This month on North By Northwest on CBC Radio One, I talked about balance and the myth of living a balanced life. If you want to learn more about it and also find the Wheel of Life tool, read on.
Let’s talk about that elusive holy grail of the working life – balance. I know you want it and I’ve got a simple set of 4 steps that can get you on the path to a more satisfying and ‘balanced’ life. All you need is a pencil, a piece of paper and 10 minutes. Ready?
Photo courtesy of viewminder
Step One: The Selfie of your life- The Wheel
You will begin by taking a selfie of your life today. Take a look at the wheel below and draw one on your paper ( or print it off here) . Each wedge represents a part of your life. Get your pencil and start rating your level of satisfaction, on a scale of 1 to 10 with 0 in the center being miserable and 10 at the outside edge representing ‘ it couldn’t be better!”
If this was a wheel on a car, how’s the ride?
Now that you can see plainly your hopelessly unbalanced wheel, pour yourself a drink and celebrate! Congratulations! You are like everyone else. You’re living a messy, complicated, seemingly unbalanced life.
This is a basic snap shot of how your life ‘feels’ right now. What do you see? Some high numbers, some low. Let me clear one myth up right away- Balance isn’t about all these being ten’s. It’s a about feeling satisfied. You will feel your life is balanced when you are living what matters most to you.
“I can’t get no satisfaction”
Why is it so hard to be satisfied? Because we want it all and we want it now. But take a look at that wheel. In what universe could you be living all of these things as a 10? There aren’t enough hours in a day. Tens across the board, balance as it is sold to us, is impossible.
Step Two: What really matters?
The good news is not all those pieces in the pie are of equal importance to you. And what is important today may not be in five years. The order in which we prioritize these wedges is actually very fluid.
Balance is often defined as ‘an even distribution’, which is possible if you are buying dried goods at the Bulk Barn, but not in your life. The definition I’m using is “ a condition in which elements are in the correct proportions”
Time to figure it out. Grab that pencil and paper again.
To discover the correct proportions for you means that you need answer this question: What really matters? Read the list carefully.
- Family/friends-you can sub-divide this into two.
- Romance-if you aren’t in a relationship, are you okay with that, or open to one?
- Spiritual/personal growth
- Physical environment- where you live, may include the city
- Fun and Recreation
Write out a list with the wedges from the wheel (listed above) and put them in the order you are living them NOW. What is getting all your time? That’s how we actually say what’s important.
After you finish that, get up, look out a window, take a deep breath and come back. Now, write down another list beside that first list. Put down these same ideas in the order you ideally would like to live them. If life were exactly how you wanted it, what would be in the number one spot? What matters the most to you? What would make you feel the most satisfied?
Compare your lists. If you are unhappy right now, you will probably see that these two lists aren’t matching up. What is fundamentally important to you might be second, third or even lower. No wonder you feel life is unbalanced and unhappy. The more these lists match, the more satisfied and balanced you probably feel
Step Three: Beginning to Balance
Write it down, but before we make an action plan, remember this:
Photo courtesy Colin Harris
Step Four: Forgiveness and kindness
Don’t start using this list as a way to beat yourself up. Or start to panic about a wedge you know is important, but that you feel helpless to change. Some classic wheel wedges that aren’t so easy to change are money, romance and health. We can face challenges in these wedges that are not in our control.
If you are in school, then making money can’t be number one. If you’re a parent of a young child, then this isn’t the time to backpack around Europe as a freelance photographer perhaps.
Give yourself the gift of peace. Accept where you are and stroke things like this off the list for now.
Step Four: Yes and No
Now that you know what wedge you need to embrace to create balance and satisfaction it’s time to start practicing saying Yes and No. Yes to what supports this change, and No to what doesn’t.
For this list you need to columns. The first is for what you will ‘do’. If you want to increase your satisfaction in fun and recreation, then you will need to say “Yes” to hiking maybe and joining a new group and No to another Netflix marathon.
The second list is the most fun one. Who will you ‘be’. What part of you needs to start showing up if you are going to change the balance of your life? Perhaps you will be saying Yes to being brave about trying that Zumba class and No to the voice that says you were always a terrible dancer.
Balance will be achieved when you are living life’s many components in the order that speaks to you. Start naming and claiming and living what matters to you. It’s that easy, and now is a great time to start.
If you feel inspired to explore this with some assistance, I have a special offer for November. Click here to learn more.