A few weeks ago, I talked about trying to find balance in life and how it’s never going to be possible. You’ll wind up driving yourself nuts while trying to find it. I know I’ve struggled with the internal argument that I’m just not good enough and I’m failing because I’m not able to do everything and balance everything. If you’re feeling this way, STOP. It is not possible for one person to achieve the perfect balance.
Since this earlier post, I’ve had several people reach out to me asking how I completed this. I actually wasn’t quite thrilled with the balance wheel that I used in my last post. I felt that there were a few areas of life that still needed to be addressed when talking about living a balanced life. For example, what about self-fulfillment, home, and passion? These are all areas that I feel we really should focus on in order to consider ourselves as a whole individual. I decided to create my own balance wheel and share with you how to perform this exercise. I also have a next step to this exercise that I will share later in this post.
My Life Balance Wheel has 12 spokes to it, each representing an area of our lives. These key areas of our lives are listed below, along with a brief description of each area:
- Spiritual: your spiritual connection with a higher power (whatever you believe or don’t believe in)
- Fitness: the physical activities you participate in
- Home: the environment that you live in
- Love & Relationships: the romantic relationships that you are a part of
- Self-fulfillment: what you are doing to make yourself happy
- Passion: the activities that you do/participate in that fuel your passion(s)
- Wealth & Finance: your financial outlook, stability, and planning
- Career/Study: what you do for a living or study in preparation for a career
- Family: all relationships with family members
- Health: your health – physical, mental, and emotional
- Service/Community: your interaction with the world and your community
- Social: your relationships with friends and social interactions/activities
Now that you have a basic idea of each area that you’ll be “rating” yourself on, it’s time to dive into the fun! But first, we have to do one preliminary step. I want you to take a deep breath. In fact, I want you to take a few deep breaths – in through your nose and out through your mouth. Gather your thoughts and your materials. All you really need is yourself, your Life Balance Wheel worksheet (balance-wheel), and something to color with.
Now that you have everything and you’ve centered yourself, you can begin. Start on whichever area that speaks to you first and ask yourself, “How balanced or satisfied do I feel in this area?” Don’t spend a lot of time really analyzing; give yourself 5-7 seconds and go with your gut reaction. Based on your thoughts, give yourself a score from 1-10 based on how balanced and satisfied you feel in that area. The higher the score, the more balanced you feel. Once you’ve decided on the ranking, color in that many sections for that area’s spoke. Repeat this for each of the 12 area spokes.
After you’ve completed the wheel, take a minute to review your life as it’s laid out before you, because that’s essentially what this is. It’s a snapshot of your life as you see it at this very moment. I’ve completed one of these wheels for the past 3 months and I can say that each month is different, even if it’s just one area. The overall goal is to get something that faintly resembles a circle or oval shape. As you can probably imagine, this isn’t usually the case and most certainly isn’t the way mine looked in any of the 3 months I’ve been completing them.
Remember, this is just a snapshot of your life at this moment. And as I’ve been saying, it isn’t possible for us to achieve absolute balance in all areas of our life. Based on the season of life that we’re in, we will fluctuate between which areas we feel more balanced in. If you’re being absolutely honest with yourself, you will have areas that are low – it’s natural. Remember, this is not a competition to see how many areas of your life can be ranked with a score of 10!
Ok, now that we’ve gotten that straight – let’s look at your wheel carefully. Look at the areas where you rated yourself with a 5 or below. Because our scale is based on scores of 1-10, a five means that you feel 50% or less balanced in this area. These are the areas that you may feel that you are lacking in and would like to grow in. On a separate piece of paper, write down the areas that you scored 5 or below.
Next, look at each of these areas and think of how we could increase the balance in this area. I hesitate to say the word “improve” because we don’t need to be better in any particular area. The goal of this exercise is to determine where you may feel un-balanced and work towards finding a more balanced and peaceful feeling. So, look at where you stand at this moment in each area and just write down something you can do to make yourself feel more satisfied in that area.
For example, I scored myself at a 5 or below in six key life areas. For each area, I wrote down something I felt would help me to increase my satisfaction in each area:
- Spiritual (score – 5): meditation; journaling
- Love & Relationships (score – 2): couples therapy; controlled communication with my husband
- Self-fulfillment (score – 4): continue blogging, reading, and running
- Passion (score – 5): continue blogging & reading
- Career (score – 3): continue exploring options for a new career path
- Service (score – 2): look for volunteer opportunities
Now, I want to take this exercise a step further. While it’s fantastic to feel very satisfied and balanced in some areas, we must realize that in order to feel more balanced in the lower-scored area, we’ll need to let some things go. Since it’s not possible to be fully balanced in all 12 areas, we need to understand what areas we could afford to lower our satisfaction in.
For example, I scored myself at an 8 in the area of fitness and 7 in the area of health. I know that in order to increase my satisfaction in the areas of career and spiritual, it will require me lowering some of my focus on my fitness. I spend at least 30 minutes a day (usually an hour if it’s a run day) working out. I workout and run every morning, which means I’m up around 5:15am. By the time I finish working out, I have about half an hour to shower and get ready before I have to make the hour commute to work. This leaves me zero time to work on improving my spiritual connection in the morning, but for me, that’s the best time of day to meditate. If I want to increase my balance with meditation I’m faced with a choice: wake up earlier, cut down on my workout time, or re-arrange my workout and meditation schedule. In any of these situations, I’m going to be lowering some area – whether it be sleep, working out, or another area of my life after work.
Now do you see what I mean about not being able to balance it ALL? I can’t stress it enough. Don’t be upset!! This is why we’re doing this exercise: to be able to realize what areas are important to us and what areas we can afford to lower our expectations in.
Now comes the second part of this exercise: the priorities and goals wheel! We’ve identified the areas that we want to improve in, along with something we can do to increase our satisfaction in each area. We’ve also identified the areas that we may need to lower our activities in order reach the necessary balance we crave.
First, we need to prioritize the areas of our life. Looking at the 12 areas, rank them in order of priority. For me, spiritual and career are the main areas that I feel very strongly about. So, they will be at the top of my list:
- Love & Relationships
- Wealth & Finance
Now, based on the first 9 areas that you have listed, we’re going to come up with a small goal to reach a better balance.
- Career: look into school options for continuing education
- Spiritual: meditating 2-3 days a week
- Love & Relationships: have open communication (phone calls, texts, emails) with my husband
- Fitness: develop a maintenance running program through Christmas (so I’m lowering my workout time 3-4 days a week)
- Self-fulfillment: read a personal development book
- Health: continue individual therapy for trama
- Passion: launch new blog and continue my blog
- Family: build a stronger relationship with my parents
- Service: volunteer somewhere during holiday season
As you can see from my example, these are small goals that can be achieved in a few months. I’ve set my goal deadline for the end of 2016, which means I have a little less than 8 weeks to work on these goals. The key here is to not overwhelm yourself. On a sheet of paper, write down each goal for the first 9 areas.
Now for the fun part – it’s time to create our own Life Balance Wheel of Goals. For this activity, you’ll need:
- Triangle shapes – I bought wooden chalkboard triangles that are part of a banner from Michael’s
- Chalk or chalk markers
- Your goals sheet from earlier
On each of your triangles, write the area name (ex. Spiritual) and write your goal (ex. meditate 2-3 days). Repeat this until all 9 triangles have your 9 areas of focus and goals. Now, lay the triangles out next to each other in order to form a pinwheel shape. Now you have your Life Balance Wheel of Goals!
Now, how do you keep yourself motivated to stay on track with accomplishing your goals? First and foremost, you have to keep the wheel where you can see it. I’m a firm believer in visual stimulus when it comes to working towards a goal. When you’re losing weight, putting up a photo of what you want to look like or a tally sheet to cross off the pounds as you lose them is extremely motivating. Depending on what’s best for you, you can choose a few different ways to display your wheel.
- You can take a picture of your wheel and save it to your phone’s background or screen saver, or load it as the desktop background on your computer.
- You can lay lay your wheel out on a table or counter where it won’t be disturbed and yet in a place that you’ll see it every day.
- You can put velcro on the back of each triangle and the corresponding Velcro on a board. Attach the triangles to the board and display it somewhere you can see every day.
Seriously, just find any place you can display your wheel of goals so you’ll see it every day.
Another great way to stay on track is to find an accountability partner. Find someone who you can share your goals with and check in with on a regular basis to keep you on track. For example, I have an accountability partner for my meditation and my personal development reading. Anytime that I meditate, we text one another with a simple “meditated today”. For my therapy sessions, I have an accountability partner in my therapist by showing up to the actual sessions. For my blogs, I have a daily reminder of something I should be working on, whether it be research or actual blogging. For my group blog, we have weekly Zoom calls to make sure we stay on track and reach our weekly goals. Having someone to check in with is extremely helpful to keeping yourself on track.
Finally, have a weekly check-in with yourself. That’s right – set up a mini meeting with you once a week to review your goals. I like to do mine on Monday morning, just so I can sett the tone for the week. If I notice an area that I’ve been neglecting, I can make a note to give that area a little extra focus for the next few days. This not only gives me a head start on the week, but it also allows me a chance to check in with my goals. Ultimately, we want to be self-motivated to accomplish these goals. We are the ones that want to accomplish more balance in our lives, so we need to hold ourselves accountable!
If you have any questions at all, I’m here to help! Good luck and don’t forget to have fun!!