BALANCING YOUR LIFE - HOW DO YOU SLICE YOUR PIE?

Living life well comes down to balance and working out the perfect number and size your pie slices need to be.

BALANCE AND LIFE PIES

Recently I was interviewed by Sue on her Women Living Well After 50 youtube channel and she asked me at the end, “What does living well mean to you?” It really got me thinking. 

For me, it always comes back to balance and getting our priorities in order. But life balance at our age isn’t one or two things on a set of scales, it’s more complex than that – I think of it more like a pie, where it’s made up of all the different things we give time to (the slices of the pie). Too many slices and you risk over-extending yourself and burning out, not enough slices and you risk becoming too narrow and boring.

THE SIZE OF YOUR PIE

It’s not about the size of your pie. Everyone’s pies are pretty much the same size, we all have 24 hours in a day that we get to allocate to how we fill our lives. Granted, some people need very little sleep and can use some of those extra hours to make their pie a little larger, and some are content to lead very slow, gentle lives, so maybe their pie is a little smaller. But, when it all boils down to the nitty gritty, our pies are much the same size.

Ultimately, it's the number and size of the slices that you’ve divided your life pie into that makes all the difference in living your life well.

WHAT CONSTITUTES A SLICE?

Our pie slices are made up of all the facets of our life - family, kids, friends, work, study, health, hobbies, interests…. They all add up to our unique pie – but you can’t have it all – there’s only so many slices that our pie can contain at any given time.

We all have different priorities and interests, so my pie looks different to your pie. Some slices will match up at certain times of our life – we might all be parenting children, or working, or looking after our elderly folks, or travelling... But, each of us has a unique number of slices that we can manage comfortably, and that number will then determine the size of each slice – ie: how much time and attention we can give to it.

Living life well comes down to balance and working out the perfect number and size your pie slices need to be.

NUMBER OF SLICES

Everyone has a finite number of slices in our life pies, nobody can cut their pie into a million slices. If we have too many slices then we lose the ability to give the appropriate and necessary amount of time to each one. We skimp on Peter to pay Paul. The wheels start falling off or the stress levels build to the point where we just want to stop the world and get off.

On the other hand, if we only have a few small slices in our pie, it can feel sparse and unfulfilling. There are big gaps where we have nothing to do, or we know we should be doing something but are baulking at it and suffering the consequences. Is there an exercise slice missing? Then you’re going to gradually feel unfit and overweight, or is there a work slice missing that you haven’t replaced with another slice to keep your mind active? Or perhaps your friendship slice has become too small?

All the slices constitute different aspects of our lives and there needs to be variety – if all your slices look and taste the same, you’ll get bored, or you’ll feel unhealthy, or lonely, or uninspired. So, you have to figure out what each slice looks like for you and how many fit in you pie.

WHAT SIZE ARE YOUR SLICES?

As I mentioned, our pies are a limited size (we only have 24 hours in a day and 365 days in a year!) so we can’t have unlimited slices and all the slices can’t be one-size-fits-all. We have to find the balance of what value we give to each slice and that determines its size – and the number of other pie slices that will fit around it. That’s why the idea of being able to “have it all” falls on its face eventually – we all know that you can’t have it all – you have to choose (and choose wisely) what you want to invest your time and energy into if you’re going to live well.

If working full-time is important to you, then you need to have smaller slices of hobby, or family, or “me time”. If you want to care for your grandchildren or your elderly parents full-time, then the work slice has to be adjusted – made into a smaller size or removed from the pie altogether. The pieces need to all fit and that process is in constant flux. As one slice grows in size, one or more of the others may need to shrink or disappear to give it space – otherwise something is going to overflow or explode.

Living life well comes down to balance and working out the perfect number and size your pie slices need to be.

THE PERFECT PIE OF LIFE

This subject just fascinates me, I love when it feels like we have it just right, all the pieces in place and a sense of “all’s well in my world”. I also don’t enjoy it when there’s a lack of balance, when I’m trying to squeeze too many slices into my pie, or when one slice has become too large and it’s squashed the other slices into less than I want them to be. I’m also enjoying having a “Me” slice in my pie these days – a slice that has gradually become larger and more fulfilling – and that’s definitely due to my “work” slice and my “children” slice getting smaller over time.

Life is a journey, our pies change as we move through various life stages, but if we’re living in a balanced way, feeling a sense of thriving, noticing that there’s a smile on our faces more often than not, then we know that the number and size of our pie slices are pretty spot on.

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

How’s your pie looking? Are you squeezing in too many slices and feeling exhausted? Is it time to lose a few? Or has one slice become so large it’s overwhelmed the others? Getting the balance right is tricky, but so worthwhile if we want to live our lives well.

RELATED POSTS


Living life well comes down to balance and working out the perfect number and size your pie slices need to be.
Living life well comes down to balance and working out the perfect number and size your pie slices need to be.

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36 comments

  1. Hi, Leanne - This is a very thought-provoking post. Life is a journey and our pies constantly change. I completely agree with you about balance. When things get off-balane for me, I notice the negative effects in all areas on my life (big and small). Thank you for sharing this.

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    1. Hi Donna - that's how I feel too....it's not about one or two things that need balancing, it's often the whole pie that gets out of adjustment and needs some re-slicing.

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  2. This is a great way of looking at life Leanne and trying to work out which bits of the pie to reduce or increase is an ongoing battle in my case! Much to think about so many thanks.

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    1. Yes Deb - I realized that leaving my job reconfigured my pie significantly and I needed to adjust the sizes of a lot of my pieces.....I think I've finally got it back in balance, but there's always a but of jiggling of the pieces. Your's will line up again soon I'm sure xx

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    2. Thanks Leanne, I definitely hope so! Sharing for #mlstl

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  3. As always you've given me something to think about - and the something to think about slice of my pie is getting bigger lol. Seriously though, it is a great way to look at things.

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    1. Hi Jo - mine was a bit in reverse to you - my work slice crumbled into unredeemable pieces, so I had to reshape my pie to get it back into balance - best thing I ever ended up doing!

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  4. The sizes of the slices of my pie lately would leave one hungry! They are diced up so thinly that there isn't much to them. I feel like everything I do these days, I do just to say it's done. Without much joy or enthusiasm. The worries with my 93 year old mom knock the stuffing out of me most days. The mom slice of my pie is big and heavy. I feel so badly that slice that is my husband and even my own slice are far smaller. Thought-provoking article.

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    1. Hi Leslie - sometimes life is like that isn't it? We sacrifice some slices for the greater good of another slice. I had a choice to fix that when it happened to me, but when it's your mum, you just need to push on through and eventually the other slices will fill out again when this season is over. I think a lot of us will be in the same boat as you now and in the years ahead. x

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  5. I'm the other way round. As we ease out of COVID restrictions (but look down a barrel of a pending lockdown), I feel there are too few slices...there's so much missing at the moment. However, enjoying what I can, and appreciating all that I had in the past. #MLSTL

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    1. I think too many slices or too few slices are both a problem Lydia - if we lose a slice or two, we need to replace them with something else or our world narrows right down and I think we get a bit boring. My pie keeps adjusting itself thru unexpected retirement and then the whole covid thing. Hopefully it'll be perfect by the time this is all over.

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  6. Hi Leanne, this post sums up my life at the moment! I've been at home recovering from surgery for 2 months and at first it was easy to fill my dayccut now I'm finding not going to work is starting to make my pie look a bit stale. I'm hoping to get clearance from my doctor to go back to work tomorrow, and then my pie will be fresh! I suspect that I'll be pretty exhausted every day but it'll be nice to feel productive again.

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    1. Hi Christina - I worried that my pie would be a bit limp when my work stopped. I've made a conscious effort to top it up and add a new slice (or two or three) to keep things balanced and fresh. It's easy to slip into staleness and really hard to pull ourselves back out if we leave it too long - I hope the return to work goes well for you (I haven't found a job offer yet that even begins to tempt me to go back into the fray!)

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  7. Hi Leanne I’ve been slicing my pie into tiny tiny pieces for years. During isolation I’ve been enjoying being able to take bigger chunks. I agree with you that it’s also important to take a slice for me.

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    1. Hi Jennifer - those bigger slices might become more appealing than all the little slivers if lockdown continues for you. I find that my pie is much more satisfying with the slices I'm choosing these days - rather than the slices I kept trying to squeeze in and make fit.

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  8. Thanks for this thoughtful post, Leanne. I have made so many mistakes in this area, especially in the last 23 years. But as I still have some time, even if it is only today, I will be more careful in slicing the pie. The lockdown greatly increased my workload, so now I am trying to retrieve the time I gave and be a little selfish (but not really) lest I fall into total burnout. Thanks and blessings, Michele

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    1. Hi Michele - it's different for each of us isn't it? That's why I said that we each have our individual pie and what works for one person won't work for another. I found lockdown very stress-free, but am now juggling getting the balance right as we come back to normal life again. I think our pies are ever changing and it's good for us to look carefully at them and make sure they're as fulfilling as we want them to be, and if not, then to make some changes - and that's definitely not selfish x

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  9. Okay, first of all, I seriously want a piece of pie (literal pie) now, and I am not kidding! As far as the balance in my life at this moment, I'm feeling pretty good, but like it's a little sparse, and I don't have the energy to re-proportion things or figure out what's missing. Or perhaps, it's that there is too much kicking around in my head, and in rebellion, I ignore all of it! Either way, I feel like quiet time is the answer. And pie...always pie!

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    1. Hi Christie - yes that apple pie looked pretty good to me too. I felt the same way as you when I quit the horrible job and needed to restructure my pie big time - it took a while to find the motivation and to get the slices right. Then lockdown hit and the pie took a bit of a shuffle around - and I'm still getting the pieces back into their right fit - slow and steady wins the race.

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  10. Leanne, You bring up a great point how “balance” and “priorities” can be much more complex. It is interesting how posts, messages come to us when we seem to need it most. For various personal reasons I have been spreading myself thin (again) which means I don’t do anything well. It is fun to juggle many interesting and fun balls. Yet, too many balls and it is like you say, over-extending and burning out. It is always good to stay close to the thriving slice of pie before I become overwhelmed. Thought-provoking and great information, Leanne, as always.xx

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    1. Leanne, I am back from #MLSTL. xx

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    2. Hi Erica - balance is always tricky isn't it? We get it just right for a while, and then something shifts and we realize we've got too many slices in our pie, or we've lost a couple somewhere and haven't replaced them. I feel like I just got my pie all sorted after the changes that early retirement brought, then covid descended upon us and threw it all into chaos. Re-crafting and rebalancing is an ongoing journey - but it's what grows and defines us isn't it?

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  11. Hi Leanne, I agree life is a journey and our pies change as we move through different phases. I feel pretty good about the number and size of my pie slices atm. The good news is with life experiences, we know how to adjust our pie slices when needed. #MLSTL

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    1. Hi Natalie - I'm pretty happy with mine atm too - there's always a little bit of fine tuning and adjusting - and replacing the occasional piece, but life is fluid so that's to be expected.

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  12. Good topic and you make some interesting points. I have a set point I guess I would call it when I have 'done' enough in one area in my life, for example cooking for others and when I sense a little resentment or fatigue growing I realise it's time to stop and when I plan something like this again, to take into account my physical and emotional energies.
    Denyse #mlstl

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    1. Hi Denyse - I think that's what's so nice about balance being many pie slices rather than a set of scales. There's lots of room for adjustment with a pie - and more ability to juggle things around for a good fit. When one slice becomes messy or too big, we lift it out and move things around until we feel more stable again. Energy is such an important aspect - and avoiding burnout is vital.

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  13. Good one, Leanne. Actually, I try to slice the pie it into too many pieces. And often I have to get rid of a few.

    I try not to do everything in one single day. That's one bad habit I had.

    So, I try to spread it over a week, may be even across a few months. That puts less stress on myself and I seem to be not only making progress but also more comfortable.

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    1. Hi Pradeep - I was notorious for over-slicing my pie in the years leading up to my 50's. I'm finding that Midlife is letting me slow down a little and be a little kinder to myself. My pie feels more satisfying and the pieces are all enjoyable now - rather than having some sour ones in there that I kept adding other slices around to try to disguise how much I disliked them!

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  14. Leanne, when I taught Journal Writing, A Journey to The Self, many years ago, I used an elaborate exercise to illustrate what you have done with a simple pie. Visuals are sometimes the best teachers and this one is especially relatable. As you say, priorities shift throughout our lives and having the ability to adjust is what restores balance. The challenge is to stay in tune with our whole self so that even the little shifts are noticed and managed before they become overwhelming. The slices of my pie vary from week to week right now. I desperately need some travel time, but with that off the plate, the slice is now divided into household projects, and exercise - two slices that needed a bigger portion anyway. Thanks for another thoughtful post. Hope you are having a very 'balanced' week.

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    1. Hi Suzanne - I think the idea just came into my head one day when I thought about the way balance always gets associated with a set of scales - and two little trays on a scale is nowhere near enough for those of us with lots of balls that we're always juggling. The idea of allowing lots of slices and being able to choose how big or small we make them seemed like a perfect analogy to me.
      Now that things in Western Australia are almost back to normal, my pie is feeling pretty well balanced - no big trips will be happening, but that's okay with me - I'm happy to stick to my home State where there are less covid bugs polluting the air :)

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  15. Hi Leanne, this ties in so well with the Focus of the Week in the Facebook Group which is about the Wheel of Life and examining each area and checking to see if they are in balance or we have a wobbly wheel. I'll be sharing this in the Group as it is perfect for the focus. Thanks for co-hosting #MLSTL with me. xx

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    1. Hi Sue - yes the Wheel of Life and pies are very simimilar - I also thought about a pie chart to begin with when I wrote this post - because that has a similar "flavour" to the concept of having several different life areas that need to fit together for harmony. Thanks so much for sharing my post on your WLW page x

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  16. What a appropriate metaphor for life management. I am going to be pondering my slices today.

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    1. Hi Michele - I thought it made a lot more sense than a set of scales - life is fuller and more complex than just choice A vs choice B.

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  17. Leanne, as usual, your post is very timely and about something that's been on my mind a lot lately!

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    1. That's wonderful Jean - I hope it gives you another viewpoint as you figure out your pie slices (you'd be the expert at pie slicing - and the apple pies in the pictures here made me think of you) x

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