The Art of Living in Balance, Part 1

People often ask me how I do it, how I do it “all.” By day, I’m CEO of a media company. I’m on more boards than I can recite in one breath. I have three girls between the ages of 28 (just married) and 4. And I blog, cook, blog about cooking and stuff like this, and in general have enough time to do lots of fun things. I came up with the phrase “the art of living in balance” years and years ago when I launched Organic Style magazine. Unfortunately, we had to shut the magazine down. But that phrase still guides me. So, when people ask me how I do it, I often can’t give them an easy answer because it’s just something I’ve been doing for so long. But since someone asked me just the other day, I’ll try to give an answer that you all can use in your own lives.

1. Surround yourself with good people and keep them happy. I’ve had the same babysitter for 28 years, the same husband for 18. They are reliable, comfortable, and wonderful people I appreciate every day.

 

2. Outsource the stuff you don’t like to do. I hired a woman to do laundry almost 20 years ago because not only do I loathe doing laundry, but also I’m terrible at it. When I first hired her, it seemed like a total luxury. But freeing up that time gave me the opportunity to devote my time to other areas in my life that led to more success and more happiness. I adore and respect Betty so much that I even wrote a laundry book, Betty’s Book of Laundry Secrets, to capture all her wisdom. She’s in her 80s and still comes to my house every Monday. I love her.

 

3. If you see a problem, fix it. When I was younger, I spent a lot of time fuming about problems and people. Now, people often call me “direct.” But what that means is if there is something I don’t understand, or that isn’t working, I say something. I’m that person that asks the stupid question in the room that everyone else wanted to ask but was too afraid to. Whether it’s a family issue or a work issue, I have found that the direct, respectful approach gets the best results.

 

4. If you can’t fix it, let it go. I am a firm believer in the energy and power of the Universe—that there is a time to fix and a time to not fix. If you have an issue that you can’t resolve, don’t keep banging your head against the same wall over and over. Take a break. Try something different. Distract yourself. Forget about it. When the time is right, the opportunity will present itself.

 

5. You can’t change other people, you can only change yourself. This is something I learned after years of therapy, which was worth every minute and every dollar. It’s not my job to fix other people; it’s my job to understand them so that I can fix my own response to them. This alone has saved me countless years of agony.

 

6. Have a purpose and a mission. I truly believe that each person has a special mission and purpose on this planet, and the closer we all come to finding it and living it, the happier we are. My mission and purpose are closely aligned with the family business I run and are all about healthy living on a healthy planet. In my fairy-tale mind I am a knight protecting people and the planet from harm. Hey, it works for me. Don’t make fun of it until you’ve tried it.

 

7. Listen to nature. Whenever I have a question I need an answer to or a problem I can’t resolve, or I just need comfort, I go out into nature and sit quietly ALONE! and listen. I may just be listening to that quiet, still voice inside of me that can’t be heard unless I turn off all the other noise. But I also believe nature loves to converse with us, and if we are open and still, she has quite strong opinions. Try it!

 

8. Exercise. I’ve seen all the studies in the world, just about. And if there is one thing that is essential to health and happiness, it’s exercise. I know. It’s hard for me to fit it into my life, too. But it works. I do yoga and Pilates. I garden. But those alone are not enough to keep me truly fit. If I am feeling depressed, a walk, run, or bike ride really does the trick. It doesn’t matter what you do, just that you do it, and do it a few times a week. I’ve started putting stars on the calendar every time I do 30 minutes or more of exercise. My goal is to have a five-star week every week. I have learned that we ladies have to put ourselves first if we are going to take care of the other important people in our life. It’s not selfishness; it’s sanity.

9. Eat healthfully and well. Food is important, too—organic, of course! Fresh, toxin-free fruits and veggies. Meats from local organic farmers. Whole grains. I find that cutting out white flour really makes me feel so much better and so much less hungry. Exercise, too, controls my appetite. But good, yummy food is essential to having energy, strength, and stamina to live a full life. And sit-down dinners with the whole family are a key to family harmony and health.

10. Feel the love. I think this is the most important thing of all. Surround yourself with love. Snuggle and play with your kids. Don’t waste time or energy on movies or TV that are violent and depressing—watch happy-ending love stories! Reach out to friends and family on Facebook. A good email from a long-lost friend can make me happy for days. Forgive and forget the bad stuff, and focus on love. It’s a happy feeling (most of the time).

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10 Responses to The Art of Living in Balance, Part 1

  1. Carol Davis September 27, 2010 at 8:08 am #

    Maria, this is so inspiring and so lovely to read!!! I loved every paragraph, and how you fit everything into your life. I think it is so neat you have Betty, and in her 80’s at that. I do believe that as we age, we do have to evercise, and eat right, and that our reward is how we look and feel. I loved what you said about loving your family which is what life is about, having each other. My favorite part of the day is reading your articles. Thank you for all the great information you send us, and all the recipes too!!!

  2. Sarah Stack September 27, 2010 at 10:44 am #

    Maria, what a wonderful Post today; quite perfect for Monday and everyday. Thank you for sharing what works in your life; your words of wisdom resonate with me. It’s comforting to know that your perspective and strategies are similar to those that I vow to practice daily. I am working on incorporating daily exercise and am determined to earn my five stars this week too! (Up from 3 last week…decided to celebrate the 3 because it’s better than my usual of 0) Thank you for the time you put into writing your blog. I continue to learn from you and look forward to opening my daily “Maria inspiration”. Best to you from Big D!

  3. Mike Lieberman September 27, 2010 at 10:51 am #

    Great post. Life is all about finding that balance that works for you. Like how you include actionable things that can be done as well.

  4. Donna in Delaware September 27, 2010 at 10:59 am #

    I have and am doing numbers 1, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, and 10. As for # 2, I have the time to do even the things that I don’t like to do. I just suck it up and get down to it. For #3, I sometimes am a slacker, but I’ve been trying to change that bad habit! Number 6, well, I know what I want to do, I know what I feel like doing, but the opportunity have not presented itself. I’m working on it though.

    Although I don’t have children, I have a husband and a doggy. I try to keep them happy even though that’s hard to do sometimes. They also try to keep me as happy as possible. I do keep in touch with old friends and have reacquainted myself with long lost ones. It was fun to play catch-up with them and reminisce.

    I must admit that I didn’t do much exercising the whole of summer because of the heat and humidity, not even indoors. Don’t care much for summer. Will start back walking soon. I did garden up until it started to get too hot.

    Numbers 4 & 5, I live by. Stop beating yourself up trying to remedy something that you have no control over. Fix what you can, don’dt dwell on it, and go about living. It is THAT SIMPLE!! You definitely can not change someone else. The change has to come from within the other person. They need to WANT to change, they need to NEED to change, you can’t do that for them. You have to either except them for who and what they are, or leave them be. If they ask for help to change, then there is your opportunity to HELP them to make that change, whether or not the help comes from you, or someone else.

  5. Mary September 27, 2010 at 3:38 pm #

    Maria,
    I just read my first story about you in Crain’s New York Business and I knew I liked you immediately. And today I am finding you in this wonderful blog. I will continue to follow you as I find you so real. And my husband and I have embraced an organic life and are working on curing all sorts of ills through that path. It’s not a quick fix, but the gains are so solid and we feel great. I was also very happy to see you are writing about the issue of pollution and waste from hydrofracing….an issue I am very concerned about and continue to work on prohibiting. And yes, some days I do feel like I am banging my head against the wall….and have to make myself step back. So thank you for the words of wisdom. Keep being direct…I can’t read minds. But I always love it when someone is willing to tell the whole truth….as they see it.

  6. Barbara September 27, 2010 at 11:19 pm #

    I too have often been asked how I accomplish so much. I am a single mother to 3 boys, produce the only income for the family, and volunteer for several organizations. I have never written out how I do it all, but you have listed a lot of how I live. The only luxury I wish I could afford would be a cook. I am vegetarian and that is very rare here so even if I could afford one, finding one would not be easy. It is not that I do not like to cook, but I enjoy so many other things so much more that cooking just gets slighted. We eat ok, but not as good as I would like (and I studied Nutrition Science in college. Shame on me.) Now baking I love and am very good at…thanks grandma…but we cannot live on pies and cakes, even if I do make them as healthy as possible. I am not good at exercising regularly but the stars on the calendar might help me keep track of when I do. Thanks for the tip. I too am focused on educating people about healthy living and why the chemicals that surround us need to be avoided. Living in the midwest farm country, the chemicals are everywhere, and people poo-poo the concern about them. It is believed by many that the organic farmer breeds the insects by not eliminating them with chemicals and that causes the problems. Sheesh. And cancer and other ills are rampant…

    I always enjoy reading your points of view and agree with most, if not all, you express. Thank you for being so balanced in your living that you have time to share yourself with us.

  7. Lois September 28, 2010 at 8:07 am #

    Bravo, Maria!
    You have given me a list (and I am most definitely a list person) to post in the front of my Daytimer to remind me every day what is truly important. Keep up the honest, forthright, and inspiring posts.

  8. Dorothy Salvatori September 28, 2010 at 8:28 am #

    Maria
    Thanks for a great read. I can not agree with you more on the outline you have provided on living a more balanced life. I was in the technical field traveling all around North America until the day came that I realized how out of balance my life was, and what I needed to do for and by myself to bring more joy into my life. I threw it all to the wind and started working as a chef with a fierce passion for organic living…developing my skills along the way and teaching others all while working on a few books.
    Today I am so much more in balance, for I do what brings great joy into my life, whereas before I in survival mode.
    If you are ever in the area of Blairstown, NJ, please stop my to say hello to me at Genesis Farm. It is where I cook & enjoy a sweeter , healthier, more balanced life.I would love to meet you in person! http://www.genesisfarm.org/

  9. Amanda September 29, 2010 at 12:39 pm #

    I still maintain you were ahead of your time with Organic Style. You were right on with the concept and I miss it!

  10. Charles Betterton January 4, 2011 at 2:25 pm #

    Dear Maria:

    Happy New Year! Discovering your blog is one of the highlights of my New Year, Imagine That!

    I love your posts on The Art of Living in Balance and would like to explore reprinting them in a series of 14 titles in the Ultimate Destiny Success System we are about to launch as E-books, print books, seminars and workshops.

    For example, we would love to include these articles in our titles on Enjoying Peace and Balance in Every Area of Life, Enjoying Optimal Health and Well-Being, Fostering Personal and Planetary Sustainability, etc.

    In addition, we would love to include the publications from Rodale Press in the featured resources section of all of our publications and programs, especially if you have an affiliaite program.

    Thank you for sharing your vision, wisdom and insights!

    PS. I am also interested in learning how we might include a great booklet published in 1987 on Community Options from the Regeneration Project. As a community economic development specialist, I invited Jeff Berkowitz to help introduce those visionary resources in Kankakee IL. We would love to share the suggestions in that booklet through our campaign to help establish a network of community resource centers as described at http://www.ultimatesuccesspuzzle.com and http://www.communityresourcecenters.org

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