How do we create a life of balance in a world so demanding of our time and energy?
The ideal is being able to manage it all and feel fully engaged in all aspects of your life. But time is a scare commodity and we have to make choices of where we spend it. In this post I discuss the pitfalls of attempting to manage all areas of one’s life and to find the best possible solution for finding a life in balance.
What is Four Burners Theory?
The idea behind the four burners theory is how to manage all of the important parts of your life. As a result, the first burner represents your family and the second burner represents your friends. Therefore, the third burner represents your health and the fourth burner represents your work. If you want to be highly successful in your career you may have to give up your health or your friends. But if you want to have a really healthy family life you may have to give up the things that matter to you professionally. There are always trade-offs.
The idea is that, in order to succeed in any of these, you have to turn off others.
Is it possible to do all of these things well? My guess is, the answer is no. You have to make some adjustments in your life in order to do other things. For example, having kids takes up an enormous amount of time. This may be really healthy and satisfying time but it also means that you give up some of your ambitions (and often your health).
It is important to acknowledge that you can’t do it all. You must make choices and accept that other parts of your life are going to suffer given where you choose to put your time. Trying to do it all means you will be beating yourself up for failing in certain areas. I encourage instead a willingness to see that turning a burner off for awhile is really giving you the opportunity to turn another burner on.
Choose, but choose wisely.
This probably all seems really obvious. However, the value in this theory is in becoming more conscious about the choices you make in your life balance.
What is most important to you? A good family life? Having a wide range of friendships that you can call upon for fun? Do you want to feel really good in your body by putting lots of time into your health?
It often can feel as though you are supposed to be ambitious or family oriented or health oriented. Instead of finding your way to what you think you should do I encourage the exercise to be focused on what arises naturally to these questions. There isn’t a right answer.
Turning things down, not off
In my own process with this theory I was able to see how my life allows me to turn burners down as I make my way into other areas.
For example, having twin boys is a major part of my life right now. In order to accomplish this aspect of my life I had to turn down the health burner quite a bit. My commitment to my morning meditation and exercise went out the window the first year and a half of their lives. As a result, my health has suffered. I had a harder time sleeping and I haven’t felt very good in my body.
As my boys have become more resilient I’m slowly able to increase the health burner. I’ve been taking time each morning to do my meditation and to run for longer periods. After only a month of this I’m beginning to feel the impact on my health.
Also, I had to turn down some of my work ambitions. I currently own two businesses that support other therapists. As time went along I realized how incapable I was of managing these businesses. Luckily, the company I’m franchising with was willing to work with me in supporting the management of the businesses and still allow me to get a cut of the profits while I step out of day to day management.
I did give up some of my drive to run these businesses but I gained more time for my family and for my career as a psychotherapist. Those burners were turned up as the other one was turned down. So far it has felt right to make this trade-off.
As I thought about my own values I realized that there is a lot to balance each week. Trade-offs are natural but there is an interrelated aspect to all of this. If I completely shut off my health it will restrict my capacity as a father and a therapist. That health burner is really important to me.
I struggle still with being away from my boys and I also struggle with not putting enough time in my psychotherapy development to be helpful for my clients. This feels like a healthy tension that keeps me honest. I’m not sure this will ever get completely worked out.
My wife and my boys are first in order of value. Then my profession is next as it allows me to follow my purpose as a healer and provide for my family as well. Next is my health, which is required so I can successfully be there for my family and my clients. After that comes other family and friends. However, I’ve discovered some work rounds that, although I don’t always get as much time with friends, I can make an effort to reach out consistently to people I love and care about. It also means that some of my friendships are not where I wish they were. I really miss people who haven’t been prioritized as much. This is a trade-off.
So what about you? What matters to you the most? What burner do you want to turn down, or turn up? Are the burners running like you currently want them?
If you or someone you know is struggling with life balance I encourage you to reach out.
Wishing You The Day You Need To Have!
About the Author:
My name is Bryce Giron Mathern and I’m the owner of Brass Balls Tender Heart. I am a licensed therapist in the Denver Metro area. I am passionate and committed to helping my clients have amazing relationships with their partners, children and other family members.
A big chunk of my life was spent learning the skills necessary to create healthy relationships. If you are struggling in a relationship I encourage you to reach out for help. I believe that through a process of healing old wounds and learning new skills people can build relationships that are nourishing and supportive.