“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance and order and rhythm and harmony.” - Thomas Merton
To have balance in life certainly is one of the most important overall goals to reach. At the same time it is a real toughie. On the one hand you focus on something you want to achieve, you make progress, but on the run you lose focus in another area of life. Has this happened to you?
It happened to me several times. May it be a strong focus in your career when you neglect your health or with a new relationship where you forget your friends or lose track of the drive in your career. But lasting fulfillment can only be reached in balance, otherwise the areas where we don’t focus on come back to us with unpleasant surprises.
So how can we balance the important areas of our life and still achieve what we want?
Answer: What is needed here is a wider perspective. First we need to take a step back and decide what the important areas in our life are. Second we have to make sure that we keep this perspective and don’t lose ourselves in only one area, turning our back to all the others.
Areas of Importance
There are certain areas in our life that are important for every human being. These are mainly mind, body, spirit, social relationships, emotions, finances and belongings and career. Of course the degree of importance differs, but if we are able to have a certain focus in all areas we are able to achieve a healthy balance. That balance then in return will empower each area again, because there is no personal area that is dragging you down, while you climb up.
When we are defining those areas of importance we create the awareness of what matters to us and make a huge step towards balance. My areas of importance look like this:
Great piece of art, I know ;-)
- Mind including Emotions, Learning, Reading, Focus, Vision and all kind of mental Skills
- Body including Energy, Health, Sport, Exercise, Fitness, Wellness, Beauty, Outlook
- Spirit including Raising Consciousness, Being present, Meditation, in Contact with our Soul
- Social including Family, Spouse or Boy/Girl-Friend, Friends and all other Relationships with other people
- Finance including Money, Savings, Belongings and Things we own
- Juice means all things Fun like Traveling, Celebrating etc.
- Profession is what I create in my Work as a meaningful Contribution to society and to my personal Fulfillment
There may be other things for you, for instance Emotion or Contribution could be an own area of importance, or you want to divide Social into Family and other Relationships like Friends and Co-Workers. However, the whole point is not to create so many areas that you lose your wider perspective again.
The Concept of Chunking
The concept at work here is chunking , that means to chunk all things into wider categories (areas of importance) so that we can keep control over them and don’t lose ourselves in confusion of endless things. Humans can comfortably work with 7 (plus-minus 2) things (see Wikipedia on Chunking). So don’t choose too much areas of importance and chunk them down into a larger piece. Also make sure that you create the right and meaningful areas to you.
Having defined these areas now, we can create our focus for each area by creating on a top-goal for every category. That means we decide that we have focus in each area regularly. I can tell you some of my goals for my areas of importance right now:
- Mind: Feeding my mind by reading 1 selected book and hearing 1 audio-book a month
- Body: Exercising 3 times a week (Mo, We, Fr) every week and dropping weight to 82kg until 30th of August
- Spirit: Meditating 3 times a week (Tu, Th, So) and become fully present
- Social: Contact 3 of my closest friends weekly
- Finance: Raise my personal income to XYZ per month until then end of the year
- Juice: Create a 3 month trip to California with a close friend until September
- Profession: Raise the number of monthly unique visitors to XYZ until the end of the year
These areas are my personal areas of importance. The idea is to use these areas for everything you plan to do now. For instance I do a weekly planning where I write all things out I want to create over the following week. These tasks are categorized into my areas of importance on the professional and then on the personal level. They are aligned with my overall goals and emerge directly from them. They are the daily action-steps to fulfill the goals above. You can then lock these tasks into your daily calendar or write them on a 2do-list.
The area of Profession is of course a special one, since depending on what you do as your chosen work, you may want to break this area down into several areas. Then there is your personal and your professional life. I did this, since my professional life is my company and areas here are: Product, Sales, E-Commerce, Technology, Marketing/PR and Leadership. By the way, this is a great model for business management and the philosophy of Constant and Never-Ending Improvement is working great on these professional areas of importance.
Try this yourself by first setting your personal areas of importance and then setting at least one top-goal you want to achieve in each area.
Review Your Areas of Importance Regularly
I suggest do view your goals in each area daily, but change the goals only monthly (if you have achieved them!) or if they are really no longer the right goals. Don’t make the mistake of changing your goals frequently.
You can rate your areas on a scale of 1-10 and then review them once a month or every three month to set new goals. By rating them honestly you see how you made progress or where you must focus more. A 10 is of course the greatest happiness in that area of live you can imagine while a 0 is the worst situation possible. If you are able to move all areas of life above the 5 mark, I’m sure you will feel pretty good already.
If you set this system to practice you will make sure two things for yourself:
- You will have your focus on all important areas of your life and by that enable you to create balance in life
- Also you move your focus away from distraction and all the crap you better avoid anyway, therefore creating a more meaningful life
But what about spontaneity?
These areas of importance really don’t mean that there is no spontaneity in your life. You don’t need to walk around 24/7 and remembering them. Reviewing them once a week is enough. The key to positive change is not to do it overnight, but to do one small but consistent step after another in the right direction.