Pushing the Edge of Life Balance

by David Bohl

In this article, we’re going to push the edge of the envelope. I’m going to challenge you all to take hard looks at your lives as they are today – the internal and external factors.

So let me ask you … do you really feel fulfilled with your current career path?

Are you happy? Are your personal and professional lives everything you want them to be? No? Then you need a life plan that clarifies your priorities and creates goals that match your priorities.

Keeping up with the Johnstons

Mary Johnston teaches elementary school. Her husband, Travis, is a project manager with a high-tech firm. His job requires him to stay until things get done. He’s also called on to escort clients to local restaurants and to attend trade shows.

All of this means that Travis isn’t home much.

And that gets to Mary. After knocking herself out to make really nice dinners that Travis was never home to eat, Mary started to plan around Travis not being home at night.

She joined in with friends to go see movies, or dine out, and she ended up belonging to three different book clubs.

On the rare occasions when Travis was able to bust loose and come home early, he expected to be rewarded by being greeted with open arms…not an empty house with a sticky note on the refrigerator saying she’d be home later. It made him mad…and Mary was already way past mad.

Sitting down and talking it out

Something had to give, so finally Mary and Travis sat down and talked it out. They were very honest about what they wanted from life, and what they wanted from their careers.

Although they wanted to have more time—and especially dinners—together, they concluded that they’d have to sacrifice too much. First, they wanted to get out of debt, pay off their mortgage and cars, and build up true financial security.

Just talking it out really helped. Now Travis isn’t mad, and Mary is much calmer. She doesn’t get upset when he’s not home for dinner, and he understands that if he wants her to be there when he’s able to get away early, he should call and give her a heads-up.

Sacrifices that both of them were previously making are now conscious choices, so it’s easier on both of them. Resentment has melted away, replaced by a feeling of “I’m doing this because I decided to do it.

About your life and your career

Now it’s your turn to ask yourself what you want out of your life and your career. Your first impulse is probably: “success” and “happiness,” but those are very vague, good-sounding words. We need to get more specific.

How can you determine your specific life and career goals? Block out some time when you can brainstorm undisturbed, grab a pad and a pen, and spend some time alone writing down all the “wild blue yonder” stuff you want for your life and career.

Your “wants”

Write down your wants—any and all of the specific goals and dreams you have for your life and your career. Want to be the boss and have a staff at your beck and call? Put it down on the pad.

Or do you want to run a home-based business so you can home school your kids? Write it down. Your want might even be the world’s largest beer can or baseball card collection. Go ahead—write it down.

Your “must haves”

These are the non-negotiable goals and dreams you must have to be happy and succeed. Which goals are most important—the ones you’ve just gotta have? What are you willing to give up to get there?

This is an exercise in clarity because it will give you a good idea of what’s really important to you. Once you know what’s most important to you and what you’re willing to sacrifice for it, you’re in a position to go get it.

Keeping goals flexible

People’s priorities change throughout life. At 16, your priority might have been to have the biggest, baddest muscle car around. At 46, it might be to have the biggest, baddest 401k balance.

Of course, your priorities won’t remain the same as you move through life. When you hit a turning point such as a possible job or location change, get your pad and pen and do the exercise again.

Better yet, sit down and re-list your priorities at regular intervals like the beginning of every year. This beats New Year’s resolutions—and it keeps your eye on the ball.

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