MGR and David at Grand CanyonThis year is going fast and now that we’re almost half-way through 2013 I thought it would be a good time to reflect on how we are all doing with those awesome resolutions that we set up for ourselves at the beginning of the year.  We’re all on track, right?  Well, on my end, I’m still working on my only resolution which was achieving a better balance in my life.  Yeah, I know, it’s not your typical losing weight or quit smoking or exercise more type resolution…

One of the most difficult challenges for today’s solo entrepreneur is to find the perfect balance in his or her life.  It is no different for the average person, entrepreneur or not, but since this is an Entrepreneurial Blog, I’m going to share with you my own experience by focusing on this particular angle.

I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read –an continue to read- trying to constantly improve and maximize how I spend every minute of my life.  It just seems like the more technology we have available and the more we progress as a society, the less time we have to get things done.  I can go back in time just a few years and remember what life was like before Facebook came around, Twitter, the Internet, Email, tablets, cell phones, millions of TV channels, and the many other activities that now occupy our free time.  Yet, the more entertainment options we have at our disposal, it seems like we just keep “making the time” to utilize them.  Something has to give, right?

Well, I don’t have a magic trick to share with you about how turn a 24 hour day into a 30 hour day while you lose weight and feel younger at the same time.  Sorry to disappoint you.  But I will share with you what I’ve learned, and how I (try to) prioritize my time so that I can achieve the proper balance in my life.  And if you go to bed every night thinking that your life is passing you by and you’re not doing the types of things that you like to do, you too should make a change while you can.

The biggest challenge that we have is that we, as humans, are by nature creatures of habit.  Once we get into a certain routine and we get comfortable with it (even through stressful moments) we just seem to believe that we are living a balanced life.  It is only when a relevant event happens in our lives that we pause for a few moments to realize that maybe our life is not as balanced as we thought it was.  Maybe that event is when you get married, or you lose your job, or you have a baby, or you get sick, or anything that will literally throw you “off balance” for some time.

I’ve had a lot of those moments myself; in fact, I’ve had ALL of those moments myself.  I’ve been stressed out, I’ve worked so hard to the point of getting sick, woke up with anxiety, I’ve missed a great deal of quality family time to take care of other “stuff” that back then seemed important but today looks irrelevant.  I’ve been in a constant rat race just pedaling faster and faster only to get nowhere.  Not fun!

I’m not going to tell you that I had this “Aha!” moment when all of a sudden I realized that I didn’t want to live that life anymore.  I didn’t.  However, at least for me, it’s been more of a steady transformation over time from my old stuck and dead-end life trap to a new balanced and freedom lifestyle.  Of course, I still get stressed-out sometimes and I have “not so good days” just like everyone else, but it is the way I’m able to cope with those situations today that makes the whole difference.

Without attempting to tell you how you need to live your life –I would never do that or feel like I even have the right to do that- I can share with you what has helped me find a little more peace in my fast paced world.  If you find any good bits of information that you can apply to your life, even better.

Like a four legged chair that needs all four legs to stand in balance, these are the four pillars that I use to keep my life in balance: Health – Family – Work – Growth

Pillar #1: I need to take care of myself first.  This may sound selfish but it’s not.  I’m miserable when I’m sick but fortunately, I hardly ever get sick. But the point is that if I get sick, or if I don’t take care of myself first, a lot of what I do will come to a screeching halt and when that happens, a lot of things and people will also be affected. In other words, like Michael Hyatt said “you need to recharge your own batteries before you can jump start others.”  So I take care of myself as much as I can.  Eat healthy, exercise every day, read plenty of books to keep my mind in shape, and overall, live a healthy lifestyle.  And because I need to take care of myself first, that’s why I always work out very early in the morning.  That way, I don’t have to worry about putting it off till later, or not having time at the end of the day, or finding any type of excuse to not to do it.  Although in my case it’s the opposite.  I get “cranky” when I cannot work out so I handle need that as early as I can.  But it’s not just about exercise; do whatever it is that makes you feel good and relax: go for a walk, hang out at your favorite coffee shop, bookstore, shopping mall, go out with your friends, just find the time to “walk away” when you need it to recharge your own batteries.

Pillar #2: Family is the Most Important Thing.  Escaping a 9 to 5 job has really helped me catch up with all the family time that I had missed in previous years.  It’s not that I work fewer hours now, -I actually work more- however, I have full control over my schedule and I can arrange it however I want to make sure that I don’t miss any quality family time when I need it.  The critical point to make this work is to be much disciplined to separate family time from work time.  Working from a home office, it is very easy to get distracted with family situations, yet, my family knows that if I’m working, I’m pretty much non-existent for any family stuff.  By the same token, if I’m spending time with the family at home or elsewhere, I try to avoid any temptation to check emails or do any work can certainly wait till later.  As I’ve said in other blog posts, the most valuable asset for me today is Time, not money, not cars, not big houses, or any other material things that when I turn 80 (if I get there) are not going to make me any happier.  Time is what I really value and if I get to spend a lot of quality time with my family, that’s the best investment that I can make.  That’s what makes me the happiest.

Pillar #3: Work – Love What You Do.  Why not?  If you’re going to spend a third of your life working, you might as well spend it doing something that you enjoy.  I love every minute of my work even when I hate it!  Yes, not every minute is enjoyable.  Of course, I have good days and not so good days, but in the end, I feel privileged and extremely accomplished providing value and solutions to the various friends and clients that I work with.  When it comes to work, I always treat my clients as my partners.  I make their success my success and their failure my failure.  With new clients, I need to earn their trust first.  I do a lot of research to find out what type of marketing will benefit their particular business.  It’s is never “one size fits all” as other marketing agencies make you believe.  In fact, even the proper plan for a particular client will also constantly evolve to keep up with current trends.  The Internet is in its infancy stages but it’s also growing very fast!  US General Eric Shinseki once said: “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”   How true that is. That’s why I’m constantly researching and reading books to keep up with “change.”   I don’t want my clients’ excellent marketing plan from yesterday to become irrelevant tomorrow.  “Concept + Create + Implement” is MGR Consulting Group’s Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and I revisit those three steps all the time.  It’s just what I love to do.

Pillar #4: Personal Growth

So, after I take care of myself, spend time with my family and challenge myself at work, the fourth pillar of my life balance is almost a by-product of the first three: Personal Growth.

Personal growth for me is a very wide term.  It means my personal growth intellectually, growing relationships, growing financially, growing in authority and prestige within my area of expertise, growing as a person trying to make a tiny impact on the planet.  Every day in my life feels like I’m adding a new paragraph to a movie script about my life.  Of course, such movie will never be made, but if it were, I would want that movie to be a GREAT movie; an exciting and inspirational movie that I would be very proud of and those around me would also enjoy watching.  It’s not about becoming famous or any type of celebrity.  It’s about feeling good about what you do at the end of the day, every day.  Being successful as a person, successful in relationships, successful in business, and overall, living a successful life.  It’s not easy and we all know that.  But I live my life one day at a time, and above all, I try to avoid getting so busy “making a living” that I don’t leave any time to enjoy my life.

So there you go!  This is my formula.  It’s not a proven formula.  It may work for me and not for you.  It also doesn’t need to work all the time.  Just like I said at the beginning, even if you live by your principles, there will be situations when life will throw you off balance not matter what.  And that will be fine.  If you live a balanced life most of the time, I’m sure you will be able to recover much faster than if you don’t.  Just as I’m sure that you will come out stronger after learning from that particular situation so that it doesn’t happen again.

If you’re still reading this article, thank you for making it all the way to the end!  This is a “one off” post for me since I usually don’t get this deep.  I wish you the best with your own life journey.  And as always, I would love to hear from you as well.  Share with me what you think and how you work towards your own life balance.

See you next time.

Manuel Gil del Real