My name is Luke Nelson and I am an endurance runner. I thrive on being in the mountains. When I am not running I can be found spending time with my wife and three kids, being an activist for the environment, or sometimes working my day job as a Physician Assistant.
The idea of balance in life is a myth, at least I think so. For nearly a decade I’ve chased balance as I juggle being a professional endurance runner, Physician Assistant, race director, activist, husband, and father. There are a thousand things that request my attention and a hundred that demand it at any given moment. Years ago, through the lens of youthful optimism, I went as far as starting a blog called the Challenge of Balance, as if it were something I had mastered. The more I claimed to have balance the more I realized that I lacked it. The reality was that true perfect balance doesn’t exist, and it isn’t what I actually wanted.
“True perfect balance doesn’t exist.”
With so many things going on, life can quickly turn into managing one dumpster fire after another. Frantically going from one major problem to the next, while everything else is neglected until it bursts into flames. This is no way to live life, yet I think many of us are at that point. As we juggle the demands of work, family, and fitness (at whatever level), there is a constant shifting of focus. Frankly there are times when training for a big event will demand time, and this will take from family or affect work. Then that big project at work comes along and there’s no time to train; and the family greets a weary father right before bed. There are also times when all that matters is the family and work and training suffer. The struggle, even battle, for equilibrium rages on.
While I feel like I still have much to learn about balancing life, I do feel that I have gained some insight and experience that is worth sharing and may help others find a way to manage life a little better.
Make A Schedule
First, make a schedule and stick to it. There are simply far too many things to be done that can easily be forgotten. The schedule needs to be written out and left in a centralized place. Include one for work: complete with meetings, deadlines, trainings etc.. Family events need to be on that schedule too, along with time set aside for family. Last but not least is training. It’s best when planned out with time blocked for it. With all of this information written down and scheduled it’s easier to stay on top of it. It is also incredibly useful to share this schedule with your family and, if appropriate, with work. Having others aware of the demands on your time can create an atmosphere of respect for your time at work and at home.
“Life needs spontaneity, which seems to be opposed to scheduling.”
There will be times when the schedule is thrown out the window and that’s ok. It leads us to my next recommendation: be flexible. Even with best intentions, there are times when something unexpected pops up, and the schedule will be scrapped. Occasionally life needs spontaneity, which seems to be opposed to scheduling. Strict rigidity to the plan leaves no room for impromptu play dates, micro-adventure, or a something urgent at work. A word of caution though, if you find you are always breaking from the schedule the plan needs revisited. Spontaneity should be the spice of life, not the primary ingredient.
“We aren’t perfect, and shouldn’t demand that of ourselves.”
My next piece of advice is to be kind. Be kind to the amazing people you work with, and let them know how amazing they are. Often, we spend more time with the people we work with than with our families and they should be able to feel joy when you are around. I firmly believe kindness and gratitude lead to efficiency at work, so try it out. Remember to be nice to your body. As athletes, we’re constantly pushing our body to stay strong or to get faster. Listen to your body, and be kind when it starts to let you know it needs something. You won’t instantly become unfit if you skip a workout or two because you’re tired or feel the twinges of injury. Finally, be kind to yourself. We are often our own worst enemies placing high demands on ourselves and time. We can be terribly brutal to ourselves if we come up short or aren’t meeting our goals. We aren’t perfect, and shouldn’t demand that of ourselves.
“Take time for yourself.”
Putting this all together can help, but there is one missing piece. Something I have found to be a critical skill in trying to balance life is to take time for yourself. Everything up to this point has been about managing the external factors of life. But we need to take some time that’s focused just on us. Fortunately for me, I can kill two birds with one stone since my “me time” is often done while running. I can slip in my Jaybird Freedoms, crank the tunes, and leave the madness behind.
“I’m committed to seek improvement,”
I’ve structured training that often requires additional focus, but there is international unfocused running time when I can focus on me. This time for self-reflection allows me to check in and see how I am holding up and to honestly review what is demanding more attention so I can swing life back closer to balance. Like my other recommendations, this has a place, but cannot be the norm. If all the focus is spent on self, all else falls apart. I do know that if I get my run time and my me time, I’m more engaged and focused on whatever else is front of me (family or work), and I’m a better human for it. Admittedly, I constantly strive to achieve better balance in life, and there is much to learn, but I’m committed to seek improvement and hope that you can be too.
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Keep in touch with Luke!