As many of us have learned, knowing what you “should” do isn’t always enough to get your back on track to what it is that you really want to do. There are reasons (competing commitments) we have created the life structure we have. Balance isn’t about equal attention to each domain of our life, but rather has to do with having adequate attention provided to each one. We change in incremental stages rather than dramatic breakthroughs.
The Balancing Act
While suggestions for how to live a balanced life can be very helpful to many people, others with whom we have spoken have felt like tips and techniques for more effective time management don’t quite do it for them. These feelings are quite understandable. As many of us have learned from experience, knowing what you “should” do isn’t always enough to get your back on track to what it is that you really want to do.
There are reasons (we call them competing commitments) have created the life structure that we have. There are a finite amount of hours in each day. While our resources for fulfilling our desires are limited, our desires are unlimited, and often far exceed our abilities to fulfill them. This means that for most of us, the work has more to do with discerning the essential from the non-essential, and challenging the cultural myth that “you can have it all”. The truth is we can’t, have all of our desires fulfilled, that is. What you can have is a clear understanding of which domains of our life are being adequately addressed and which require more attention, and then get to work to put things in balance.
Here is a list of life domains as well as a very brief description of what constitutes each one. As you review this list, reflect upon the degree to which you feel each one is being met in your life. Then rate each one on a scale of 0-10, 0 meaning that this domain is being completely neglected, is on life support and is in need of immediate, attention. Ten means that it’s getting as much attention as it needs. If any domain is getting an excessive amount of time and/or attention, you might want to transfer some of what you’re currently putting into it, into another domain, one that needs more. An excess of attention in one area usually means a deficiency in another, or others.
Here are the domains.
Health: The well-being of your physical body. Nutrition, weight loss or gain, rest, relaxation and replenishment, physical fitness.
Family Time: together for emotional connection, relaxation, play, interactive activities, and the fulfillment of shared responsibilities.
Spirituality: Prayer, worship, spiritual practice, meditation, retreats, time in nature.
Learning: Education to obtain degrees and informal development of skills and bodies of knowledge.
Primary relationship: Marriage, romantic and/or committed partnership
Sexuality: Quantity and quality of sensual and sexual experience
Play: Recreation, travel, adventure, sports, activities with no purpose beyond the enjoyment of the activity itself
Creative expression: Any practice or activity that involves originality and creativity, such as singing, dancing, artwork, writing, inventing, designing, acting, cooking and gardening.
Emotional well-being: Inner healing, self-esteem building, recovering personal power and authority, strengthening self-trust.
Career: Experiencing a sense of meaning, satisfaction, fulfillment. and purpose through work.
Finances: Adequate savings and income for debt payoff, emergency funds, and a sense of material security.
Friendship: Having mutually fulfilling, trustworthy, and dependable relationships with persons other than relatives.
Home: Degree of comfort, beauty, and security in your living situation.
Service: Social contribution to enhance the greater good of others.
While this list may not be seen as complete, it provides a good “starter kit” that identifies areas of life that need to be fulfilled in order for us to experience a high-level well-being.
Balance isn’t about equal attention to each domain, but rather has to do with having adequate attention provided to each one. The answer to the question, “How much is enough?” is highly subjective and dependent upon each individual. When we share a committed partnership with another person, it becomes necessary to consider each other’s orientations, which not infrequently are different. The challenge, in these cases is to be mindful of our partner’s needs without neglecting our own. While this can be a daunting task, when a foundation of goodwill is established, this cannot only be accomplished without excessive stress, but can enhance the connection.
Keep in mind that if any of your scores are less than ten, you’ve got work to do. As good as things may be, they can always be better. And as difficult as things sometimes seem to be, there are always steps that we can take to move in the right direction. Change usually is much more likely to come in incremental stages rather than huge, dramatic breakthroughs. Like they say about a journey of a thousand miles, it starts with a single step.
Linda Bloom L.C.S.W. has served as psychotherapist and seminar leader practicing relationship counseling almost forty years. Check out her OMTimes Bio. If you like what you read, click here to sign up Bloomwork’s monthly inspirational newsletter and receive our free e-book: Going For the Gold: Tools, practice, and wisdom for creating exemplary relationships. Follow Bloomwork on Facebook!