Work/life balance is frequently bandied about in coaching. Although the concept is to have a life where you work effectively without stress and have time to do all of the things you want to do personally, the exact balance is hard to define as it varies from one-person-to-the-next. More than a set formula, work/life balance an inner sense of your own boundaries for work vs private life. For most people it becomes an issue when work becomes all consuming. Then people feel exhausted by it all for there is no break, no time to do the things they love to do. Self-employed people are particularly prone to working long hours – but over the last 6 months I’ve noticed many more people than usual struggling with work/life issues. Perhaps it’s the tail-end of the recession. Perhaps it’s the speed at which we live our lives. For the last 6 months I’ve been in this boat too – mostly due to the extra workload in setting-up The Jasmine House, so I thought it would be a good time to look at this topic in more depth.
3 Tools to help you assess how balanced you are
The first step of any change is awareness of your current situation. It’s so easy to be moaning and groaning about everything without a clear picture of where the real issues lie. When you have a clear picture, then it’s much easier to formulate a strategic plan to make the changes you desire in your life.
The Wheel of Life
A quick way to check which areas of your life are out of kilter is to use an old coaching tool known as The Wheel of Life. Using this tool, you can easily assess which areas are unbalanced. If, for example, you feel as fit as a fiddle and full of beans, then you might shade in the whole of Health & Wellbeing segment of the circle. If, conversely, you feel mightily below par, then you would draw your line at perhaps 1 or 2 and shade in only this part of the segment. Do the same for all areas of your life, and in this way, you get a snapshot of your life. In an ideal world, your shaded segments would be roughly the same and so your wheel of life can rotate easily, whereas this diagram shows a life that rotates very unevenly! To download a blank ‘Wheel of Life’ form see: www.reddandelion.co.uk/wheel_of_life.pdf
The Clean Sweep Programme
A diagnostic tool that I use with all of my clients is The Clean Sweep. This is a tool created by CoachU – the coach training school of which I’m a graduate. The Clean Sweep is a list of 100 statements that helps you identify what you are putting-up-with in your life: or ‘tolerating’ as I call it. There are 25 statements in 4 life areas: Physical Environment, Health & Well-being, Money & Finances, and Relationships. If you agree whole-heartedly with the statement, you tick it. Those that remain unticked are the areas to begin working on. The more tolerations (unticked statements) you have, the more likely it is your energy levels will be low. Although it takes time and energy to put these things right, when you do, you will get a surge of energy that can then be poured into the things that are important. To get a sense of this, visualize the pile of unsorted papers on your desk, or perhaps the untidy state of your cupboards / wardrobe, or any unfinished DIY jobs. Notice how you feel when you do so: your sighs are a dead give-away! My new clients typically score between 30–60. Please don’t beat yourself up in you get a low score: now you know what needs fixing, it’s much easier to begin making changes. And of course, I’m here to help you if you need a guiding hand. To download a Clean Sweep form, go to: www.reddandelion.co.uk/clean_sweep.pdf
I am a great fan of the work of Karla McLaren. She uses a 5-element model for life balance. To see how this works, visualize a circle with 4 quadrants each one represents an element: water, fire, air and earth. Now place yourself in the middle of that circle. Each of these elements represents a different aspect of your life: water is your emotions; fire your spirit; air your intellect; and earth your physical body. In this way you can see you have emotions—but you are not your emotions. You have thoughts—but you are not your thoughts. Likewise you are not just your body or your spirit. You are the nature/being element in the centre of the other elements. Ensuring that you use all of your different elements ensures you stay balanced, grounded and healthy. Looking at life in this way is not so common; so let me give you two examples so you can see what I’m trying to explain. A professor who is so engrossed with his intellectual world may channel all of his/her energies into their work. He/she has no time for emotional distractions, they ‘forget’ meal times and they refuse to consider anything spiritual because it can’t be proved. Such a person is strong in their air element, but their other elements are languishing through lack of use. And because of this there is likely to be a lack of flow, synchronicity and solidness about their intellectual work either. Another example: A healer who feels the emotional pain of others, who is sensitive to all of the different energy forms, but does not spend time studying, exercising or connecting to his/her own spirit will be strong in their water element, but will be overwhelmed with the emotions as they are not grounded (in their body). They will not have an intellectual understanding their work nor be able to tap into their spirit for guidance or intuitive wisdom. This will really limit their ability to help others heal. Most people can instantly see which of the elements they are naturally drawn to and use the most in their lives. And so they will also be aware of which areas of their life out of kilter. Karla McLaren has the following suggestions to restore balance: To restore your air element: Make time for study and research the things that fascinate you. Read. Take classes to learn new things. Watch documentaries. Do puzzles and play (mental) games. Think and plot. To restore your earth element: Take excellent care of your body. Dance or exercise. Eat well. Have a healthy sex-life. Create good friendships. Ensure you have good physical comfort. Honour your body’s needs. To restore your fire element: Make room for spirituality, religion, God (universe / consciousness / higher being) in your life. Find time for meditation, prayer, philanthropy or communion with nature. Allow the spirit of things to speak to you. To restore your water element: Allow your life to flow. Learn the language of your emotions and bring their wisdom to your life in a conscious way. Keep things moving both inside of you and in your life on the outside.
What to do with your findings
Quite often just recognizing where you are out of kilter in your life is enough for you to begin to change. In particular, The Clean Sweep is an excellent starting point to make the shifts you want. And if you need more help, then consider working with a coach, healer or therapist to help you get back into balance.