Soft skills & personality
What makes “life balance” so difficult – and how you can achieve it

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What makes “life balance” so difficult – and how you can still achieve it

We all want to achieve life balance and lead a fulfilled life – a life that includes success and enjoyment at work as well as a happy private life. But what sounds so simple is unfortunately not easy to put into practice.

But what makes it so difficult for us to stay on track, set the right priorities and take care of ourselves? In this article, we take a look at what drives us, what gets in the way of our life balance and what we can do to avoid falling into our own trap.

  1. The hunt for the “I-am-ok” feeling – or the fear of “not being ok”.
  2. Serotonin levels and how to build them up
  3. Looking fear in the eye
  4. The hunt for the unattainable goal
  5. Guide to “being burnt out”


The hunt for the “I-am-ok” feeling

Everyone has a deep need to feel “ok” and to be accepted with their whole person, just as they are. This gives us a feeling of security and inner safety. We feel successful and lovable.
From birth, a child senses that it is vital to be loved and accepted. When parents are in contact with their child, when they smile at it, when they care for it, feed it, comfort it, are loving, then all is right with the world for the child and it feels safe and lovable.
If the parents withdraw contact or even scold the child, become loud or impatient and show that they are not happy with the child, this creates a feeling of lack and insecurity in the child. It no longer feels ok. This is an existential feeling for the child. Putting the love of your loved ones at risk feels life-threatening. Perhaps the child shows its lack by crying or by defiance, by annoying behavior or simply by obeying in the end. Particularly in the long term, a child will adapt in many ways to what their parents consciously or unconsciously expect of them.

So all our efforts are geared towards making ourselves feel ok. We are getting older and our caregivers are changing. At some point, it is usually no longer the parents whose recognition and attention we strive for. Maybe it’s our clique that defines what’s ok when we’re young. Maybe it’s the cool soccer coach or the math teacher.
Later on, it will certainly be the boss or colleagues, customers or our partner that we want to please and whose expectations we want to fulfill in order to feel accepted.

You can always find someone to compare yourself to and feel bad afterwards.
Most people also have a whole series of inner rules and demands that they use to make things difficult for themselves. And only when all of this is fulfilled does the “I’m ok feeling” arise.

life-balanceDo you also know this phenomenon? You can always find someone to compare yourself to and feel bad afterwards. A young female executive and mother once said to me:

“Professionally, I compare myself to male colleagues in my field who don’t have children and whose careers have progressed much further than mine. As a mother, I compare myself to the housewives in our street who pick their child up from nursery every lunchtime at 12:00 and then serve them home-made organic spelt porridge with a freshly pureed carrot and melon shake. These mothers’ front gardens are beautifully landscaped, their socks are ironed and their windows are cleaned every week. They always have freshly baked cake ready (carrot-banana with wholemeal flour) and look up disapprovingly when you rush home at five o’clock with your child who has just been picked up. However, I compare my body to that of the 25-year-old student, single, who spends every day in the gym.”

The “I am NOT OK” feeling lurks

So the “I’m NOT OK” feeling is always lying in wait. There are constant attacks on our self-worth.
And once we get to that point and feel “NOT OK”, our subconscious does everything it can to get back to that good “I’m OK” feeling. The boss looks impatient? We are hurrying. The customer writes an email? We answer immediately. The subconscious ensures that we do not say “no”, but fulfill the expectations of others. That we deliver perfectionism in detail. Because otherwise the “NOT OK” feeling has too great a chance of tipping us over into the existentially threatening bad state.

The effect of this striving for confirmation and acceptance from the outside is devastating. It’s a vicious circle. We don’t say “no”, we don’t look after ourselves, we don’t make sure that we are in balance because we might have to expect reprimands or criticism from outside. Instead, we work and toil to please and live up to our standards. This leads to a life in a tense state, under stress, always looking for the next success that will lead to recognition again. A condition that has a negative impact on our state of mind and our self-esteem. This in turn reinforces the need for recognition and thus reinforces the vicious circle.

Essential for life balance: the serotonin level

To understand the background to this cycle, let’s take a detour into the world of biochemistry:
The function of the neurotransmitter serotonin

Serotonin levels are an important influence on our self-esteem and serenity. When there is a high concentration of this neurotransmitter between the synapses in our brain, we are relaxed, feel good and attractive, strong and successful.

Quote Wikipedia:

“One of the best-known effects of serotonin on the central nervous system is its impact on mood. It gives us a feeling of serenity, inner peace and contentment. At the same time, it dampens a whole range of different emotional states, in particular feelings of anxiety, aggression, grief and hunger.”

Serotonin always increases during periods of rest when we are not brooding and concentrating, but are relaxed in the here and now. When we feel close to someone or to ourselves, when we go for a walk, relax and read a book or simply think about nothing in a relaxed way, our serotonin levels build up.

If we think about a goal, if we are focused, perhaps even under time pressure, it decreases. Serotonin levels rise and fall very slowly. Many people are familiar with the situation: we go on vacation and only after a few days do we feel like we’ve returned home. This is the time it takes for serotonin levels to stabilize to some extent after a period of stress. On the other hand, we also know that we don’t let stressful situations get to us so quickly straight after a vacation and we deal with them in a much more relaxed way. It therefore takes some time for the replenished serotonin levels to decrease again.

And what are the consequences of low serotonin levels?

No serenity. No self-confidence. No security. On the contrary: we are worried, we ponder. We are worried about not being good enough. We worry about what will happen if we fail, if we don’t manage to meet all expectations. Will we keep our job? What happens if not?
And it is these musings that reinforce the negative effect. They work in exactly the opposite direction: we once again increase our efforts to fulfill the expectations we have of ourselves and our environment.

You can also find a good article on the subject of “serotonin” here (from the company Primal State GmbH)

The path to life balance:
How you can rebuild your serotonin levels

The key opportunity we have to escape this cycle is as follows:
Build up your serotonin levels and ensure that you feel confident from the inside out and become less dependent on what others think about you.
A high serotonin level leads to feelings of self-confidence and serenity and to thoughts such as “I am good, they need me!” and “Everything is not as hot as it is cooked”. Such an attitude in turn leads to relaxed behavior, clearer priorities, more saying no and more time for yourself. And thus again to a high serotonin level, which in turn… etc.

So it’s best to take a vacation. For at least 18 days, your serotonin levels will be fully replenished. Provided you have managed to keep the work out of your head.
And after your vacation, make sure you have times each day when you replenish what serotonin you have used up.


  • A high serotonin level ensures serenity
  • Serenity helps you to set boundaries.
  • If you don’t set boundaries, you don’t give yourself room to replenish your serotonin levels. A vicious circle!!!

A good, relaxed state must have absolute priority in your daily, weekly, annual and life planning! Only then will you be in a position to make the right decisions!

Looking fear in the eye

“You gain self-confidence by doing exactly what you are afraid of and in this way gaining a series of successful experiences.”
Dale Carnegy

It is usually fears that prevent us from doing the right thing. And by “the right thing” I mean what is good for us, what makes sense or what brings us closer to our secret desires.

A funny thing about fears is that they feel bigger and more dangerous as long as we are not fully aware of them, but allow our subconscious to unconsciously control us based on our fears. If these thoughts were made transparent and brought to consciousness, they would read as follows, for example:
“If I go out with friends once a week even though I’m already working so much, my partner will leave me.” or “If I don’t complete this task on time, I’ll lose my job.”
It is equally clear that most of the feared consequences are greatly exaggerated by the subconscious. What is perhaps more realistic is that your wife/husband gets annoyed from time to time and there is stress at home. And he/she will probably get used to it sooner or later if you give good reasons for your decision and then remain calm and clear about doing something that is good for you. Your boss may also be annoyed, but won’t immediately throw you out because you didn’t complete a task within the short deadline.

A technique that – according to Dale Carnegy – frees you to make the right decisions:


  1. Analyze your worries: What is – REALISTICALLY CONSIDERED – the worst thing that can happen if you do what is “right” instead of fulfilling exaggerated expectations and demands?
  2. Come to terms with this “worst case”, i.e. develop a plan B for how you would deal with these negative consequences if they were to occur. This Plan B should be detailed and designed in such a way that you feel you will be able to deal with the situation if it occurs.
  3. If you have this, you are free inside to decide what is right and to implement it. Because you know you will be able to live with all the consequences.


The hunt for the unattainable goal

When we think of “life balance”, what we want most of all is to continue doing and achieving everything we have done and achieved so far, while at the same time having more time for ourselves and more balance.
We want to maintain our ambition to fulfill all the expectations of our environment, to complete all tasks, to answer every email, to achieve all targets, to complete all tasks in perfect quality, to do everything on our own, not to say “no”…

…and at the same time we want to do more sport, relax more, spend more time with our partner, spend more time with our children, see our friends more often, enjoy wonderful experiences, travel, relax, enjoy quality of life.
We want more time for something without wanting to give up time somewhere. But that is an unrealistic goal!

It doesn’t work. We can’t have everything!

And as understandable as it is and as nice as it would be to have everything, and as understandable and commendable as it is that we would like to have everything – it simply isn’t possible.
We cannot achieve the dream goal of fulfilling all expectations and being in balance at the same time. Realistically, there can only be second-best alternatives.


1. second best alternative :

You fulfill all expectations, your own and those of others, but you are completely exhausted.
You rush through your life, enjoyment and joie de vivre do not happen. Health problems become apparent well before retirement.


2. second best alternative :

You opt for balance, act according to your own priorities and accept the conflicts that arise from not meeting all expectations.
You won’t be loved by everyone, but since you’ll have a high serotonin level because you take the time to keep it topped up, it won’t matter. You are still doing well.

What do you choose?



Guide to “being burnt out”

To demonstrate to you how internal processes work and that it takes active action to be unhealthy, in this section we present what you have to do to be really burnt out:

No matter what your present looks like, if you are happy with it and enjoy what you have, you will never burn out. Even if you work 14 hours a day and work through the weekend without compensation, it’s not enough for a burn-out if you think it’s okay to work so long and are still satisfied with the result.
You won’t become dissatisfied and stressed if you accept the situation as it is. Even if you were to work 14 hours a day, this would not automatically lead to you being stressed.

If you want to feel really bad, you can do the following:

  1. Place a TARGET state next to the ACTUAL state in your mind that is as far removed from the ACTUAL state as possible: only when you assign an attractive TARGET state to the current situation (ACTUAL situation) that you are striving for and that is as far removed from the current ACTUAL state as possible will it even be possible for you to be stressed.
    Example of possible TARGETs for 14 hours of work:
    – I should be able to do the same in much less time!
    – I should be able to do more in 14 hours!
    – I should be at home with my wife / my husband / my child!
    – Customers should not have to wait!
    – The phone should not ring all the time!
    – I should get more done, even if the phone keeps ringing!
  2. You should make the TARGET as positive and successful as possible and keep it constantly in mind. And then you should suffer from not achieving it.
  3. In order to generate the effect of being “burnt out”, it is helpful to blame yourself for not achieving the TARGET. Terms such as “failure”, “not good enough…” are good at this point An intense feeling of “I am NOT OK” when thinking about this discrepancy between TARGET and ACTUAL reinforces the effect.
  4. At the same time, it is important to realize that you yourself do not believe that the TARGET is achievable for you. Perhaps because the goal is too high, you don’t have the necessary resources, there are obstacles in your environment that you can’t overcome yourself, etc. The perceived helplessness in terms of achieving the desired state reinforces the feeling of being “burnt out”. The “failure” feeling should nevertheless remain.
  5. And as a final point, although you feel that the TARGET is unattainable, you should absolutely hold on to it and find it impossible not to continue striving for the TARGET. Because if you lowered your expectations and were satisfied with less, you would not be able to burn out.

As you can see, much of the tension and pressure we carry around with us is homemade. If we become aware of our fears and the reasons why we are so relentlessly pushing our own buttons, if we become aware of the adjustments we can make and the extent to which we can change them, then we will be able to lead a more balanced life. We wish you lots of fun and a high serotonin level.

Are you interested in the topic of life balance? Then contact us!

The authors

Oliver Grätsch
Michelle 550
Michelle Templin
Christian Grätsch
Matthias Beikert
Susanne Grätsch
Monika Bt 550x550
Monika Steininger
Kai Hübner
Philipp Andresen 500x550
Philipp Andresen
Anna Isabell Arendt
Dr. Claudia Schmidt
Inga Kühn
Kassandra Knebel
Claudia Lehmann
Komplettes Team

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