The Secret to Happiness Isn’t Balance, it’s Rhythm


by Karen Meager and John McLachlan of Monkey Puzzle

It’s tough when you feel pulled in different directions, unable to spend time doing the things you want to. Finding real happiness is a very personal thing because we are all different – to some people sitting on a beach is a dream activity – to some it is the very definition of boredom!

Achieving balance is like walking a tightrope; you are always swaying a little this way, then that. Anyone who has tried: cooking dinner, playing with their kids and working on tomorrow’s meeting agenda will know how this feels. Constantly searching for balance actually causes stress, anxiety and constant internal conflicts for people, which is hardly consistent with a happy and content life. Instead of trying to ‘balance off’ different activities in your life, think instead about creating a daily or weekly rhythm that works for you. This means taking a step back and considering how you ‘do’ your life.

Achieving rhythm in your life is something that’s unique to you; the surprising thing is that small changes to your routines and planning can make a huge difference.

Know your energy thresholds
Key to finding your rhythm is to understand what gives you energy and what drains your energy. We are all different so monitor your energy levels for a week and pay attention. Some people find the buzz of a party gives them energy, for some it’s a real drain. Some people get energy from activities like going for a run, for some they get energy from being still. Once you know yours you can plan your week so that you do more of what gives you energy and less of what drains you. Even a small tweak towards what gives you energy will bring you more rhythm.

Review the list below and begin to get a sense of you own thresholds. Is your energy enhanced or drained when you:

  • have lots to do or nothing to do?
  • are with or without unfamiliar people?
  • are with or without trusted close people?
  • have structure or a lack of structure?
  • have clarity of a lack of clarity?
  • are sitting still or moving around?
  • have peace and quiet or noise and bustle around?

As you look at the list notice what is it about them that impacts your energy?

Develop healthy routines
Start to plan healthy routines that help you to maintain rhythm and give you energy. This is hard for people who like constant variety but the advantage of a routine is that it gives you a thinking short cut, giving your mind space and energy to focus on more important things. For example creating a work wardrobe that coordinates will save you time planning outfits or packing for business trips. Having weekly meal plans saves time very day thinking about what to cook. Where having variety and choice gives your pleasure keep it, otherwise find a healthy routine that works.

Pace Yourself
When changing your routines, take it step by step and avoid drastic changes. Your mind and the other people in your life need time to adjust. So instead of finishing work at 5pm every night instead of your usual 7pm, decide to leave at 6pm three nights a week, then gradually keep tweaking your leave time until it works for you. It’s always better to start with something you know you can achieve, and moving from there than taking a major step you can’t sustain.

Use this simple process to help you find a rhythm that works for you:

Finding Your Rhythm
Review your last week and identify the times when you felt that you had rhythm and life was flowing:

  • What was true at those times that is not normally true?
  • What wasn’t present or happening that normally is?
  • What is there to learn from those times of flow?

STEP 2 For the next 7 days, think about your energy thresholds and:

  • Notice what activities, people or events either add to your energy or don’t seem to drain it.
  • Notice what activities, people or events drain your energy.
  • At the end of the 7 days decide on one step you can take that will help you with your energy threshold.

About the authors: Karen Meager and John McLachlan are the co-founders of Monkey Puzzle karen-and-johnTraining ( and co-authors of Time Mastery: Banish Time Management Forever (£12.99, Panoma Press). Karen and John take the latest scientific and academic thinking and make it useable in everyday life.  Both have successful business backgrounds for over 20 years, are clinically qualified in psychotherapy and hypnotherapy and two of only a handful of NLP Master Trainers in the UK. Karen and John have a unique gift in helping people both in their business and personal lives to move beyond Time Management (“in order” removed) to become ‘Time Masters’, allowing them to develop an approach to time that is efficient and fits in with their unique personality. Too often, people are controlled by other people’s priorities so )Karen and John help people to take back that control, by understanding how their own preferences, style and interests impact their use of time.

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