An Article by TDC Founder Andrew Mitchell
TDC Founder Andrew Mitchell
I sometimes get criticised for encouraging our members to focus on striving for more balance in their life.
A common push-back is that striving for a balanced life just adds extra pressure to busy schedules, and encourages self-judgement and feelings of inadequacy if the "perfect" life balance isn't constantly maintained.
I wholeheartedly agree and also totally disagree.
(Wait, is that possible? Yes, because it's my article)
I agree that comparing your life to others is unhealthy and unproductive. Despite what some might portray on social media, there is no perfectly balanced life. I also agree that setting expectations that you'll always be across everything is setting you up for disappointment.
As I’ve previously noted in posts and articles, I believe it’s almost impossible to always have “perfect” balance in your life. Stuff happens and life gets hectic. Seeking balance isn't about aiming for perfection, it's about levelling up when things don't feel right. For those of us who run small businesses, that often means shifting the focus away from our business, towards other important life areas, such as our physical health, our relationships, our creativity or ensuring our environment is making us feel good.
Image by Soulsana, Unsplash
I disagree with the conjecture when it discourages people to acknowledge when the balance in their life is out of whack. "Push through, because that's what we do." No, we shouldn't.
I know from personal experience that an unbalanced life mostly focused on work is almost guaranteed to result in (at best) burnout or (at worst) serious health consequences. Seeking balance is one of the most important things we can do to support our physical, mental and emotional health.
In my opinion, there is nothing more important than our health. We can’t run a successful business sustainably if our health is suffering. We can’t help and support the people in our life sustainably if our health is suffering.
I spent 18 months creating our 12 Areas of Life Balance Self-Assessment to provide a tool for assessing the balance in your life at any given moment. It's designed to help you identify areas in your life that need some TLC (tender loving care) when you’re not feeling 100%, not as a "test" to see who's winning at this crazy thing called life!
I certainly don't claim to be a health guru (nor am I a pillar of health all the time - hello "wine time"), but I have certainly learnt to manage my stress and anxiety by following a few key health practices.
Here are a few principles that I personally follow to help me promote positive mental health:
1. Regular fitness regime.
Nothing is guaranteed to get me back on track more than a good workout. When I look at the correlation between my mental health and the regularity of my exercise, the facts certainly don't lie. Hello dopamine, my friend!
2. Healthy diet.
I'm a lover of good food and am fortunate to regularly eat out. However, I also listen to my body and make adjustments to my diet when things don't feel right. If my body is unhappy, chances are that I'll be feeling the effects mentally and emotionally.
There’s no denying the gut-mind connection. You can read about that in our Blog Article by nutritionist Josh Reed.
3. Getting enough sleep.
This seemingly simple and inactive part of our daily routine is probably the most important. Ideally I try to set sleep patterns for regular times, disconnect from devices early and make a habit of reading each night to ensure I have the best chances for a good night sleep.
4. Prioritising personal development.
I do this through reading, podcasts and courses. Here a 3 of my top picks:
"Clarity and Connection" book by Yung Pueblo
"Stolen Focus" book by Johann Hari
"On Being" podcast by Krista Tippett
5. Mindfulness practices.
The obvious ones include a regular meditation practice, attending a heavenly evening Candlelit Yin Yoga class as often as possible, disconnecting from technology and getting out into nature when I can. These are all relatively straight forward ways of calming the mind and being present.
However, the practice I strive for is less obvious or measurable. It's the art of being in the moment, not stressing about the future or lamenting the past. For many of us, that will be a constant life exercise, but one worth striving for.
6. Regularly practicing gratitude.
Sometimes this takes the form of a daily ritual, and other times, it's just reminding myself how good things really are, no matter what's happening. This flows directly into Practice #7...
7. Detaching from outcomes.
This is probably my biggest challenge, as I’m constantly setting bigger and bigger goals for myself, so of course, sometimes I don’t achieve what I want.
Basing our happiness on the uncertainty of future outcomes is a sure-fire way to live in a constant state of disappointment. No matter how hard we try, life doesn't always go the way we planned.
Image by Fabian Blank, Unsplash
8. Taking my finances seriously.
I haven't always loved business, and haven't always been proactive in learning about money and staying on top of my finances.
Running two businesses has necessitated learning some important (sometimes painful) life lessons about money. As much as we might not want to admit it, money is important. Very, very important. While it doesn't need to be the number one priority in our life, it certainly helps to enable all the other important stuff.
9. Helping others.
This has been the biggest gift that The Design Coach has delivered to me. There are no limits to the benefits from helping other people, in whatever guise that takes. It could be as simple as focusing your energy on your loved ones, or seeking to help others through a charity or career path.
10. Asking for help.
I was born independent and determined to do everything by myself. Without that drive and determination I probably wouldn't have started my businesses. However, we miss out on so much opportunity for growth when we try to do it alone.
Over the years I've become better at reaching out and asking for help when necessary.
From a business perspective, I've got different coaches to help me with various aspects of running a business, from planning and strategy to marketing and finance. The learning never stops! If anything, the older I get, the more I realise that I don't know.
Personally, I have an army of people I rely on to keep me on track and optimised for success. All aspects of my health are equally important, including my physical health (chiro, doctor, dentist, physio...) to my mental health (developmental coach and psychologist) to my emotional health (including a fabulous spiritual healer).
Whatever has worked for you in the past, I hope my sharing has helped encourage some curiosity around exploring practices that can help maintain positive mental health.
As always, stay well and believe in you!