So many of us these days are looking for balance in our lives. Balance seems akin to nirvana–a mystical realm we all seek but few know how to achieve. A place where all will be right with the world and our worries will cease to matter. If we find balance, we will be able to deal with all that life throws at us with grace and dignity, hardly ever missing a step.
Everyone has a different idea of what that balance would be in their own lives. However, if you ask someone what that balance would look like, or how it would feel to them, very few people are able to give a solid answer. There is normally a vague response about being happy and handling problems easily, but seldom is there a very clear answer of what a state of balance really is.
This is the basic flaw most of us face when we are searching for this elusive state. We have no clear idea of what we are looking for or trying to create. And we do have to create it because balance is not just out there waiting to be found. In fact, it is like any other goal we design for ourselves. In order to achieve a goal–any goal–we have to know where we are trying to go. Otherwise, it will be much more difficult to plot a course to reach the destination.
If one of your resolutions for the new year is to create a more balanced life, I have a question for you. What do you mean? What does a balanced life look like? Some people say they want to give equal time to their personal and professional lives. That’s a nice idea, but frankly, you would setting yourself up for failure if that is your goal. In today’s world, it is very rare to be able to divide our time equally between work and play. Not to mention all the subsets of those two categories. Do you honestly feel like you finish each day with a clean slate, each task ticked off, labeled and filed away? Most likely not, or you wouldn’t be reading this.
In my last article, I described my idea of a balanced life as a body in motion, supported by two roughly equal legs. Here is a way to decide if your legs are balanced and equal enough to get you where you want to go.
Start with the basics. Take some time and look at all the roles you play during a given time. Write them all down. We all have a myriad of roles, from boss to father or grandfather, son, caregiver, charity worker, line worker–well, the list goes on and on, and again, is different for all of us. Generally, most people find they have somewhere between 15 and 25 roles they play on a regular basis.
The next step is to rank all of the roles that you have listed. This is crucial, because it is here you decide what is important to you. The thing to remember is that there are no right or wrong answers. You have the power to choose where you want to put your energy.
Now take a look at the top seven. Why seven? Simply put, you can expect to perform up to seven roles well in any given day. Even this can be too many for some people, if they are completely honest with themselves. I limit myself to six since the average number of roles a person can focus on ranges between five and seven.
The roles you choose should fall into two broad categories–personal and professional. In a perfect world you would see the same number of roles in each category, so your legs would be of equal length. Unfortunately, many of us find the deck is stacked more in one direction than the other. Most people tend to have more professional roles in their top six simply because that is the area that takes up the most time. If personal roles make the cut, they usually fall toward the bottom.
The next step is to examine your list. Do you give equal time to your work and your personal life, or is it relegated to only a minor role? Perhaps you only have two roles listed in your personal life, but they are in the top two spots with professional roles filling in the remainder. This may seem uneven, but the balance is roughly equal since the importance given to each diminishes as you go down the list.
If you feel your life is unbalanced, look at your list. Are you focusing your time and energy in areas that are most important to you? For most of us, that is what balance is all about. When we don’t give our attention to things that matter the most to us, we feel uneven and unsatisfied.
In my next article, I will discuss ways to create a more satisfying and equal blend between work and personal roles.