Balancing Your Life: A Practical Guide to Work, Time, Money and Happiness
For many, life in 21st century Ireland means pressurised and stressful work, long commuting times in heavy traffic, paying to leave children in the care of others, eating meals on the run and having precious little time to spend with friends and family. Increasingly, people are asking, “Is this the right way to live?”
In Balancing Your Life, Anne B. Ryan shows that there is another way. It is aimed at all those people who know there should be something more in their lives than a cycle of working–earning–spending and struggling to keep up with the demands of an overly hectic lifestyle. Most feel that there is no alternative to increasing pressure to work harder and achieve more. They often spend their hard-earned money on rewards and treats, just to keep themselves going in the rat race. This book shows how to break this cycle and create happier and healthier lives.
As well as offering practical advice, the book tells the stories of 17 people — “cultural creatives” — who have achieved balance in their lives. They don’t accept the idea that there are no alternatives to frenzied lifestyles. They have either escaped the rat race or have avoided it all of their adult lives. Yet these people are not dropouts — in fact, they contribute to a strong and vibrant society by creating time in their lives to do meaningful work and to be active citizens. Some have given up material rewards, but prefer to have time and flexibility for things that are important to them, such as raising their children, caring for others, artistic endeavours, community involvement, travel, study, spirituality, political activism or personal development.
The interviewees for the case studies are of all ages, some are single, some have partners, some have children, others don’t. They are rural, provincial and urban-based. They tell their stories honestly and are frank about the difficulties they experience, as well as the benefits of the choices they have made in their lives. These cultural creatives are practising new ways of living that draw on many of the best traditions, such as care for children, community and spirituality. In their approach to these topics they are highly critical of consumerism and inspired by modern social movements such as feminism, environmentalism, alternative economics and anti-racism. Most importantly, they believe in acting according to their values. They are living proof that it is possible for ordinary people, without extraordinary financial resources, to achieve quality of life in contemporary Ireland.
Balancing Your Life also provides guidance for the reader on how to take their own steps towards living a balanced life. It starts with small things like putting boundaries around one’s job, examining spending patterns, and deciding on life priorities. It does not offer blueprints for happiness and balance, but gives the reader resources for creating their own version of happiness, based on the philosophy of enough — enough money, enough success, enough possessions. It challenges the contemporary assumption that more and bigger are always better.