“You can have it all, but you can’t have it all at once,” said Oprah Winfrey. The older I get, the more I realise: Truer words have never been spoken. Even Stephen Covey, who advocated for balance in life in his famous The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, emphasised that sometimes, one area of life takes precedence over the others, and that’s completely normal.
I’m on record pointing out that the balance we all strive for, shouldn’t and can’t be static. The idea that we could somehow do just enough of everything that’s most important to us, indefinitely, is absurd. That’s just now how life works.
Therefore, it’s time we let ourselves off the hook and realised that the “dynamic balance” I often mention, is the true holy grail: One thing or another taking priority over others, and at other times moving into the background, so that overall, balance is maintained.
Now the really tough question is: What are the things we should strive to keep in balance? What really should be part of our lives and our priorities? How can we “have it all”?
I’m glad you asked!
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Pitfall: Misunderstanding “priorities”
Most people will agree with Oprah Winfrey’s words quoted above, and say that it’s necessary to prioritise the important things in life. However, it’s important to pay attention to which things are actually mutually exclusive and which are fine co-existing.
For example, when I speak about prioritising passion(s), people usually assume that this means sacrificing success in one’s chosen career. Or, they assume that money must be unimportant just because I emphasise that prioritising a passion doesn’t mean earning money with it.
We tend to jump to these conclusions because of our conditioning, because of the world we live in and the way we have been brought up. However, we need to realise that they’re wrong and harmful. Let’s break it down:
- As you have seen if you’ve checked out my coaching programs, part of my work with my clients involves setting boundaries at work, learning to say no, and going home on time more often. You may have also seen that rather than resulting in problems at work, my clients regularly get offered promotions or pay rises. That’s because being grounded and centered, being a happy, balanced person, and having strong boundaries are all characteristics of leaders.
- Not making money with a passion doesn’t mean that money isn’t important. It only means that money isn’t the only measure of importance in life. Money is great – there’s a reason I’ve been working on my own money management skills and my money mindset for years and even have a coaching program about money. There’s nothing wrong with having or wanting a lot of money, but that doesn’t mean you need to make this money with your passion.
We’re going about it the wrong way
Modern media, influencers, and all sorts of advisors are screaming at us that whatever they have made their mission, is the most important thing in life. Healthy eating, exercise, meditation, maintaining relationships, careers, family, beauty regimes, leisure activities… If we were to prioritise all of these, our lives would be very stressful.
Let me rephrase that: Because we try to prioritise all (or most) of them, our lives are very stressful. Our efforts are also doomed to fail, which makes us feel terrible. At times, and with some people, they lead to the opposite phenomenon, which is inertia and the total inability to get anything done. And no matter on which side of the divide we fall, we feel like we should be doing more.
I’ve pointed out before that never in history have we had this weird expectation to do it all, and perfectly. I repeat, it’s not possible. Granted, some people come pretty close – but if you really look at their lives, not through the filter of social media but their actual, everyday lives, you realise quickly that their schedules are so rigid and regulated, it’s not what most people would call a recipe for happiness.
The importance of alignment
So how do you choose what to prioritise? I suggest taking a look at your values and the things that truly matter to you.
What’s most important in your life? When you ask yourself this question, try not to answer in the way that you think is expected of you. You don’t have to say “my family” or “my children” – of course they’re important, but they don’t have to be your reason to exist! It doesn’t make you a bad spouse or parent if your list is topped by different things.
If you’d like to know mine: Freedom and independence are my top values and also my top priorities. I want to live in different countries and regularly meet the people I love, which are also one of my priorities. Another is, unsurprisingly, my passions, especially music and coaching.
In practice, this has led to a life with a lot of downtime. I try to create plenty of space for my passions. I have bought a small house last year, but I don’t have any pets of my own any longer because that would be a problem when I spend months every year elsewhere, or spontaneously want to stay the night at a friend’s or a lover’s house.
The life I’m building requires a deal of money, and so I’m currently focusing on upgrading my money game, which is a lifelong process (I’ve spoken about this in my vlog this month). So that’s another priority.
Everything else, such as my health, fitness, my family etc., are also important, but not priorities. I give them their due, because I love my family and obviously, my health makes this life of mine possible, but my focus is elsewhere. And I refuse to feel bad or guilty about that.
Don’t “have it all”, have the right things
The conclusion to it all is that I can’t tell you what to do. Well in fact, I can: I’ll tell you to prioritise what lights you up. But what that is, and what else in your life needs to be a priority, is up to you to decide.
Do a bit of soul searching, and please, please resist the pull towards “perfection”. It’s not how humans were meant to be, and it doesn’t make us happy. I’d go so far as to call it the disease of our modern times! Resist, downsize, and focus on what matters to you. Your happiness levels will soar.