Life Balance

This week I found out that a former colleague of mine had died of cancer, we hear more and more of people being here one minute and gone the next. As a life long big bloke with high blood pressure it can make you think “what if I am next”

I like to think that I have always lived my life like each day could be the last. I don’t mean that in a morbid way, anyone who knows me knows i’m a glass is not only half full, but “lets get another one in anyway” kind of guy. What I mean is i’m not a worrier and i’m not a saver, I work hard and then blow my cash on having fun with my friends and family. This has always been my way, and makes me happy but recently I feel a little different – like something isn’t quite right.

I started feeling different when I moved to China last year, that’s when I found out about the high blood pressure etc. but that wasn’t just that, there was something else, was it my new job? . . . . no I love my job, was I working too hard? . . . . well I do work hard, but I have always so that’s not it. Was it the location? . . . . nope Shanghai is cool, there is loads to see and do. My son has left home and is in the UK, was it that? . . . . no I miss him but am really proud of him and love the time my wife and I get together as a couple.

We have all heard of work/life balance but it wasn’t until I spent time trying to figure out what was wrong and read a load of articles on well being and balance, I realised that this was my problem. I finally put my finger on it – by moving country and job, my life balance had changed significantly.

When everything was balanced and I was happy it didn’t matter if tomorrow was my last day because I was making the most of my life, so I never worried. Now there is an imbalance, therefore part of me is unfulfilled and so if it was all to end now I feel regret that I have wasted time with stuff that isn’t making me happy, regret is something I have rarely felt before.

Eureka! that is the “not quite right” feeling – my subconscious was telling me off for wasting precious time on the wrong stuff!
(which is remarkable, usually it only tells me where to find pizza)

Of all the models that represent life balance, I like this one with 4 circles, all these items require your time in equal measure for the best balance.

Life Balance in Saudi Arabia

On reflection, and oddly enough my 4 circles of life was perfectly in balance when I lived in Saudi Arabia.

In Saudi I worked hard, but was home every night and had lots of vacation to spend with my family, I had the lads over for gaming night every Monday and we often held dinner parties or BBQs with friends on a weekend. Although I probably had high blood pressure I had no symptoms and was fit an healthy playing football etc. All 4 areas were in perfect balance which resulted in me being very happy.

Life Balance in China

However its now clear that it is way out of line since I moved to China. I don’t feel like i’m working so much harder than I did before but I now travel around Asia for my Job, this means I visit some fabulous places and meet amazing people but also means I spend a lot of time away from home. I don’t get school holidays any more so my vacation family time is limited, when I do come home I try to spend as much time with my wife as I can. We go out for an odd drink with a few of the folks from work when time allows. I have only played one game and had one group of friends over to our place in 12 months. I have found getting into a routine impossible while traveling so have not looked after my health as well as I now need to.

Its totally ironic that we had a brilliant life balance in Saudi Arabia with all its restrictions etc. and now have a problem in China!

I have written this post for a number of reasons:

I hope that it might make others reflect on their life balance, if something feels wrong, work out how much time you spend on the 4 areas and how they make you feel in return. It might make you make some changes which will make you happier as a result.

I also wanted to highlight that although many people knock Saudi Arabia, (and sure, it has its faults) on reflection things were so good there, don’t judge a book by its cover. Take a risk and visit places that might seem a bit funky, we moved there with a view to doing 12-18 months, making some money and moving on. We ended up staying 6 years, making some amazing friends and memories – truly the best years of our life.

Finally and most importantly I wrote this for myself, it is the first step to making some changes to bring things back into balance. On reflection, now that I have spent time building relationships with colleagues in person around all our schools I am able to reduce my travel and make better use of technology to keep in touch. This should free up more leisure time without reducing productivity. I can then get into a fitness routine, spend more time with my wife and even slip in some gaming and a few parties!

This will bring my circles into equal proportion and give me the important life balance that I need to be truly happy, I suggest to anyone reading this that you do the same!