I caught a glimpse the other day of how unbalanced I really am. I have looked into the abyss and I am pretty sure I am on the edge of lunacy.
Was I surprised? Not really. After all, I have a career, am the mother of three, wife of one, and a Latina, to boot. There is bound to be some craziness in that mix.
I recently attended a professional women’s retreat and had the opportunity to take the Wheel of Life, an assessment tool that measures how balanced our life is in areas of fun, friendship, career accomplishment, and spirituality, to name a few. There are many variations of the Wheel, and it is widely used by life coaches to help poor, frazzled plebeians like me.
After scoring areas from 1 (low) to 10 (high) you plot the points on the wheel and then connect the lines hoping you hit something remotely resembling a wheel. Mine looked more like a cone with spikes pointing outward at odd angles. Sigh…
Fun, recreation and relationships were on the lower end. Uh, duh! I am running a household, managing a family, job and writing deadlines. Fun? Recreation? Ain’t nobody got time fo dat!
However, as the group shared the results (yes, we had to confess in public!) there were some interesting observations and comments that showed the true value of this exercise.
Balance vs. Growth
One of the ladies scored herself in many areas in the 6 range. On paper that appeared low, but she shared “a few years ago I would have been straining for a 6.” For her a 6 was a huge accomplishment because she had overcome depression and low self-esteem. Sometimes we get discouraged because we aren’t in the 8s, 9s and 10s in some areas. We compare ourselves to others and come away deflated. But it is more important to see how much we have improved over time. Life isn’t about the snapshot that you take in the moment, which we all know can be awkward when we get caught with our hair messed up and our lipstick smeared. It’s about the overall portrait of a life that is growing and maturing. So, if you have moved the plot point up a bit along your journey that is progress. Celebrate it!
Balance vs. Comfort
One of the wise ones among the group pointed out that anyone can have a balanced wheel if their plot points are all at the same number, but that may not mean much. If everything is balanced at high numbers and the wheel is perfectly round that’s great. You are blessed and we all want to be you. But it can also be balanced and round if every area is at a 3. But then what quality of life is that? Sure, you are balanced, but are you really living?
Maybe we keep our career goals at low number or our relationship areas low because that is easier to manage. It is challenging to step out of our comfort zone and go hard after something. It requires time and effort and that might upset the apple cart. But apples were never meant to stay in the cart. They were meant to be enjoyed for their delicious sweetness. Go ahead and spill those apples and then bite down hard and enjoy the fruit of your efforts. Don’t be afraid to focus on those areas that are challenging if it makes your wheel look like a scalene triangle.
Balance vs. Priority
It’s great to try to achieve balance in life, but the truth is that nobody can be perfectly balanced in all areas all the time. And if you are, then quite frankly I want to know where they put the real you before the Stepford you took over. There will be times when you have to let one area dip a little bit in order to improve in another. That’s just the reality: we only have so much time and we need to prioritize. One area of your life may need to be out of whack for a bit while you focus on another. That’s okay. Relax. Get off the phone with 911 – there’s no emergency here, only the reality that priorities rotate. It is a wheel, after all.
Perhaps you need to loosen the grip on work in order to re-connect with family members. Or you need to carve out time for physical exercise even if it means you can’t meet that girlfriend for coffee. Balance after all, is about balance. Sometimes we have to just focus on certain areas and hold others a little more loosely knowing that later those loosely held areas may be the ones that will need focused concentration. It’s really about ebb and flow in the here and now, and long-term balance over the continuum of life.
How about you? How are you doing with balance in your life?