Soft skills & personality
Life balance and a fulfilled life – the pearl principle

Table of contents

Life Balance:

How you can lead a happy, fulfilled life despite stress, time pressure and a heavy workload.

a) Review your life: How did I use the time?

Summer vacations and the end of the year give you the opportunity to get away from it all. After a few days of sleeping in and doing nothing, the mind starts to get busy. Thoughts wander.

  • What has happened over the course of a year?
  • What have I achieved?
  • Was that what I had planned?

And, of course, we are also looking ahead to the coming year:

  • What should happen next year?
  • Where am I right now?
  • What am I satisfied with?
  • What should go on like this?
  • What needs to change?

A few years ago, shortly after the turn of the millennium, I looked back and was absolutely shocked to realize that nothing, absolutely nothing, had been left behind from that year. I couldn’t think of a good moment. Nothing I would have been happy about. A year of gray in gray. I had worked. A lot of work. Had a lot of stress. I had had the feeling all year that I couldn’t keep up, that I always had too much to do. Not being able to take time off because I wouldn’t be able to do it otherwise. And the awareness of not really having done anything well enough. Not being able to offer what was needed in any area.

The scales fell from my eyes. What had I done? I was so pressed for time that I wasted this year. I had grown a year older, but this year left no traces (except perhaps on my face). No fond memories remained. No joy when I thought back to this year. It was almost like not living.


Have we been given this life in order to waste it? Has this treasure been entrusted to us to be handled in this way? These were questions that suddenly came up.
I imagined how I would feel if I had to look back on it at the end of my life and draw a similar conclusion. The years would have passed without a trace in work and duty, each one a little faster and at some point I would be at that threshold and would have to answer to myself: “Hey, how were you? Did you make the best of your life that you could?”
This performance was really shocking. Until that moment, time was something that seemed infinite. I hadn’t given it any thought. I had certainly been thinking for some time about how I could manage all my tasks and thus manage my time well. I was a master at creating more and more. But suddenly I became aware of the limitations of life. And that every minute that passed was lost and could not be recovered. From one moment to the next, achieving a lot no longer seemed to be synonymous with having lived life well.
I swore to myself that it would never happen to me again that I wasted a year and that I would make the most of the gift of life that I was able to offer.
The findings from this process – because it was a process until I really succeeded – are made available to you in this blog post. It was worth it for me.

Life balance - tips for a better quality of life

b) What fulfills us: Living meaningfully

Be who you are and become who you can be…
Making the best of this life… What is the best? What is the best way to organize my life? What brings us fulfillment? Perhaps it is also the question of meaning that I am addressing here. What does a meaningful life look like? This question is as old as mankind. I do not want to provide an overview of the philosophical theses on the question of meaning here. I also don’t want to go into the religions, which provide detailed answers and certainly hold some similar and some completely different convictions to mine.
I am concerned here with what people need in order to be happy. Hardly anyone thinks about the meaning of life in everyday life. As long as you are doing well, this question is often irrelevant. Only when their own lives and actions are no longer perceived as meaningful, i.e. when a feeling of meaninglessness arises, do people begin to deal with this.
In this respect, I offer the perspective of what people individually need in order to perceive their lives as meaningful.
I have regularly discussed this question with seminar participants. The following four aspects came up again and again:

1. life balance aspect: children

Nature seems to have done an excellent job of ensuring that biological reproduction is perceived by us as meaningful. Many people describe having children and ensuring that they have a good start in life as the core task in life. Successful managers who didn’t want to have children until a certain age told me that at some point the question arose: “Why am I doing all this if I can’t pass it on?” I am far from thinking that having children must be fulfillment for everyone. But they are simply a convenient way to avoid having to ask yourself the question of meaning. If this natural sense of purpose is missing, it can quickly lead to a feeling of inner emptiness.

2. life balance aspect: passing something on / doing good in the world:

Many people feel that their lives are meaningful when they do something for other people. This can be of a helping or teaching nature. It also makes me happy when I realize that I have been able to give people something of myself, have made a difference to them, have inspired them or have simply put a smile on their faces. It is not for nothing that happiness researchers say that giving makes you happier than receiving. Dr. Herbert Laszlo from the Vienna Institute for Experimental Happiness Research (IFEG) attributes this to “mirror neurons”, which allow us to empathize with other people’s feelings.
Commitment to a good cause also falls into this category. Political work for a better world, for example, or building a children’s home.

3. life balance aspect: self-development:

Some Asian religions strive to develop the mind over several stages in order to reach a desired state at the end, e.g. enlightenment. I don’t want to go that far here, but we in the western world also often feel a deep sense of fulfillment when we engage with ourselves, develop our personality and strive for something higher. In this moment we feel close to ourselves and many other issues outside ourselves become unimportant. Personally, I think that for me it’s about being awake for life, working on myself, learning and moving forward. “Standing still is a step backwards and the first step to the grave!” entrepreneur Reinhold Würth never tires of emphasizing. By this he means companies as well as individuals.
Living life:

“Anyone who can say every evening, “I have lived”, will gain something new every morning.”
Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4 BC – 65 AD)

4. life balance aspect: living life

The fourth aspect of meaning is the one I would like to focus on here: living this life. To treat it with value and use every drop of life it contains. It’s a bit like borrowing something from a friend that is close to their heart. We handle it with care, take special care of it, look after it when necessary and make sure that we can return it in good condition. As much as I take this for granted, I find it deeply intolerable when people are careless with their lives. Even without having a specific God in mind, I get the feeling that someone is trampling on the gift of creation. I think it’s crucial that we make sure we stay healthy, that we look after ourselves, that we make the most of the opportunities we have and that we enjoy this life. This idea gave rise to the “pearl principle”.

Life balance, fulfilled life


c) The pearl principle: creating quality of life and life balance

When you look back on your life, there may be moments that seem very special to you. Moments that shimmer and shimmer in the memory and that still feel intense and wonderful in retrospect, even though they may have happened many years ago. They bring your past to life in a colorful way. When you think back to it, it warms your heart. And ultimately, it is these experiences that describe your life and make up who you are as a person. I call these moments “pearls”.
Because real pearls are something rare, something valuable. They are a gem, something very special. They shimmer and shimmer, and no fairy tale is complete without them. And so these hours I am talking about are something special that will fill your memory with beautiful, dazzling feelings or images for years to come.

  • What is it for you that makes such a moment?
  • Is it being together with a special person?
  • Or a special place?
  • Is it the feeling of being valuable to someone, of being needed?
  • Or the experience of living something quite extraordinary?
  • Something exciting and exotic?
  • Or simply taking care of yourself, treating yourself to something, giving yourself gifts and thus feeling valuable?

Think about what your “pearls” have in common for you. What is the quality that makes a moment a pearl for you? That makes an hour something that gives you strength and makes you feel good, even years later. If you know this, then you have the freedom to create these pearls yourself.
The pearl principle says that the aim is to collect as many beautiful memories and experiences in life as possible, like pearls in a treasure chest.

Life balance - tips for a better quality of life

d) Taking life into your own hands: Actively planning pearls

“While you put it off, life goes by.”
Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4 BC – 65 AD)

Sometimes the pearls form on their own. Someone invites you and it will be a wonderful evening. You are in the right place at the right time and experience something very special by chance.
But the more we are caught up in our everyday lives, the more we schedule ourselves full of appointments, the less likely it is that pearls will happen by themselves. We leave them no room. I would therefore like to inspire you to actively make beads. It is up to you to ensure that you make the most of this life by actively incorporating pearls into your life.
Not so long ago, I was invited to a professional event in the evening and happened to be sitting at a table with the manager who was to give the opening speech. I knew his company quite well and also his division and knew that the people there work under a lot of pressure. The workload there – as in almost all companies – had increased significantly since the turn of the millennium.
However, this manager seemed completely in balance to me. He seemed cheerful, light and relaxed, really radiated from within and talked about pleasant experiences of the last few months.

“Tell me,” I said, “you seem very relaxed to me. You seem to enjoy life and still find time for nice things alongside your work. How do you do that?”
“You know,” he said, “I think I’m a good manager. I get targets from my boss and I set my own targets. As a good manager, I organize myself in such a way that I achieve my goals. To do this, I have to prioritize conflicting goals, make decisions, plan measures, block out time for them and so on. Everything you do when you want to achieve goals. The difference is simple: I include quality of life and relaxation in my scope, in the extent of my planning. These are important goals for me and I want to achieve them just as much as my other goals. That’s why I organize everything so that it works. And I believe that anyone who doesn’t achieve this has not formulated the goal for themselves.”

Life balance - tips for a better quality of life
With these words, he had expressed crystal clear what I myself had felt for some time. Even if it sounds unpopular at first glance, it’s true. I had to think back to earlier years when, torn between my job and small children, I hadn’t found any time for myself. I later dealt with the behavioral patterns that caused this and what made it so difficult for me to take time for myself.
In principle, I have always acted according to the age-old motto: “First work, then pleasure.” Written like that, this sentence reads absolutely old-fashioned and I would never have admitted that it applied to me. But that’s exactly what I did. First I had to do my duty and then I saw if there was any time left for myself and things I enjoyed.
And I had very firm ideas about what I wanted to achieve in my job, which was one part of the “duty” for me. I set myself high standards in order to be “good enough” for myself. And I had equally firm ideas about my role as a mother, the other part of my duty. I set the bar very high in both areas.
And I actually organized my time so that I could work in both areas. This does not mean that I was able to fulfill my claim to perfection in even one of the two areas – let alone both. The thought always remained, “You should have done more.” In concrete terms, this meant that I used every available minute to meet my standards. I never had the feeling of being “finished”. It could always have been better. And so, of course, there wasn’t a bit of time for me. As looking after myself wasn’t part of my duty (because I hadn’t made it one), it always fell by the wayside.
And that was what the manager had expressed so aptly: I had defined goals for my job and being a mother and organized myself in such a way that I was able to serve both to some extent. I hadn’t defined any goals for quality of life and relaxation. So I haven’t planned any measures to achieve anything in this direction. If I had done that, I would certainly not have achieved the standard perfectly here either. But I would have achieved much more than I did in this way.
Take a quick look at yourself: what has absolute priority in your life? What can stop you from experiencing beautiful moments? What is “set” for you, I had called it “duty”, and what is optional and only comes into its own when the duty has been fulfilled?
Let’s get back to the pearls. Only if you take it as a “set”, if you set yourself the explicit goal of integrating pearls into your life, will you succeed in living a life full of beautiful experiences. Only by actively organizing your pearls will you ensure that you can look back on a lifetime of wonderful memories.
The time will never come when you suddenly realize “Oops, now I have time. Where’s my list of all the things I wanted to do when I have time?” No. If you postpone beautiful things until the moment when you have time for them, you will be waiting for them all your life.
When we come home from work on a Friday evening, crawling on our gums, completely exhausted and just barely able to roll onto the sofa with our last ounce of strength, we’re not in the mood to spontaneously suggest a visit to a musical or a weekend trip to Prague. Nothing will come of it. The weekend is over, the chance for a pearl is gone. However, if we have bought tickets or booked the hotel in advance, everything is already planned, then we get up and go. It takes a bit of effort, but then it works. And it ends up being a wonderful evening, a wonderful weekend. A real pearl.
The only chance we have is to plan these beautiful moments just as carefully as the appointments in our working lives.

Life balance Being able to let go


e) The stuff pearls are made of: Creating beautiful moments

As I resolved to make every year from now on a uniquely fantastic year, my husband and I spent an evening at a candlelight dinner at our favorite restaurant. And instead of just chatting away, we decided to spend the evening planning the first pearls for next year. Our goal: at least 10 pearls for the coming year.
The evening itself was a pearl. It gave us great pleasure to think about what wonderful experiences we could treat ourselves to in the coming year. Of course, the first pearls were quickly found. Vacation, two or three nice weekends when we wanted to get away. But what else? A visit to the theater? A bike tour? For example, we decided to learn a new sport together and sign up for a course the very next day.
What didn’t count were pearls that were coming anyway or were already firmly planned. There had to be ten more. We had the claim that pearls don’t always have to be expensive. Cruising around a lake with a small boat and a picnic basket. Spend an afternoon in bed with Prosecco, strawberries and massage oil. A fondue evening with other interesting couples who do not yet know each other. Trying out a new restaurant that was described on the Internet as particularly romantic.
Since that first time, I have often thought about upcoming pearls, both alone and with my partner. There has never been another boring year. Every year since then has been unique. And I am very happy about that.
In the meantime, I’m constantly asking myself the question: “What am I looking forward to right now? What is my next pearl?” If this is more than three weeks away, then it’s time to act and plan for a pearl.


Life balance - overcoming obstacles

But what makes pearls special? What makes a pearl a pearl?


Experiences often become pearls when they leave the daily routine and something new is experienced. This is easy to understand. Most people remember their wedding day intensely when they are married. The fewest on any given day in 1998.

Many pearls therefore have to do with travel, which is about getting to know places that you don’t know yet. But isn’t it the case that many people don’t really know the city they live in? This is where the thought often arises, “I can still do that, it’s not going anywhere.”

  • What can you do that you don’t normally do?
  • What unusual activity would you enjoy?
  • Where would you like to travel, perhaps not far away, perhaps just there and back in one day?
All senses:

If the experiences appeal to several senses, this supports intensive memory: seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, tasting…. A beautiful location combined with a good meal or drink and good music is a “pearly” event for many people.

  • What does the place where you want to experience your pearl have to be like for it to look beautiful to you?
  • Pay attention to the noise, does it sound good to you or is there distracting background noise?
  • Would pleasant music complete the picture?
  • What can you do to activate your palate, your nose or your sense of touch?

The more emotional an experience, the more intense it remains in your mind. Most people’s eyes light up when they talk about how they got to know a person who is precious to them. Of course, you can’t fall in love all the time, but it’s important to be open to feelings and allow them to happen. Even if there is a risk that this could make us vulnerable. Feelings are the salt and pepper of life. Without these, life quickly becomes uniform.

  • What makes you happy so that you can shine?
  • What are you proud of? This can be a skill or talent that you have, but it can also be something that has come to you.
  • What are you grateful for?
  • What was given to you?

Direct your thoughts in these directions and notice what quality something needs to awaken these feelings in you. How can you actively produce this and incorporate it into your pearls?

Crossing self-imposed boundaries:

An experience can also become a pearl if I do something I’m a bit afraid of. Something that pushes me beyond my limits, something I’ve always avoided. Speaking in front of a large crowd, for example. Or go away for a weekend on your own. Or what it is for you that you know attracts you on the one hand, but that you also really respect on the other.

So far it all seems quite simple, you may think. Just sit down, plan a few pearls, work through them… and your life is fulfilled. However, it is not at all easy to change the way you have learned to deal with your time and your life over decades. But that would be another blog post…

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