5 Simple Steps to a Balanced Life
Finding life balance
A few years back I can say that I was completely overwhelmed and stressed out. A full-time working, mother of two, I felt like life was spinning out of control with my never-ending “to-do list” always lingering.
I was operating on autopilot just trying to get through the day. Working, grocery shopping, meal planning, cooking, cleaning, paying bills, school events, sporting activities, church, etc I did all the “right” things and went through all the right motions, but was often cranky, irritable and exhausted!
I recognized while I accomplished much, I wasn’t truly present and was rushing through each “task” while focusing on how to get to the next one so it could get done. This was not the kind of person or life I wanted to live but I had no idea how to pull out of it.
Fortunately, it was then that a friend (who happens to be a therapist) introduced me to the Wheel of Life.
The “Wheel” concept has actually been around in various forms actually for over a thousand years. Buddha even had a life wheel that was divided into five or six realms, or states, into which a soul can be reborn. More recently, corporations and life coaches use the wheel to identify work-life balance.
Step 1. Self-Evaluation
The “Wheel of Life” is basically an exercise to gain insight into the significant categories of your life by rating on a scale of 1-10 how satisfied you are in each. After recognizing areas that need attention, setting small goals for those areas to balance the “wheel” which is essential for a happy, healthy life. This may seem like a simple concept, but for me it an “Ah-ha” moment actually putting it down on paper.
In Balance Your Life Now by Julie Renee Doering it is noted that there are eight essential elements to living your life in balance. When those vital fundamentals are kept in a fulfilled state, you will experience a profound state of satisfaction. The book references the eight categories as “Health/ Recreate”, “Social/ Friends”, “Creativity/ Dance/ Art/ Music”, “Spirituality”, “Finance”, “Family/ Friends”, “Career”, and “Emotional.”
However, it is my opinion that these categories can be adjusted to fit your place and circumstances in life. For example, my wheel consists of subcategories for Personal Growth (anything I’m learning that helps me grow as a person — spiritual guidance, lessons, hobbies, etc.), Relationships (husband, children, extended family, friends), Health & Fitness (easy recipes, exercise, morning and evening routines etc), and Fun & Recreation (leisure stuff I enjoy — such as traveling, biking, hiking, reading).
My daughters, who are in different stages in life, might include categories like Sports, Friends, School, Future plans, etc.
Step 2. Identify Deficits
What’s so neat about the wheel is that it’s easy to spot areas immediately that were being neglected and others that were absorbing too much energy — often in a negative way. Because that’s the key…. if you give all your energy to one or two areas but neglect the others eventually you will crash… and those areas that were absorbing all of your energy, they will crash too because you actually aren’t giving them proper, balanced attention — you are actually just running through the motions and that’s not quality.
For optimal well-being and health, if the important categories are given enough attention — you will flourish.
At that point in time, sadly most of my categories were ranked pretty low because while I was trying to do everything and be everything to everyone — I could not keep up, and just felt pulled in all directions, unable to give each the attention it needed. Yikes, was I unbalanced and how the heck would I be able to fix it?!
Step 3. Set key goals
After the wheel is complete and deficits are identified, the objective is to think of something in each category that could improve that particular area, just one thing… but something that just might add a little smile to that category. Then pick 2-3 of those to focus on each week as a goal and begin implementing them into life.
Think outside of the box and start small.
Realizing it didn’t have to be super time-consuming or involved, there had to be some things or changes that would make things feel better. I decided I could try adult coloring during my lunch hour. I also asked my family if they could help think of one thing we could change at home that would make things a little bit nicer for them? Interestingly, the kids said new sheets. Really, that simple? New sheets is was!
Make time even if it means waking up a little earlier.
As for my main relationship — my husband, we recognized that sadly we barely had time for each other that didn’t involve running kids around. So, we decided we could get up a half hour early each morning and run around our block (the multi-tasker in me instantly realized this could double as “Health/Fitness” as well so I agreed). We also committed to meeting up for lunch each week. We also agreed during these times we would not discuss problems or stresses, it was to be just a time for connection.
Step 4. Implement those goals
Amazingly, those tiny improvements did add enjoyment… New, cozy and colorful sheets made my kids enjoy their room just a little more. Those morning runs made me feel better and provided my husband and I a chance to catch up a little. I felt more energetic through the day and we felt a little more connected. Meeting for lunch each week gave us some one-on-one time and was fun picking new restaurants to try and just plain talk…uninterrupted and undistracted.
Step 5. Repeat steps 1-4
And so it began, continuously chipping away at the Wheel of Life and through it came so many wonderful changes.
With each evaluation, we added something good to our lives, including: a puppy, an international mission trip, art classes, completely changing my furniture and home decor, and most recently a new neighborhood. The list could go on and on and I firmly trace it back to the Wheel of Life activity providing me with the necessary insight to make positive changes in my life.
Even more exciting, I’ve seen it’s influence on my kids who are 18 and 14. They too can start getting overwhelmed and we ask each other “Are you balanced?” or “What one thing do you think would help?” As a result, they even started problem-solving on their own and telling me where they were feeling unbalanced and a few ideas they thought might help. Wow, does that make me feel good!
Draw a circle on a piece of paper, divide it into eight sections and name each each section. Then rate them 1-10 and take a minute to reflect. How did you score? What one thing can you do this week?
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