The Challenge of the Century
women think it is impossible to live a balanced
lifestyle without being wealthy or enjoying
a leisurely retirement. I quite agree—acquiring
a satisfactory balance between work and family,
with time for personal and spiritual growth,
fun, friends, relaxation, household chores,
community activities and vacation, seems unattainable
for most women today.
two most common statements I hear are, "I
always seem to be rushing because there's never
enough time," and "I just wish my
life was simpler and more meaningful."
philosophy of balance still being touted by
some self-help experts doesn't fit anymore.
"We can have it all, and do it all,"
they say. But that's not even close to being
within the grasp of most women. The word balance
implies equality. It suggests spending equal
amounts of time and energy in all areas of our
lives. But for most of us, that's impossible.
working mothers in particular, family life collides
with job requirements. Hassled, hustled and
hurried, too many women are experiencing too
much stress and feeling out of control.
is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes
to defining balance. Balance depends on our
personalities, and our particular set of circumstances.
As women, we go through many stages, including
being single, getting married and raising a
family. Some of us experience divorce or become
widowed, and eventually we all must deal with
retirement. Balance differs with each stage.
balance involves two main issues-time and stress.
Time and stress are inter-related. With more
time, you feel less stress. The big question
is: how do you find more time and reduce your
bad news is that there isn't any more time.
What makes the difference is how you use that
time. Use it skillfully, and you can enjoy better
balance. Waste it and you will feel like you're
always on a treadmill, racing to catch up.
them. This is a touchy subject for some people,
especially perfectionists. I'm not suggesting
you lower your standards, just re-frame them
in the context of living as a woman in today's
real world. What drives some women crazy is
not the messy house, dirty car, job or even
a hectic schedule-often it is their own impossible
my opinion, today's society places far too much
emphasis on having the perfect house (I don't
call it a home) with nearly impossible standards
of cleanliness. Unless you have the time to
totally focus on cleaning, lighten up!
all is said and done, you'll discover it's your
relationships that matter most. Make sure you
nourish those more than anything else. When
kids look back on their lives they rarely say
they're glad the floors sparkled. Instead, they're
happy because Mom let go, and allowed them to
use the couch pillows to build forts on the
Chaos To Calm
stress is essential for maintaining balance
and having a healthy body. To conserve emotional
energy, we need to become clear about which
situations we can, and cannot, change.
working women struggle with something called
spillover. This occurs when one area of our
life affects another, creating stress. If our
job involves inflexible hours, a high-pressure
environment or a lot of travel, the negative
spillover can affect our family life. On the
other hand, having a sick child, finding convenient
daycare, dealing with an unsupportive partner
or looking after elderly parents can have a
spillover effect at work. It's difficult to
focus on doing a good job when other urgent
matters are demanding our energy and attention.
most women, spillover is a fact of life. No
magic wand will erase it. The best we can do
is to learn how to manage each situation, and
put a lid on the stress. It helps to keep everything
in perspective, and to trust intuition.
The Juggling Act
women do an amazing job of juggling work, kids,
home, health, fitness, extended family, bill
paying and so on. But sometimes life adds an
unexpected ball to the mix. The car breaks down
on the way to pick up the kids from swimming,
you have parent teacher interviews in an hour
and you still need to prepare and pack for tomorrow's
business trip. Your supervisor at the office
asks you to work Saturday on yet another project
that has an impossible deadline.
unexpected can cause your stress to surge out
of control. The bad thing about negative stress
is that the buck stops with your body. Your
healthy habits, such as exercise programs and
nutritious meals, are usually the first to suffer
when you are struggling to cope with a heavy
workload. When you are always over-committing,
juggling more and more balls, your body finally
says, "Enough, I can't handle this anymore."
Sources of Stress
As always, awareness is vital. Thinking on paper
will give you clarity, so you can make better
decisions. One of the most valuable skills you
can develop is the ability to ask yourself really
good questions. Often simple questions provide
the greatest insight. Ask yourself:
What specifically am I stressed about?
2. What is the root cause of this stress?
3. What can I do right away to alleviate the
4. Who or what can help me?
5. How can I prevent this from happening again?
6. What resources can I use to learn more?
Another great way to de-stress and improve balance
is to adopt the traditional day of rest. Remember
when stores were closed on Sunday and families
had fun together? Now the pressure is constant.
We even have a name for it. 24/7. Instead of
having a day to breathe and recoup, the weekend
pace has women running on empty before the new
week even begins.
it is a different type of busyness, the weekend
often leaves us feeling depleted and resentful
about going back to work on Monday.
easy to get caught up in the hectic activity
of daily living and lose sight of what you truly
value. Unless you schedule a day off, it won't
happen. I suggest getting out of the house -
it's too easy to get distracted by your to-do
list, by feeling guilty about not working on
it. Get away if you can. Don't let your mind
burden you with worry, guilt or thoughts of
work. Learn how to slow down and have fun. Give
yourself permission to take this day. It's a
gift. You deserve it. All the other stuff can
you start doing this, you will be amazed at
how well you can manage. This day off will go
a long way toward restoring relationships, bringing
family members together, encouraging recreation
and regaining your balance. It is one of the
most important things you can do to help you
de-stress and regain balance.
a day off will not only rejuvenate you and preserve
your balance; it will replenish your nurturing
reserves because you have taken the time to
nurture yourself. When you nurture yourself,
it does wonders for your psyche. You will feel
happier and more generous. Everyone benefits,
especially your family.
key to creating excellent balance lies in knowing
what we value most and making this a priority.
We are more likely to stay true to our values
when we know what they are, but people are often
vague when it comes to defining values. We know
some of our surface values, like maintaining
good health, but deeper values that are connected
to our core, remain elusive. Making our values
a foundation for everything we do gives us a
great feeling of congruency. When our goals,
work and relationships are in alignment with
our values, life flows more easily. This is
the catalyst for creating joy and peace of mind.
opposite is also true. If we do not integrate
our most important values into everyday life,
we experience stress, tension and conflict.
It's like having a jigsaw puzzle with pieces
that don't fit. No matter how much we force
them to mesh, they never do. Instead of creating
joy and harmony, life feels disjointed, frustrating
cherish many values, especially health, quiet
time, family and work. How do I integrate these
values into my life? I exercise every day by
going to the gym, doing aerobics or walking
the dog, or a combination of all three. Exercise
not only keeps me fit, it's the best way for
me to handle stress and stay healthy.
also schedule quiet time every day. That's the
time I can reflect without interruption. It
helps me solve problems and nurtures my creativity.
It's also time to connect with God. That relationship
is significant to me. He is my compass and provides
direction and purpose for my life.
family and my relationship with Les are important,
so family time is a high priority. In our house,
meal times are a focal point for communication.
work provides meaning and helps me to expand
my competence and confidence. It also balances
my week. Not every day is perfect -the unexpected
can knock my best-laid schedule off course.
most of the time I feel balanced and satisfied
that I am in harmony with myself.
key to creating excellent balance lies in knowing
what we value most and making this a priority.
What would your day look like and feel like
if you lived more from your values?
good news is that you don't need to integrate
everything all at once. Pick one or two values
to start with, then focus on these for the next
few weeks. Make decisions that are centered
on these values, and be more conscious of how
this affects you each day. You'll likely feel
more in charge, more confident and more congruent.
That's a lot better than filling your days with
too much stuff, feeling bombarded and out of
article is an excerpt from the recently released
book, "The Power of Focus for Women",
by Fran Hewitt and Les Hewitt. Fran is
an internationally acclaimed workshop facilitator
whose passion is helping women to create more
joy and meaning in their lives. She is the founder
of The Inner Circle Program, a unique self-awareness
experience for women from all walks of life.
Les is one of the top performance coaches in
North America and the author of the international
bestseller, "The Power of Focus".
Power of Focus for Women
is available in leading bookstores.
For more information about this book,
or to buy at Amazon, click