Friday, December 29, 2006

It’s all About the Balance

My grandma used to want me to put a book on top of my head and see if I could walk across the room without it falling. "Balance is so important," she would preach. I was six and pretty sure she was senile, I mean . . . fifty was ancient, right? Now that I’m four years away from that half-a-century mark, and I see how right she was. Maybe not so much about balancing a book on my head, but about balancing life. And since this is the time of year to think about goals, and resolutions, I thought balancing life might be a good topic.

I'm not an expert on balancing, but thanks to a couple of books, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and The Artist's Way, I've gained some insights that I’ll share.

According to the experts, to be at our best, our highest goal-achieving potential, we need to sustain a balance of four basic needs: the physical, the spiritual, the mental, and the social/emotional. When was the last time you took a brisk walk, prayed/meditated or spent some time alone listening to nature? When did you last challenge yourself intellectually? When is the last time you spent an evening with a friend, spent one-on-one time with your children, a date with your spouse? By becoming a more well-rounded person, we will become more creative and goal-achieving writers.

Write a Mission Statement. This is where you really look at what's important in your life. And I'm talking about life, not just your career. Really analyze your values. Dr. Covey, author of Seven Habits...., suggests you write your own eulogy. What do you want your friends and family to say about you when you're gone? Trying to write a set of goals without knowing your personal mission or value system is like studying a map before knowing your destination.

Write goals for every role in your life. What do you want to accomplish as a parent, as a marriage partner? What do you want to achieve in your career? Don't forget the personal goals. And include long term, as well as, short term goals. By including every role in your life, you are more likely to set goals that suit you the whole person, instead of "you", the wanna-be Nora.

Be realistic. The reason for goal setting is to encourage yourself to make positive steps forward. Goals should be challenging, not daunting. Goals should be written in increments, starting with tiny baby steps and leading into giant leaps that no longer feel like leaps. Meeting goals increases your self-confidence. Self-confidence increases your abilities. These two components automatically strengthen your staying power. (Self-confidence + Ability + Staying Power = Success) Make sure your goals are in your circle of influence, i.e., instead of listing your goal as: I will get on the NY Times Best Sellers List, state, I will write a book worthy to be on THE List.

Every goal met should end with a celebration. In general, we writers are very critical of ourselves. We forget that we, too, need a little TLC. So be good to yourself and make sure you are meeting the needs of the whole person and not just the writer.

And who knows...when we get our lives balanced, we might even be able to walk across the room with a book on our heads. I’ll admit every now and then, I still try it. any of you have a few balancing life tips? I’d love to hear them.


Terry Z McDermid said...

Very good tips, Christie! I'm going to print it out for my own growth and show the article to my family and friends who complain about making resolutions. Your ideas are more workable and worthwhile for life planning.

I'm faithful about taking my Artist's Date (from the Artist's Way) each week and know that it helps keep me balanced. For at least two hours, I do something just to fill my well. The event might be a walk, a movie on my own, a visit to an art show. Reading your list, I can see that this can meet all kinds of balancing areas.

Christie Craig said...


Ahh, the artist date. I love them, and you've reminded me that I've neglected to do them lately. So...I'm off for a walk...a date with myself. Happy New Year.


Anonymous said...


Great post. Like Terry, I'm going to print out your list for future reference.

A balanced life. *sigh* Yeah. That will be my new goal for the New Year.


Nancy Morse said...

Someone (can't remember who) said once that if you reach your goals, you set them too low.

I try to keep balanced by doing something for myself every day. Okay, almost every day. Writing, reading, exercising, gardening, walks, playing with the dog. Whatever makes me feel good. And sometimes I do nothing at all. When you give yourself permission to do absolutely nothing, minus te guilt, it's amazing how good it feels.

Terry Z McDermid said...

I'd always heard/believed that once you reach a goal, it's time to set a new one. We move forward by having something to reach toward. I also recently attended a workshop where one of the speakers mentioned that if you're always reaching your goals quickly, you do need to set them higher.

And I try to take a few minutes each day just for myself, in addition to the artist's date, with reading being a favorite activity. However, I found that the longer I write, the more difficult it is to just read for pleasure and not to see how the author put together that great sentence, brought in clues, or developed character. Any tips for that?

Sally MacKenzie said...

Christie, were you reading my mind? My goal for this year is to figure out how to balance everything. Being relatively new to the writer's life, I need to figure out how to take control of my work. How to get it done during "work hours" so I actually feel like I have time off. No solutions yet, though I think giving up procrastination will help. And banishing the negative thinking. And Terry, I, too, find it difficult to read for pleasure any more. I proofread everything. Actually, I can't pass any written thing--even a street sign--without proofing it. ARGH!! Tell me I'll get over this?

Anonymous said...

Thanks. Great post, Christie.