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“Life is a constant struggle for balance. Balance is a result of one word: schedule.”
— Bobb Biehl

Dr. Alan Zimmerman’s Personal Commentary:
For hundreds of years, when you asked someone how he was doing, you could expect the standard answer “Fine.” Now, when you ask someone how she is doing, you’ll probably hear “Busy. Really busy.”

And to make matters worse, many people wear their “busyness” as a badge of honor. The busier they are, the more important they must be. But it’s a cruel hoax.

When people are continually saying they’re “busy, busy, busy,” they’re simply covering up the real truth … that they’re “really stressed out.” And that’s a very dangerous way to live your life.

As Dan Buettner, the leading researcher on aging, says, “Mark my word, in the next few years the big focus for shortening our lives will be stress.” As he states in his book, “The Blue Zone: Lessons For Living Longer From People Who’ve Lived The Longest,” you’re going to die earlier “if you don’t figure out ways to downshift every day.”

Well, I gave you 7 strategies for living a stress-free life … or at least a more balanced life … in last week’s “Tuesday Tip.” Let me give you the other 7 strategies to complete my 14-point plan.

8. Examine your attitude and … if necessary … change your attitude.
The research says 85% of people have a less-than-positive attitude.

And if you’re not sure if your overall attitude is positive or negative, look at first reaction to any bit of news you receive. If, for example, you find a note on your desk from your boss that says, “See me immediately.” what is your first reaction? Is your first reaction, “Great, the raise is coming early this year?” Or is your first reaction, “What did I do wrong this time?” 85% expect the negative, and as a result, live with an abundance of self-induced stress.

If that sounds like you, there are four things you can and should do to create a stress-releasing instead of a stress-inducing attitude.

Shun the lie that says, “I can’t help the way I feel. That’s just the way I am.” The truth is … you may not know HOW to change your attitude, but it is totally changeable if you spend 5 minutes a day practicing a few simple disciplines.

Use affirmations. As silly as it sounds, tell yourself, over and over again, “I’m a positive person with a positive attitude. I keep stress at bay, and I maintain a healthy work-life balance.” Through the power of osmosis, your affirmation will move from your conscious to your subconscious mind and re-shape your attitude.

Avoid mind binders. Stop telling yourself anything negative. Stop thinking negative thoughts, such things as: “I’m so stressed out … I can’t take much more of this job … and … I’ve only got 7 more months, 3 weeks, and two days and I’m out of here.” The more you think or say such things, the more stress you’ll have.

Ask a couple of people to hold you accountable. Ask them to praise you when you’re showing a more positive attitude, and ask them to encourage you when you’re getting down.

9. Be an actor.
As creativity expert Natalie Goldberg says, “Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency.” In other words, the most stressed-out people react to everything happening around them or overreact to everything people say or do to them.

By contrast, the least stressed-out people, the ones with the most work-life balance, choose to be actors rather than reactors. When things happen to them, instead of reacting instantly, they stop and think for a moment. They choose to act or respond in a way that seems good, right, appropriate, and professional. They act in a way they will forever feel good about.

10. Weigh the pros and cons of greater “success.”
If you’re trying to get more work-life balance into your life, just remember … corporate promotions almost always come with a corresponding increase in workload. It may not be worth it. The same is true if you’re self-employed. More projects, customers, and staff may look like you’ve achieved a higher level of success — but have you really? You may have acquired more stress than it’s worth.

To implement this particular strategy, my wife and I developed our very own “need” budget. We determined how much money we “needed” — not wanted. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, and it almost felt un-American to say “enough was enough.” But the results have been quite wonderful. By setting a goal based on need — rather than want — we stripped away a lot of the stress in our work lives as well as our personal lives.

We subscribed to Dan Buettner’s advice when he said, “Making millions of dollars and being a wreck when you’re 50 is not smart business.” We want to be fully alive all our lives for many decades to come.

So my advice to you … when you’re trying to get less stress and more balance … when you’re offered a promotion at work or given the chance to take on more responsibility, ask yourself if it’s worth it. Sometimes your answer will be “Yes” but there will be others times your answer will be “No.” Either answer is okay .. as long as you take time to weigh the pros and cons of greater “success.”

11. Choose your fights carefully.
Don’t get sucked into a conflict unnecessarily. Choose your fights carefully. Some challenges are worth your time and energy. Others are not.

To help you make a conscious choice and an intelligent decision as to when you should fight and when you should pass, ask yourself three questions.

  1. Does a threat exist?
  2. Is the other person doing something that threatens your success, security, or happiness?
  3. If I fight, can I make a difference?

If you can answer “Yes” to all three questions, your chances of success are fairly high. But if you get one or more “No” answers, your chances of success are fairly low while your chances of stress are fairly high.

One tiny, elderly Florida woman should have asked herself those three questions. After finishing her shopping, she returned to her car and found four men in the act of stealing her vehicle. She dropped her shopping bag and drew a handgun from her purse, proceeding to scream, “I have a gun and know how to use it! Get out of the car!”

The four men didn’t wait for a second invitation. They got out and ran.

The spunky woman then proceeded to load her shopping bags into the back seat of car and get into the driver’s seat. She was so nervous that she couldn’t get her key in the ignition switch. She tried and tried … and then it dawned on her … she was in the wrong car.

A few minutes later, she found her own Buick parked four or five spaces farther down. She loaded her bags in the car and drove to the police station.

She began telling her story to the desk sergeant when he broke into laughter. He pointed to the other end of the counter, where four shaking men were reporting a car-jacking by an elderly woman, less than five feet tall, with glasses, curly white hair, and carrying a handgun. No files were charged, but a lot of trouble could have been saved if the little old lady had chosen her fights carefully.

12. Set your spending limits in advance.
Few things cause more stress than money issues. And you may be spending an inordinate amount of time thinking about how you can make more money or pay the bills you’ve already accumulated.

If that’s the case, you need to take heed of Marcel Duchamp’s advice. As a 20th century artist, he observed, “Living is more a question of what one spends than what one makes.” Or as my father has always preached, “It’s not the high cost of living that causes the stress; it’s the cost of living high.”

To avoid financial stress, set your spending limits in advance. Know what you are comfortable spending and stick to that decision. Don’t be tempted to spend more because somebody else is spending more.

You might even approach your financial stress with a bit of humor. As actor Walter Matthau quipped, “My doctor gave me six months to live, but when I couldn’t pay the bill he gave me another six months.”

13. Schedule your recreation.
It may sound strange to put some fun time on your calendar, but I’ve learned if it’s not on the calendar, it doesn’t happen.

It’s all too easy to say to your friends and family members that “We’ve got to get together real soon.” But if you don’t immediately ask “when” and put it on the calendar, chances are you won’t see those people for weeks and months.

Well, quality friendships are a huge part of creating a healthy work-life balance. So my wife and I sit down at the beginning of each season (winter, spring, summer, and fall) to schedule our recreation. We make sure we get all the people we want to see on our calendar, and we put those fun, just-the-two-of-us getaways on the calendar as well. We even schedule our vacations two years in advance. Our motto is: “If it’s not on the calendar, it doesn’t happen.”

Having a recreation schedule is a great way to kick the stress out of your life and keep your work-life balance. But don’t overlook those spontaneous moments when you can indulge in a little de-stressing activity. As J. Dent says, “A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing … and the lawn mower is broken!”

14. Practice an attitude of gratitude.
The more thankful you are the less stressed you can be. So spend two minutes every day to list all the things you’re thankful for. Focus more on what you have and less on what you don’t have. And then take a walk outside, by yourself, and say out loud a thousand times, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

If you practice an attitude of gratitude, the next time a stressor comes into your life, your list of thanks will come back into your mind and neutralize the impact of the negative, stressful things that are bound to happen. You will keep your blessings and your problems in perspective and your work-life in greater balance.

CONCLUDING THOUGHT
No one on his deathbed ever said, “I wish I had spent more time at the office.” No! Most deathbed regrets have to do with spending too little time on living a fully balanced life. But with these 14 strategies, you’re equipped to keep the stress at bay as YOU … and not somebody else …creates a healthier, more balanced work and family life.

Action:

Take two of the tips mentioned in today’s “Tuesday Tip: and make those two tips your focus for this week.

Make every day your payoff day!

Dr. Alan Zimmerman
Tel: 800-621-7881
E-mail: Alan@DrZimmerman.com

©2010 Dr. Alan R. Zimmerman. Reprinted with permission from Dr. Alan Zimmerman’s Internet newsletter, the ‘Tuesday Tip.’ For your own personal, free subscription to the ‘Tuesday Tip’ as well as information on Dr. Zimmerman’s keynotes and seminars, go to http://www.drzimmerman.com/ or call 800-621-7881.

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