Our lives are made up of various roles and responsibilities. We can think of these facets of life as the pillars that uphold our lives and, hopefully, give it meaning and balance. Life balance relates to how we feel about various aspects of our lives. Though we often refer to the work-life imbalance in discussing this topic, it is helpful to examine the areas of imbalance in more detail.
Pillars of a Balanced Life
One useful tool is the Pillars of a Balanced Life, see figure 1 below. Double click the image to expand it. Along the bottom are ten common facets of life. Think of these as the pillars supporting your life. The eleventh pillar at the far right is a summary pillar for overall life satisfaction.
You can modify any or all of the ten suggested pillars to better describe your life roles. For example, the professional pillar might be changed to school, childcare, or work, depending on your situation.
Charting Life Balance
To begin, draw up your own life balance worksheet as in figure 1, or request your copy. When thinking of each of the pillars of your life, imagine your current situation in relationship to the way you want it to be, where what you want it to be is scored a 10 on the chart. Then draw a horizontal line across the height of the pillar representing your score.
For example, in figure 2, this person felt their current financial situation merited a score of 4 out of 10. So the horizontal line was drawn about where 4 would be, and the number 4 was noted as a reminder.
Again referring to figure 2, we see the pillars of this person’s life ranging from 3 out of 10 to about 8 out of 10, with overall life satisfaction at about a 5 or 6. This person’s life balance isn’t where they might like it to be, but it’s not in the dumps either.
Bringing Life Back in Balance
What would a balanced life look like? A relatively straight line across the chart. Of course, the ideal would be all 10s across the board. This would indicate total satisfaction with all aspects of life–not realistic for most of us. It’s normal for some aspects of life to be lower than we’d like and others to be about right for our life circumstances. Life feels balanced when all important pillars are judged equal relative to what is desired.
Selecting Areas for Balance Improvement
Common sense would dictate working to raise the position of the lowest rated pillars. We’re most effective when working to improve a small number of life areas, so it would be appropriate for the person in this example to pick two or three areas as targets for improvement.
In figure 3, we can see this person targeted Intimacy and Family by putting a star symbol on each. Though not the lowest rated pillars, this person felt these were the two most important, to begin with. There is no set rule on where to begin. Pick a pillar or two that you most want to improve, and feel you can improve.
Goal Setting to Achieve Life Balance
How might the person depicted in figure 3 proceed to improve the two pillars, Intimacy, and Family? A useful first question to ask is, “What would each of these areas of life look like if they could be rated a 7 instead of a 4?
The next step is to form a clear picture of a 7 for Family and Intimacy. What activities would be going on? What emotions would be felt? It’s important to have the goal vividly in mind, as this operates on several levels to facilitate goal success.
Then this person could use a goal methodology such as SMART or SAFE to provide structure and discipline to the process of working toward life balance.