by David Bohl
Earlier this month in my newsletter I touched upon the topic of creating a strategic plan for life – the way you alone want to live it. And although I’m in the business of helping people get more accomplished while improve their lives all around, I’ll be the first to admit that there is no “exact prescription” for a life in balance. Your formula for happiness and success will be as unique as your fingerprint, and will change over time.
That said, the ways in which we live our lives vary greatly from one individual to the next. So as I dispense this next bit of life coaching advice, I’d like for you to keep in mind that the suggestions are simply that – suggestions. The key here is to search for the nugget of truth and then spin it around your own circumstance, in such a way that it makes sense and holds value for you. Let’s call this your own variation on a work-life balance theme.
The nine major areas where you’ll want to begin reassessing your values are as follows…
When was the last time you assessed your family life – the relationships you share with your husband or wife and children, the activities you engage in together… your daily life, the amount of contact you have with each other? If it’s been a while and you’re ready for something new, take a good look at how you’re living: together, separately, and at the places where your lives overlap. What does the snapshot of your family life look like today? Is it different than what it was ten years ago? If so, it’s important to ask the question: has my life and the quality time I spend with my family changed to reflect the attitudes and values that I hold today? If not… what steps can I take to bring everything into balance?
Often, our careers take unexpected twists and turns over the course of our lives. Sometimes it’s due to circumstances beyond our control. Other times, we actively choose to nurture specific aspects of our careers and not others. Such changes can put us on an entirely different path than the one we originally intended for ourselves. Before you make a career move, get your bearings. Ask yourself: in terms of my profession, where am I right now? Where do I want to be headed tomorrow? In what areas can I afford to “give a little” in order to get a little, in terms of career development?
Finances are intertwined with every other facet of our lives. If you’re well-established, you probably know exactly which slots your income divides into each week, month, year… and you’re probably used to the lifestyle that goes along with that. Indeed, making a conscious effort to redistribute your income presents one of the biggest challenges of all. Both you and your family have grown accustomed to certain comforts and “perks”. And yet, if you want to make a change for the better, it pays to take a look at your financial situation with a fresh pair of eyes. What can you give up? Making sacrifices, devising new ways to cut corners, and redesigning a sound plan for the security of both you and your family are absolutely essential in attaining the balanced lifestyle you seek.
Going with the flow of a life in redevelopment means reassessing your relationships and the quality/amount of time spent with friends. Many people express dissatisfaction with a social life that seems to be based on shallow factors such as “status” or “obligation,” rather than genuine closeness and long-enduring friendship. Some feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of their social commitments. If this is the case in your life, what areas can you trim away to make room for the people and activities that you cherish the most?
Solitude can mean different things to different people. For a busy mom who’s balancing work and family, it can mean finding time for a 15-minute soak in the tub once a week. For someone who feels ill-fitted to their occupation, it can mean searching for a job that consists of fewer group projects, and more opportunities to work independently. Are you getting the amount of solitude that you require to feel at peace with yourself, quiet on the inside, able to handle what life throws you in a cool and confident manner? If not, what actions can you take to achieve more me-time?
Personal development refers to your growth as an individual – intellectual growth, emotional growth, spiritual growth. For many people with packed schedules, personal development gets pushed to the far-back burner. And yet, there may come a time when change is in the air and you’re craving some personal improvement. Maybe the kids are off to college, and more than just the nest has gone empty. Perhaps your husband or wife has embarked on a new endeavor that doesn’t involve you. Suddenly, there’s a void to fill. It’s time to ask: what doors are about to open for me in the area of self-improvement?
Leisure time may or may not overlap with other aspects of your life, such as time spent with friends and family, solitary time, or areas where you’re seeking personal development. No matter what the current picture of your “leisure time” looks like today, it’s worth posing the question: is this in line with my wishes and needs, for myself? Perhaps there’s something that you’ve always wanted to pursue, but “never had the time or the inclination.” Or, maybe leisure time has dropped to a low rung on the priority ladder due to pressing commitments – and that’s okay, if it suits your purpose in the now. It’s up to you to decide what activities you occupy your free hours with – so long as you’ve taken the proper care to ask the right question: what, if anything, do I want to do with my time?
As we grow older, health becomes more of a priority. We begin to experience the “err of our careless ways” from years of letting our bodies bear the brunt of hard living. We fail to get the right amount of exercise, miss out on needed rest, eat poorly, engage in unhealthy practices (smoking, drinking) and so forth. Many people find it especially challenging to alter habits that have become routine. And yet, making lifestyle changes that impact our health for the better is certainly an attainable goal. When was the last time you took a cold, hard look at the way you treat your body – the things you put in it? What slow but steady changes can you implement that will lead to a gradual improvement in your health and well-being?
Spirituality means different things to different people. For some, it may involve a return to ones chosen religion. For others, it’s more holistic and exploratory – a fusion of different faiths. Or, maybe spirituality is simply reflecting on what it means to be a decent person, how to best use your gifts as a force for good in society. Sometimes, there’s a realization that whatever you were doing before is actually way out of alignment with who you are. And if that’s the case, you must ask the question: how can I gradually ease my way into a new form of spirituality that works for me and for my family? If I’m met with skepticism or resistance along the way, what things can I do to assure people that I’m still the person who they think I am?
Are you ready to carve out the details of a life in balance – the kind of life that reflects your unique values and aspirations? It’s not something that happens overnight, but it does happen for those who persevere. Be patient, be persistent, and keep an open mind. Remain flexible and go with the flow. Once you’ve planted the seeds of change, you’ve taken the first step in cultivating an existence that feels right for you and you alone.