TIME TO THRIVE BLOG
My 5 secrets for achieving ‘life balance’
Many of my clients come to me because they want to find ‘work-life balance’. They feel they’re constantly failing and never feeling good enough. I want to share my secret to finding ‘life balance’ (I mean, work is also life, right? So let’s just call it ‘life’ balance).
An unexpected challenge
I could feel the relief in my chest after the strict German airport personnel didn’t make a fuss about us having too much hand luggage. We were finally on the plane to Thailand – a trip that had been postponed three years – and my family was in a good mood.
As we started settling in, I called the flight attendant over to ask about my 11-year-old daughter’s seatbelt. And was surprised when she said, ‘Do you need a safety belt for your baby’? while looking down at my belly.
I wasn’t sure if I should feel flattered that a woman my age could be pregnant or offended that she thought there was a baby in my belly.
I looked up in surprise. The Austrian Air flight attendant was wearing a fitted red dress with a scarf around her neck. My eyes landed on her belly, which was flat like a plate.
Growing up, I was ‘the skinny one’. If it wasn’t for my bad skin and strict Polish mother, I might have had a career as a fashion model. I was not used to getting comments about my weight.
I leaned back in my seat and checked in with my inner critic, but it had nothing to say. Instead, I could hear a gentle voice whisper:
‘Yes, your belly has grown bigger in the last three years. You made a choice to make other things a priority, doing sports has not been your focus’.
Little did I know that life was going to throw some similar challenges my way.
Knowing when to shuffle priorities
In the last three years, my priority has been to expand my business and create a safe haven at home for me, my husband and our daughter while going through the pandemic.
This trip to Thailand, a six-week semi-sabbatical, where I would only work part-time while my 11-year-old daughter went to school, was a gift to our family to recharge, refocus and reconnect.
Knowing I had neglected my physical body, I decided that getting back to sports would be my priority during this trip.
I arranged my schedule in such a way that the first hours of the day were booked for walks or running on the beach, yoga with an instructor (finally not on zoom!) and the various workout offers Koh Lanta Island had to offer.
I was ready to let my business grow at a slower pace, trust that my daughter didn’t need me quite as much as before, and to shift my focus!
How to rethink ‘work-life balance’
The concept of “work-life balance” is a myth! We can’t balance kids, romantic relationships, work, hobbies, social life – all at once! We need to prioritise different areas during different stages in life. We can’t care for each area equally all of the time.
Sure, we can be a mother/father, spouse, friend, business owner, friend and still do sports and play the guitar all in the same period of our life, BUT we can’t give all these things the same amount of focus and love.
We only have 24h in a day, and hunting for balance in all areas is setting you up for failure. At the end of the day you will always feel ‘you could have done more’.
When you see someone running around like a headless chicken, multitasking like crazy, you might admire her and think ‘How does she do it all’?? But then ask yourself, ‘Does she look fulfilled’?
Knowing when to say no
We arrived at Koh Lanta (the image of me in the sunset is NOT a stock image!), where we checked into our home for the next six weeks. It was perfect! 100 meters to the beach, an outdoor yoga pavilion, a pool for our daughter and a big terrace where we could work in the shade.
The first morning after school drop-off, I put on my new sports clothes, tied back my hair, and with a bottle of water in hand, walked confidently to the beach to check out a workout place I had heard about.
First, a man with full-body tattoos and a six-pack ran past me. Then another athlete sprinted by, followed by a couple, older than me, who proudly showed off their perfect bodies as they strolled by in their swimsuits.
As I got closer I heard some women speaking Swedish, and I remembered that there are many Swedish people living on the island. They all wore tank tops, had perfect tans and looked like they spent the pandemic boxing and doing sit-ups.
Had I landed in the middle of an Olympic sports team??
I saw a group about to start a workout and walked towards the alpha female who looked like the leader.
You know that feeling when you enter a party and feel like you’re in the wrong place? Everyone looks the same and you are the ‘odd one out’?
Well that’s how I felt in this circle of beautiful buff blondes!
She introduced herself as ‘Amelia’ and seemed very kind and professional. She told me about the different workout styles they were doing and the only word I remember was ‘Bulgarian bags’. ‘What the hell is that?’ I thought to myself.
I took a step back and checked in with myself and my gentle voice whispered: ‘This might be an interesting challenge, and fun to play around with some bags, but maybe you want to start with something softer’?
With a ‘Bye bye, see you another time’ I ran off jogging along the beach.
I noticed how my inner critic was trying to get heard with things like ‘you could have used the time during the pandemic to move around more’, and ‘you will never look as fit as them’.
I smiled and kept on running. And then I heard my gentler voice whisper, ‘How do you feel today?’
The voice was loud and clear:
Awake, alive and attractive!
My 5 secrets for finding ‘life balance’:
- Instead of trying to balance everything at once, choose a life area to prioritise on a monthly/quarterly/yearly cycle.
- Review every area in your life regularly to see which ones need more attention.
- Ask a close friend or your partner for feedback, what are they seeing that you could prioritise next?
- Take regular breaks from your everyday ‘hamster wheel’ to get a bird’s-eye-view of your life.
- Instead of comparing yourself with others, compare yourself with where you were a couple months ago and where you are now.
So the next time you look at me or anyone else and think ‘How does she do it all’?, remember:
When you see me doing business successfully, I’m failing at doing regular sports.
When you see me doing regular sports, I’m failing to reach my business goals.
When you see me mastering parenting, I’m failing at being attentive to my husband.
When you see me having a lot of ‘me time’, I’m failing at caring for my friendships.
And that’s okay!
The next time you hear ‘you can have it all’, don’t believe it, because you can’t. It’s crucial for your mental health that you start to make choices about what’s most important in your life.
We want to have a thriving career, loving family, raise our children on our own, travel, and be creative, without having to give anything up.
I’ve been there. The demand to be a better friend, available non-stop for my daughter, maintain my relationship with my husband, keep a clean house, all while expanding my business…
That demand often leads to burn out and unfulfillment.
We can’t have it all! At least not all at once.
Burn bright, not out
The first step to notice signs of burnout is to become aware of what’s dragging you down, so that you have the energy to do the things that lift you up. A quick and easy way to get started with this is to use my free ‘Time To Thrive’ journal.
Users of my ‘Time To Thrive’ journal are telling me:
‘I finally got better at focusing on ONE thing at a time’
‘I feel so much more energised’
‘I’ve started to be more honest and self-compassionate. This journal is truly life-changing!’
Do you want to test it out for yourself and see if it helps your life become a bit more balanced? Then grab a copy of my guided journal!
If you know someone who would benefit from improved life balance, please share this blog post and my free journal with them.
Hello, I’m Katarina Stoltz, a life coach and psychotherapist helping international professionals prioritise their well-being so they can achieve fulfillment without burning out.
Welcome to the 'Time To Thrive' blog, where I share real-life stories and offer valuable and practical tips for how to prevent burnout, expand your self awareness and start living your vision.
I don’t offer ‘quick fix’ solutions, but my tips are straightforward and easy to follow. You’re in the right place if you’re looking for some thought-provoking articles and honest life stories.
I’m happy you’re here!