There are some activities I facilitate that people enjoy, find interesting, and even respond to with such levels of increased self-awareness that their relationships and careers can be transformed. However, I doubt I have any activities that have been more impactful than those outlined in chapters 9, 10, and 11 in my book. This is the work that has changed thousands of lives. Just two weeks ago I had someone approach me with tears in her eyes recalling the time years ago when she was in my college course. I facilitated this wheel of life activity and she realized she was not satisfied in any area of her life.
I encouraged her to go home and talk with her husband. I suggested they both work this activity and come up with individual plans as well as a plan as a couple. When she talked with me recently, she was living in a new home she loves and has redirected her career. This is just one of many stories I can share with you based in 15 years of training this content.
This chapter is jammed packed with value: situation examples, resources, questions, coaching, and guidance. I am only sharing a portion of the chapter here to keep this article on the shorter side. I didn’t invent the Wheel of Life perspective: I adapted it from ancient wisdom principles. However, my presentation of the concept resonates with people of all ages and points in their career.
Balance: an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady. Stability of one’s mind or feelings. A condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.
This concept is sometimes referred to as you “life score” by other trainers.
Balancing your life is a VERY PRACTICAL APPROACH to establishing positive attitude habits. I’ve worked with people who truly wanted to have healthy lives, but they didn’t know how to go about it. They experienced spurts of modified mindsets focused on belief in themselves and a hopeful future, but sustaining the mindset was undermined by poor decisions and short-term gratification instead of the pursuit of long-term goals. When the discomfort of being outside their comfort zones behaving in new ways felt too uncertain or scary, they returned to familiar behavior patterns.
When my life is out of balance, I describe the feeling as coming “unraveled”. I picture a frayed rope that might break at any moment if someone tries to hang on.
LIVE IT! means having some emotional reserve to deal with unexpected circumstances, as well as the commitments already in motion.
I was fortunate in one of my courses to have the freedom to create whatever curriculum was necessary to set people up for success in college. In addition to being motivational, I wanted to create a program with the potential of being utterly life-changing. The program I developed also became a powerful coaching tool for my professional clients.
It’s important to understand what is meant by a balanced or unbalanced life. Let’s take a look at a few common examples of lives out of balance.
When people put too much emphasis on their jobs without investing time and energy into the other areas of their lives, things at work get blown out of proportion because people are looking for their jobs to satisfy all their needs. Not only is this unhealthy, it’s unrealistic, so these people are setting themselves up for frustration and disappointment.
Another risk of pouring yourself into your job without balancing the other areas of your life is defining yourself almost entirely by your work. What happens if the job changes or the company moves location or closes altogether? Then there is a massive self-esteem crash because, “Who am I without this job?” There is so much more to you than the work you do. Who are you being every day? What is your contribution? How do you impact others? When do you take time to appreciate all the good things in life? Your work is only one part of the being called YOU.
When I started teaching college courses I was a bit taken aback by how many people were ‘winging it’, living life without a plan but then unhappy about the way things were going. I’m not referring to people who don’t want to have a plan and completely simplify their lives so they can be content living day-by-day. I’m referring to people who want a certain quality of life – let’s say, “middle class”, and yet they don’t plan for it and instead hope someone or something will come along to magically have their lives turn out to match their day dreams. That unicorn hasn’t showed up for most of them!
When I started teaching job skills classes for the unemployed, I had to brace myself when listening to the decisions many people were making. I’m not referring to the hard working people who had solid jobs until the day something completely unexpected happened that required them to retrain for a new job. A good example of that situation was the day the local 3M Company shut down. That left many of people looking for work, many of whom thought they would retire at the 3M plant.
I’m not talking about the people who thought they’d be home raising their children, only to realize they chose a loser of a partner who disappeared one day, leaving them alone to raise, feed, clothe, and provide shelter for the children in addition to finding a job.
I’m talking about the people who get angry over little things and quit their jobs before finding another job, and people who decide a recreational activity is more important than paying one’s own bills, and people who decide to fill the loneliness hole in their heart by having a baby or getting a puppy when they can hardly afford to pay the rent. I’m talking about the people who were living on welfare checks and would come to class talking about how hung over they were because they were at the casino the night before. I’m talking about the people who have parents buying pampers for their babies while they spend their money on cell phones. I’m talking about the people who wouldn’t go to job interviews because when they lived in the city years ago they made twice as much as the potential job…so no income is better than $12.00 an hour? I’m talking about people who knew their friends were taking advantage of them, but they would still spend time with them regularly. I’m talking about people who think this world owes them something when they aren’t willing to step up and do what needs to be done to take care of themselves.
A specific work example is employees in the habit of negative and accusatory communication habits who blow things out of proportion weekly or even daily. They throw the work dynamic out of balance for themselves and their work teams.
Sometimes lives get out of balance for fun and exciting reasons. One common example is a new romantic relationship. All of a sudden a person might be extremely satisfied with the romance in their life, but they don’t make time for friends and family. Building or buying a home can be super exciting, but also very stressful and other areas of life might fall to pieces during that process. A new job can require additional time and focus and maybe the kids and spouse don’t get enough attention during that time. When people get sober, the transition between not being around old friends and finding new healthy friends can throw a person’s life off kilter during an already challenging time.
The examples of lives out of balance are numerous.
Here’s the point: it became clear to me many people are living lives out of balance. There are as many reasons for this state as there are people living in this state, so trying to figure out why this was happening wasn’t my focus. I wanted to figure out what type of unit I could add to my curriculum to assist people in creating a balanced life plan.
I came across the wheel of life concept. The idea is to focus enough attention on each of the main areas of our lives so we are (at least) satisfied in each area and the wheel can roll evenly. If you are extremely satisfied in one area and dissatisfied in another area, pull some time/resources from extremely satisfied areas to invest in the dissatisfied area – bringing them both to a satisfied level.
It’s important for all my overachiever readers to remember “satisfied” is not ‘bad’. Once all areas are satisfactory, you then start focusing on an action plan to raise each area to extremely satisfied.
The book includes the chart, illustrated examples of charts in various states of satisfaction, and learning shared from various clients.
Hear Catherine talk about this chapter in the Relatable Leader podcast:
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