We all have times in our lives when we just feel out of whack. We feel like we've lost that sense of work-life balance. We know we may have been putting in too many 80-hour weeks in a row, and we can feel the side effects of making that kind of commitment – and we can see the impact it can have on our relationships, our families and our health. The crucial question then becomes: What are we going to do about it?
I've found that people at their best are always striving to find balance in their lives. That's what makes them great employees and good people. Of course there are times when we all need to put ourselves out of balance for a time, when, for example, we are working on a project with a hard deadline. You know heading into that crunch time that you're going to go out of balance. But the trick is to be conscious about that and know what you are sacrificing in the bargain. Then, once the work is done, you should have a plan to get back into balance as quickly as possible.
So what are the secrets people use to live a balanced life? They measure themselves on seven key elements, where they give themselves a score from 1 (way out of balance) to 10 (Zen-like harmony) to see where they stand. I'm not sure I have ever met anyone who has scored a 10 on all seven elements, so a more reasonable goal might be to find balance with at least half of these parts of your life.
Whatever your job is at work, it's easy to let things like exercise and diet go by the wayside once things get busy in the office. But that's the only body you're going to get and it needs to carry you until the end of the game. That's why it's critical to continue to keep your body strong and healthy enough to enable you to do the things that excite you-whether that's traveling for business or visiting your friends and family. The key here is to be fit enough that you don't have to say "no" to anything you want to do. Give yourself a score - be honest - and see what you think. Could you do more to improve that number as a way to begin leading the kind of balanced life you're seeking?
How balanced do you feel with your family time? What's your relationship like with your spouse? Your kids? How about your parents and extended family members? Family ties are the tightest relationships you should have in your life no matter how busy things get at work. If you give yourself a low score here, it's worth hitting the pause button to make the investment in repairing these relationships. Family members are truly part of your support network and you'll never miss them more when you're at your lowest point.
Do you have a robust network of friends or not? Do you have a group of folks you like to hang out with regularly, maybe for a dinner or drinks? If not, it's time to start building these kinds of relationships. Having people around you that you like and trust is one of the best indicators of living a long life. If you are sacrificing relationships like these because you're working too hard, you're clearly not in balance.
What does your personal financial balance sheet look like? Are you on a path to accumulate enough wealth that you will be able to enjoy a comfortable retirement? Are your assets increasing over time - or have you neglected to make the time to secure your financial future? The key to personal financial health is to feel in control and know that you have enough money to have options. If you're spending too much, and you don't have the money you need, something is clearly missing in the equation.
Whether you are working on the front line or are in a position of management, ask yourself how energized you are to go into work every day. Are you excited to be making a difference and making progress - or do you dread the monotony of your day-to-day drag? Some of us who are high achievers might never give ourselves a 10 here no matter what. But it's worth measuring how all that time you are investing in your work is paying off.
How much time are you able to invest in the things you care about in your community? That can mean anything from volunteering to serving on the PTA or coaching a sports team - anything that turns you on when you give of yourself. Think of it as your attitude of gratitude. If you haven't made enough time to give back, you're missing out on a real emotional payback, because you are rewarded by the act of giving. And the key here isn't just giving money to a worthy cause – your time and talent are the real gifts.
The final aspect of living a balanced life is your spiritual side. This could be anything from taking a walk in the woods to making a trip to church on Sunday - whatever fills up your spiritual cup. This is how we renew ourselves when we're down - and it's something that can be easily neglected. If you score low here, make the time to rethink your connection to God, nature, or whatever. You'll feel refreshed and ready to tackle the world.
Finding balance among these seven elements isn't always easy. But I'll share a cautionary tale of what can happen if you find yourself out of balance for too long. Early in my career, I worked for a boss who was a business genius. But everyone, including his family, hated him. He may have been a success in the business world, but he had no friends, his kids wanted nothing to do with him, he was on his fourth wife, and he was spiritually bankrupt. Some people might look at his business accomplishments and call him a success. I would disagree. How can anyone be a great leader when they can't even balance their own life? When someone lives such an unbalanced life - no one wins.
By Steve Scruggs