise to remember that their opinions of us are really none of our business.

A possible reason for listening to the panel of judges is a fear of failure. However, consider the fact that we never truly “fail” unless we quit trying to find a way that satisfies the pursuit we are on.

An effective way to face the fear of failure is to visualize the worst case scenario and ask ourselves what would we do if it were to happen?

My grandmother always said, “when people are talking about ‘you’ they’re leaving someone else alone”.

Yet, the truth is that people will always be talking; they will always be judging. This is something we have no power to change. But we do have the power to choose what we believe is best for ourselves!

Sheri

In Simplifying My Life, How Can I Learn Contentment?

Contentment is the fundamental pursuit in each area of life. We want to get the house painted or our certification completed or the kids grown or something that we are convinced will enable us to finally be content. However, it is really a condition of our inner person. Sort of an at-peace-with-me feeling. It is also a foundation to enjoying life and being intentional in the moment. Can it be done? If so, how?

1 – Practice delaying gratification. When you consider making a purchase, use patience and consider postponing the ones that are simply for convenience. If you end up purchasing the item later, it will be well thought out. If not, you’ll be happier to have saved the time and money.

2 – Evaluate the important areas of your life: spirituality, mate, family, work, friends, finances, health, personal development, rest / recreation, etc., and determine what defines your values in each of these categories. Such as, “for R & R, I need to be out in the fresh air and sunshine and I need unstructured blocks of time…”. This will enable you to establish a thought pattern around the way you make decisions in the important issues of life. The process for making better choices is made simpler because your values are defined and explain why you do things the way you do them.

3 – Make a focused effort to remain inspired and to be inspiring. Spend 10+ minutes each day reading something that inspires you. Journal what you glean from what you read, personal encounters, a movie you watch or just what comes to mind while you are in the shower. You will be amazed at how you can gain such positive perspective from your quiet times. Invest in others by offering an encouraging word in the way of a note, text or call to them when they are working on a particular endeavor or are facing a personal trial.

4 – Unplug from the technology of life and plug in to the simpler paths. Change gears for half an hour each day by taking a walk or a bubble bath. Find a neat little hobby such as painting or woodworking that you can enjoy and de-stress from the working hours in your day. Write a blog — oh, I resemble that! — on something that you have learned in an effort to enlighten others.

5 – Get a mentor – be a mentor. Spend time with people you admire and learn about their lives and interests. They can offer guidance in learning how to do things in a different, possibly more efficient way. Find ways that you can share things or teach a class around what you have learned with others who will benefit from your time. Show appreciation for what you learn and for the opportunity to share.

6 – Reach out and get to know a neighbor at home or work. Don’t worry, if you’re the new-bee you can still take the initiative. Every friend we have was once a stranger. Be observant in watching for common interests. Maybe you both have kids the same age or at work it may be someone who goes to lunch at the same time as you.

7 – Practice learning to be a great listener. By doing so, you will learn the true art of emotional intelligence and the high quality of “likeability”. When you work to listen to others at deeper levels, you communicate to them that you place high value on them and the time they spend with you. You will also learn how to take the focus off of your own personal challenges and you may very well find that you have a great friend and listening ear in place when you are in need of encouragement.

By putting these steps into routine practice for 30 days, you will be able to determine if your life can be defined as being more content. And, in turn, you can inspire others to do the same!

Sheri

What is the Big Deal about Minimalism?

I’ve been writing about the value of simplicity for nearly 20 years.and since you’ve asked, I’d have to say that Minimalism is best described as pursuing the Right Things so that we are able to Focus More on the things we Enjoy Most!

Simply put, it is the identification, and then the continual choice, of living (doing, buying, seeking) ONLY what is essential. Quite similar to a life of simplicity, Minimalism elaborates on the saying, “less is more” to make it a declaration that “less is better.”

I have considered myself a “minimalist” since 1999. Something about the all around scare-tactics etc., of what Y2K may cause, got me to thinking that I wanted to focus on making better and more meaningful choices in my life.

After a divorce in 2003, and armed with a belief that God has and always will have a plan for me that is better than I could ever design for myself, I set out to learn what was most important, most enjoyable, and most aligned with His best for me. My goal was to best utilize what He had taught me in my life up to that point.

Here is what I found:

I have been given the privilege and responsibility to prioritize my life! If I avoid doing it, someone else may step in and take on that role in a way that serves their needs best.  Taking the time to prioritize our life and choices eliminates our being tied and / or obligated to others expectations.

I continually ask myself, whether I am at work or play, “Is this the most important thing I should be doing with my time and resources right now?” It helps me to zero in on what is most important in the moment. If it isn’t important to me at the present time, I  simply choose to redirect my focus to what matters and what will have the most impact on the purpose I am seeking to achieve.

I want to live a life by design, not default. I will do this effectively by learning to master my response to situations and be able to turn things around, as opposed to living like the bow tied on a kite string based on what is happening to me at any given moment.

I don’t want to have it all and I don’t need to do it all. It is imperative for me to first clarify and then be willing to make the necessary trade-offs in order to pursue what is most important to me. One of the things I remind myself when I am struggling to stick with my plan is this: “I choose to NOT trade off what I want MOST for what I want right NOW!”

I have learned that I do not need to be ‘plugged into’ all that is happening either virtually or globally all of the time. Rather I have decided that the most important thing for me to focus on is what’s front and center of my actual world at the present time. I continually find that focusing on the few essential ideas right in front of me is typically more rewarding, and offers greater potential, than the many that may be trying to distract me.

The best thing I’ve learned is when to say no to the nonessentials so I can say yes to the things that really matter. I find it easier not to commit if I’m not certain that I can give 100%. This requires me to have the courage to say no firmly, resolutely and gracefully so that I can say “yes” to those things that I truly value and where I know I can purposefully make a difference.

The effectual pursuit of simplicity (minimalism) is about arriving at a deep understanding of what leads to a happy and meaningful life for each of us personally. It has never been about sacrificing or getting rid of stuff.

Sheri 

How Do I Know if My Feelings are Telling Me the Truth?

“How are you feeling today?”

“My feelings were hurt.”

“I’m not feeling it.”

It would be easier to respond to the “facts” about our life situations if people asked, “What is true about your life today?”, or “What can you do today that will make a positive difference?”

We can easily become overly concerned about what we ‘think” someone else is ‘thinking’ regarding us. When, in actuality, we may be the furthest thing from their minds.  When I begin thinking like this, I chuckle and remind myself that I am onlykind of a big deal’ in my own mind. 🙂

Picture a train, the engine is the power that drives it and the caboose (when they were used) served to house the crew responsible for track switching and acting as lookouts for load shifting or other concerns.  If we regard the TRUTH about our lives as the engine of the train that drives us, we can move along empowered by making decisions based on what we know to be right. If, on the other hand, we are led by our FEELINGS, it is as if we are letting the caboose engineer our life train and we become disempowered because we can be on a roller coaster driven by emotions and not truth. It is stressful and chaotic at best and ultimately results in, you guessed it, a train wreck!

Avoiding this mindset of feelings-driven living, requires us to be intentional in cultivating a belief system that is grounded in the truth about any given situation. By recognizing the things we have the power to change as well as the ones we need to accept, we can be empowered to put our efforts where we can make the most difference.

When I struggle with determining the facts vs. my feelings, I ask myself, “What am I feeling about the current situation I am facing?” And then, “What is true about the current situation I am facing?”

Feelings are merely assumptions we make, often based on past experiences, and can impact what we believe about the way something is likely to turn out.

It is much less stressful to focus on the facts and adjust to what is true than it is to be carried on the winds of our feelings, emotionally going up and down and never really sure what is true and what to expect.

Regardless of our feelings or emotions, we can choose to remind ourselves that our feelings follow our actions, so choose what is the next best thing you need to do and do it… the right feelings will come along in due time!

Sheri