Even the most balanced and fulfilled people I know go through phases when they seek to cultivate and integrate greater meaning into their lives and reduce their stress levels. Whether you live in a chronic state of overwhelm, on autopilot mode, or whether you simply are in need of a reset, here are three steps to bring you closer to a state of purposefulness and balance:
1. Evaluate your present condition in each of life’s seven key domains.
It is hard to figure out where you’re going when you don’t know what you’re working with and where your starting point is. Thus, it is critical to stake stock of where you are right now.
Assessing your present situation in terms of the seven key areas of life can help create structure and focus as you move forward and can also emphasize areas of strength and areas in need of growth.
These seven key domains are:
- Field (career)
Remember to be brutally honest with yourself in your assessment so that you are best able address your current imbalances so that you can get an accurate idea of what needs to shift in order for you to move towards a life with less stress and more fulfillment.
2. Make goals.
As tempting as it might be (especially for perfectionists and overachievers), goal setting isn’t a kitchen-sink, free-for-all type thing. Indeed, studies have repeatedly shown that too many goals often spread our attention and energy too thin resulting in half-baked results rather than solid progress in any one area.
Thus, after you’ve completed your life domains assessment, the next step is to set seven goals.
There doesn’t have to be one goal for each category, and for most people, there is usually a lack of balance in some areas of life more than others. When choosing your goals, remember that the intention is to bring more balance into your life and to make yourself more aligned with your dreams and highest self.
Finally, make sure that your goals are articulated in a SMART format (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound). As easy as it is to skip this step, I strongly encourage you to read (preferably out loud) your handwritten goals every morning when you wake up and every night before you go to bed.
3. Map your journey, step by step.
It has been said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. And how true this is. Thus, when thinking about the path between where you are and where you want to be, take time to outline each step on the way, no matter how small. Crossing off steps, even if they aren’t monumental, creates a feeling of accomplishment, direction, positive reinforcement, and hope – all of which are critical when the going gets tough and you feel discouraged.
In order to make incremental progress each day and stay focused and on track, each evening before you go to bed, take an index card and write down just three concrete and specific action steps you will take the following day in service of one (or more) of the goals your set in Step 2. Keep this practice up for one year, you will have taken more than 1,000 action steps toward the achievement of your goals and your best life.
In addition to the goal-related steps, this note card can include daily chores and tasks, as well (i.e. getting groceries, paying bills, calling a friend or family member, etc.). On this note, take time each evening to acknowledge the accomplishments you have each day. Even if a note card list is not completed, it is important to intentionally recognize your achievements and the things for which you are grateful (I recommend keeping a daily gratitude journal and writing at least 3 gratitude’s in it each evening).
So is balance realistic?
Well, to some extent. We are not static beings – we change and evolve and grow and different seasons in our life meet us with different challenges and opportunities. Balance is a practice rather than a state. It is a pursuit and not a destination. A life in balance involves being out of balance at times, recognizing that you are out of balance, and taking steps to re-calibrate.
By knowing where you are and where you’re headed in the seven key domains of life, and by taking action in line with your vision each day, you can experience a more passionate and meaningful life. Even in the craziest and busiest of times, the key is to stay connected to your goals, values, and dreams. These things are unique to you and will give your life a sense of purpose and connectedness.