How to Attain an Imperfectly Balanced Life

When you Google the keywords “life balance goals” you get over 247 million results.


Seems like a few of us have goals to be more balanced.


Goal Setting Theory is one of the most well-researched models of human motivation. The theory explains that when we create a psychological gap between where we are now and where we want to be (the goal), we are motivated to bridge that gap.


But goal setting does not always work. Among other things, we must be committed to achieving the goal. As we’ve all experienced with New Year’s Resolutions, commitment can wane.


Another factor that limits our ability to bridge the gap is goal conflict.


Goal conflict occurs when the achievement of one goal makes the achievement of another one extremely difficult, if not impossible.


Like quality and quantity.


Like good and cheap.


Like having both a busy and balanced life.


So, how do we bridge the gap between these seemingly conflicting concepts?


Step One:  Define balance


My husband was born with an internal compass. He can navigate almost anywhere. We call it “using the force.” I rely on Siri and good signage.


The point is:  if you don’t know where you are going, you likely will not get there quickly, if at all.


So, the first step toward approaching a more balanced life is to define what it means to you and your family.


I’ve written a storybook that illustrates this point. It is called Seraphina Does Everything!  Seraphina is an amazing kid who doesn’t want to miss out on anything. She desires to leave no activity untried, no door unopened.


Not surprisingly, Seraphina is busy every day. And after a while, she realizes that she isn’t happy. She is missing out on something important:  balance.


Seraphina’s dad comes to the rescue when he helps her set boundaries. She learns to prioritize the important things like friends, family, and rest.


Most importantly, Seraphina learns that “everything” is not found when you are constantly in motion.


What does “balance” mean? 


In 2007, I was at a career crossroads. I knew that something needed to change. I felt completely…unbalanced.


At the time, my goal was simple:


I want to drive home from work and not cry during the entire commute.


From this simple and powerful-to-me statement, I devised a vision of the next phase of my career. I wanted to help people be more effective at work. I decided to teach people to better manage their time and tasks so that they could feel successful and leave work at a reasonable hour.


That’s what balance means to me.


What does balance mean to you?



Step Two:  Make your calendar reflect your priorities


Stephen Covey asserted that he could tell what was important to any person by looking at their calendar.


Look at your calendar. If this was the calendar of a stranger, what assumptions would you make about that person?


Consider three questions:

  1. What do I need to stop doing in order to feel more balanced?
  2. What do I need to start doing to invite more balance into my life?
  3. What am I doing that I need to continue so that I don’t lose any balance I currently enjoy?



Step Three:  Strive for imperfection


Perfectionism is an issue for me.


I really want and think I should be able to…do everything. Gee, I wonder why I wrote a book entitled, Seraphina Does Everything!




Here’s the best advice I can give all of us to live a balanced life imperfectly:


Go for the 80.


Be balanced 80% of the time.


Do you have a goal to leave work by 5:45 every day? You are a rock star if you do it four out of five days.


Did you and your partner set a goal to go on one date per month? Ten out of twelve is success, baby.


80% is astounding…wonderful…fabulous.


This blog post is 80% done.


I’ll just stop here then.


Perfect Target

Is perfectionism your productivity barrier?

Check out my online course, Unwrapping Perfectionism.

Dr. Melissa GratiasMelissa Gratias (pronounced “Gracious”) used to think that productivity was a result of working long hours. And, she worked a lot of hours. Then, she learned that productivity is a skill set, not a personality trait. Now, Melissa is a productivity expert who coaches and trains other businesspeople to be more focused, balanced, and effective. She is a prolific writer and speaker who travels the world helping people change how they work and improve how they live. Contact her at or 912-417-2505. Sign up to receive her productivity tips via email.


  1. Fran Gordon

    Such a true article. Imperfection is the goal. I have almost achieved it.

    • Melissa Gratias, Ph.D.

      Me, too! I’m about 80% there. ~M

  2. Jason Fleming

    Melissa – thanks for writing this. I love the “go for the 80” concept. I have fully achieved imperfection – the only facet of life I’ve done perfectly….

    • Melissa Gratias, Ph.D.

      Yay, Jason. Maybe we should write an inspirational power ballad about the joys of mediocrity…

  3. Ed Nanney

    An excellent article, Melissa. Thanks for sharing it. I heard it said recently that life frequently requires us to juggle five (5) aspects (“balls”) in our lives. All but one of the “balls” are made of glass and one is rubber. Those of glass — Family, Friends, Physical Health and Mental/Emotional Health — may be destroyed if we lose track of them. The fifth, Career, can bounce back. I find that a useful metaphor for both balance in life and setting priorities. Accepting less than perfection is essential, also.

    • Melissa Gratias, Ph.D.

      Great visual, Ed. Thanks for sharing it.


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