In my previous blog post, I wrote about focus, about how easy it is to get distracted, and about how we can maintain our sense of balance. The second most frequent question I hear from my clients is, “How do I get balance in my life?” It’s amazing to me, because we hear a lot about that. Maintaining work/life balance used to be the hot catchphrase. What’s interesting is that we talk about balance as if it’s some elusive, far-out goal that we simply pay lip service to. I want you to throw that idea out the window right now, because I really believe that we can attain and maintain balance in our lives fairly easily. You just have to chunk it down a little bit.
Think about it like this: Consider something you’re passionate about—and I mean something you’re really passionate about, not something superficial like, “Oh yeah, I like my next-door neighbor.” No, I want you to think about something you’re truly passionate about. Perhaps that’s your family, your work, or even your workout regimen—just think about what really matters to you, something you truly and sincerely care about with all your heart. And then, ask yourself this: How do you feel when you think about that thing? What are your emotions? What’s different in your physical body, and where’s your energy level, when you think about your passion? I suspect you’ll find that your emotions are intensified and that your energy spikes. If we’re able to transfer that same passion to the idea of having a healthy and balanced lifestyle, then the sky’s the limit.
Over the years, my passion about balance has grown so much that I really want the people I love and care about to also have that balance. Let me tell you why. It’s because I experienced true burnout. I used to poo poo all those people that said they were getting burnout, because I was like the Energizer Bunny. In fact, that’s what they called me; my team at Microsoft called me that because I would just go, go, and go. I just never seemed to need any time off to recharge. The problem with that was that I pushed myself beyond a sustainable threshold. I worked for Microsoft, the biggest software company in the world, and I had General Motors as my client at the time. I was surrounded by very driven people in a very competitive environment. So, I just pushed myself as hard as I could, and I was able to keep it up for a while—until I couldn’t anymore. I reached a point of complete burnout. And it took me two and a half years to overcome that and bounce back.
Think about it: What is balance? What does that phrase mean? And isn’t it a lot to ask of a person, to try to attain balance in their life and to try and avoid burnout? Right now, you’re probably saying something to yourself like, “Well, that’s easy for her to say but it’s not so easy for me to do.” Well, I just simply don’t buy into that way of thinking. I think you can do it. I think if you’re passionate enough about having balance in your life, then you can do it.
Think about this: How much energy do we put into our professional lives? I would dare to say, for most small business owners, and even most people in the corporate world that really want to move up, the answer is “a ton.” But when you pour so much time and energy into your career or business, you often sacrifice in other important areas of your life to achieve your professional goals.
Life is always a balance. For example, I have a client who worked for Disney. He was struggling because he had been at the company for quite a number of years, and most people who had spent the same amount of time there were well on their way to a senior vice president position. He was still a senior director. And he got asked this question all the time: “Why are you still a senior director?” So, we did a lot of really positive work around that because he needed to understand that to become a VP he was going to have to give up the lifestyle that he was leading. And you know what he decided? He decided he didn’t want to give up his lifestyle. He was happy just being a senior director. And that’s OK, because he was able to then expend the right amount of energy in other areas of his life in a way that was sustainable, and, you guessed it—balanced.
Think about that, and believe me—we put our energy into our passions, whether we’re conscious of it or not. The goal should be to build some passion around each area of our lives, so that we enjoy health, happiness, and wealth in each of those areas. Now, I’m not suggesting we need to have the same level of intensity and passion in each and every area of our lives, because that would just completely drain us. However, I am suggesting that we can spend a little time every week on each area of our lives; if we do that in a planned and intentional way, before we know it we’re going to be much more balanced than when we started. You might be asking, though, “Well, what’s in it for me?” The answer is that the benefits of creating this kind of balance are tremendous, but the specific results will look different for each of us because we all have unique gifts, talents, passions, and skill levels.
How Do I Get Balance In My Life?
No two people will or should have the same plan for balance. What I do want you to do, however, is to have fun creating a plan that’s uniquely yours. After all, remember—you’re worth it. Once you spend some time on creating and attaining balance, you’re going to find that it’s actually fun, and that small changes can have a massive impact on your quality of life. Remember, the one thing that we will all have in common, after just a little work, is a fulfilled and full lifestyle that other people will envy. But first, we just need to know our starting point and where we stand right now with regards to a balanced life. So, take a look at how balanced you are. Take a few minutes to complete the following exercise (and I suggest you print it out and date it). Keep it for future reference, and use it to track your progress. Complete this exercise on a quarterly basis, because you’re going to be amazed by your progress.
Let me quickly walk you through this. The ten columns below represent the ten most important areas of your life. They may be a little bit vague, but that’s okay. You decide what the definitions of each of these are, and we’re going to talk through these just a little bit. But, this exercise is designed to give you more clarity about how satisfied you really are in each part of your life—right now, in this moment. You’ll use your information to think about areas of potential change, and then, if you were in one of my mastermind groups, we would talk about and support you in making changes in the areas that need to change. And then we’d also support you to continue to be strong in the areas that work well for you.
Rank each pillar of life from 0 to 10, where 10 is the “most satisfied” and 0 is “least satisfied.” Write the number in each column, and then draw a horizontal line across the column to represent your level of satisfaction or fulfillment.
Take a few minutes and rate each pillar of life from zero to ten, where ten is the most satisfied and zero is the least satisfied. You’re not going to have all zeroes, and you’re not going to have all tens. In each column, write the number that correlates to what you think your balance is. Examples might be professional, financial, fun, play and creativity. I mean, you get the idea, right? Map out whatever areas you deem most important in your life. Once you’ve rated each column, you want to draw a horizontal line across the column from one point to the next to create a horizontal graph of where you are—this graph represents your level of satisfaction or fulfillment. And then, once you’ve done that, print it out and date it. And then save it. And then do this exercise again in about 90 days.
Let’s talk about each of these areas, because some people get a little crazy when thinking about this. The professional part of our lives is usually at one extreme or the other; we either spend way too much time working and way too little time in other areas of our lives, or our careers suffer because we pay too much attention to the other areas of our lives. So, let’s just take a quick look at why this is happening. As you’re completing the exercise, ask yourself some tough questions and try to make some honest evaluations. Try to determine why your life is currently organized in this way. This is important because you can take many different approaches to creating meaningful balance, and these approaches may hold varying degrees of importance for each of us. Ask yourself, “How much time and energy am I putting into my profession?” This question seems simple on the surface, but the answers can be truly telling if you’re honest with yourself. So, really take some time to contemplate this.
What areas of your professional life are working? What areas are not working? Again, be really honest; answer these questions honestly and seriously. The answers to these questions may seem easy, but you know what? They’re not. Then, think about what areas need improvement. Maybe you need a change in attitude, or maybe you need some training, or maybe it’s environmental. Don’t leave out any areas of importance to further your career. Then, what about your financial satisfaction? For me, I always think about this because people will tell me, “Oh yeah, I want to make a million dollars.” OK, great. Well, that is not a financial goal. It’s also probably not quickly achievable for most people. It is achievable if you have a plan and you sit down and you think about it, however.
Think about how much time and energy you put into worrying about your finances. How much time and energy are you putting into taking care of your financial well-being so that you’re investing what money you do have properly? How much time are you working on the actual things in your life that generate income? Because that’s where I find we usually stumble in the financial area—we spend a lot of time focusing on areas in our work life that may not actually generate income. They’re busy work. They’re fluff. My challenge to you is this: When you think about your financial situation, think about your short-term and long-term financial goals. Think about how much money you want to make, and by when. And think about what your plan is to achieve those goals. If you don’t have a plan, that’s a problem. If you’re able to do this honestly and thoughtfully, then you’ll in turn be able to determine how much focus achieving your goals will require. That will allow you to create balance, because you’ll be working towards your goals a little bit every day and, in the long run, making huge strides.
Now, think about the physical side of things. What parts of your physicality need some focus or balance? Or, maybe you’re on the opposite side—maybe you’re a workout maven, and you just workout all the time, four or five hours a day. Well if that’s the case, then you’re giving up something in another area of your life. So, think about your physical side. Ask yourself, “What is it that I would like my physical being to be like?” It’s not just a question of exterior looks, but also one about how healthy you want to be internally. Are you having any health issues? And if you are, what are you going to do about them? It’s not just physically exercising that I’m talking about. You really need to look at your physical self and take care of your body. Your body is your temple, as the saying goes, so you need to really ask yourself, “Am I spending enough time to eat right? Do I have a healthy diet, or am I eating fast and processed food all the time and loading up on salt, sugar, and fat?” Or, conversely, are you on the other side of the spectrum? Perhaps you’re not eating enough, or maybe you’re working out too much. You get the point, right?
The spiritual aspect of our lives is very important, too. I’m not going to spend a lot of time on that topic, because I think each of us knows our own spiritually, where we stand with it, and what needs to be done to feel satisfied with it. Studies show that people who are strong in their spiritual lives, regardless of what they specifically believe, tend to lead more fulfilling lives and are happier and more satisfied overall. And don’t forget social support—you really need good social support. Do you have friends that support you in whatever it is that you’re endeavoring to do? In your financial life? In your physical life? In your professional life, do you have that social support system, and are you doing things socially to maintain that balance? Then, of course, comes intimacy; a lot of people think that simply means intimacy with your spouse or partner, but that’s not true at all.
I have some very dear women friends that I have a high level of intimacy with because I can talk to them about things in specific and sensitive detail. For instance, one of my friends and I often talk about our financial lives. She gives me good guidance and is my accountability partner to make sure that I’m really working on that area. I have another friend who I go to the gym with, and we hold each other accountable in our physical lives. In fact, we’re extremely intimate about that; we know what the other person weighs; we know what we’re eating. We really just hold each other accountable. So, intimacy is not only something people need with their romantic partners, but something they need in other areas of their lives as well.
Now, think about your family. Are you neglecting your family, or are you spending a lot of time with your family and maybe other areas of your life are suffering because of that? Thinking about learning or growth; now, I’m a lifelong learner and I know that about myself. When I do the Strength Finders test, that always comes up as one of mine. It’s because I committed to being a lifelong learner a long time ago, and I think that fact is because I’m a big Tony Robbins fan. In his book Unleash the Giant Within, he talks about never-ending and constant improvement. And I really have tried to embrace that idea. It’s not only reading books. You also have to look inside yourself, and think about the growth that needs to take place inside yourself, because all change starts from within. So, what are you doing there, in that area of your life, to learn or grow?
And then, this next-to-the-last one is so very important. I’m not going to talk a lot about it, because I can’t define what play, fun, and creativity look like for you. But let me just tell you that if you have no fun in your life, if there’s no creativity in your life, and if you’re not playing just a little bit, then you’re leading a miserable life. I have two nephews, ages five and nine, and let me just tell you that they keep me balanced because they force me to play. We play Xbox, we ride bikes, we do all kinds of things when they’re here. They’re at my house probably a couple of times a month, and I’m so grateful to have that time with them because I’m satisfying part of my goals for family balance while they keep me thinking about fun and playing. And to be honest, I have to really be creative to keep engaged!
So, make sure that you’re including those important things in your plan for balance. And then—I talked a little bit about this in my post about focus—make sure your home office environment is a good space for you. You should feel passionate about that and you should feel that it’s conducive to your lifestyle. Is your home cluttered? When you walk in, are you like, “Ugh, I can’t stand this?” Or do you not even want to go in? On the other hand, is your home spotless to a flaw? Are you obsessive to the point that you can’t tolerate a single speck of dust on the floor? I mean, I know I’m exaggerating. But make sure that your environment, in general, is balanced and makes you feel good. Because that’s where you’re spending your time—at your home and in your office environment.
Think about this as you go through your day. I want you to really spend some time and answer these questions honestly. And then, make a plan. If you have to write it out, write it out. Or, if you have to put it on a calendar, block out time on your calendar to make sure you’re focusing—even if it’s just for 30 minutes, on each area of your life over the next 30, 60, and 90 days. And then, do this exercise again in 90 days. You’re going to be amazed.
I have some slots open for coaching in both my individual coaching and group coaching sessions. As always I offer a FREE 60 minute coaching session so that you can see if coaching can benefit you. If you are interested, go to my online calendar and choose the date and time that works best for you. Once you have done that, both of us will receive an email invite with the JoinMe conference call details included in it. That’s how easy it is! So go do it now before all the slots are taken!