How to evaluate balance in your life

by Leah McClellan

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There’s a lot of talk about “balance” these days: life-work balance. Work-play balance. Balancing family responsibilities with work or personal goals. Finding the time for fun, relaxation, and doing the things we really want to do.

I like to look at life balance in terms of four main areas: mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual.

The mental area includes anything having to do with the intellectual side of life: learning, stimulation, and understanding. The emotional area refers to things like stability, safety, self-esteem, love, and friendship. The physical aspect refers to the body’s health, wellness, and energy levels, while the spiritual category includes beliefs and how we find meaning—religious or not, personal or social, formal or informal.

We all need a variety of “life food”—like a balanced diet.

If we don’t have some form of protein, say, or if we’re not getting enough calcium or vitamin C or D, eventually we’re going to have problems. In other words, if we don’t have our emotional needs met, or if our work is boring and we’re not challenged, we may feel dissatisfied and wonder where that elusive concept called happiness is hiding.

But we don’t have to have a perfectly balanced diet every day or even every week to be healthy. If we eat well most of the time, our bodies can generally handle a temporary nutrition deficit and remain physically healthy.

In the same way, when important areas of our lives—no matter how they’re defined—are fulfilled, developed, healthy, or strong enough to balance a lacking in another area, we have a better chance of feeling peaceful and happy in our lives over the long haul.

Balance is good, but no matter which way you look at it, I don’t think anyone ever keeps a perfect balance.

That’s just not how life goes. Stuff happens, and sacrifices have to be made sometimes.

For me, I tend to dive into something head first to the detriment of other areas. I’ve had times when I’m a certified social butterfly and fitness fanatic, madly in love with everyone and everything and devoting huge amounts of energy to my emotional and physical life.

Other times, I’m almost a recluse—while I was in college, for example, I devoted most of my energy to mental and spiritual pursuits with just basic attention to physical and emotional needs. I worked full time, took classes full time—there wasn’t much time for anything else.

Sometimes, you just have to do what you have to do while working hard toward a goal. And everyone’s requirements aren’t exactly the same.

There’s another way to evaluate your life balance from a slightly different perspective. It’s particularly useful when you’re feeling stressed or out of sorts in some way, but you’re not quite sure what’s bothering you.

I learned it from a psychologist friend awhile back, and I saw it a time or two in a book or article somewhere, but I can’t remember where it was. It’s not my own original idea (if you’ve heard of it and know who I should credit, please let me know), but it’s very useful to see how much energy is going out and how much is coming back in.

I’ve put together a little screencast called Evaluating Life Balance to illustrate and explain.

If you can’t see the video, here is the link: Evaluating Life Balance.

It’s just under seven minutes. I hope you enjoy it! It’s my first screencast video, and it’s a little basic (unrehearsed!), but I think it gets the point across. And I hope you’ll keep it in mind if you’re ever wondering about your life balance or why you feel out of kilter, drained, or exhausted. It can also explain why you feel so great about your life!

Comments are welcome!

Photo: ejmc on Flickr



Anne Samoilov

Leah – great video! This exercise was super simple and revealed a lot more than I expected. I think the one thing we forget is that balance should be a process – and evaluation tools like this are great, because it gives a good idea where we are…
We can make mini corrections to our daily lives and feel so much better because of it! Can’t wait to see more videos from you!
Anne Samoilov´s last blog post ..Finding The Right Amount Of Space + Time To Take Care Of Myself

Leah McClellan

Thanks Anne! It is simple, isn’t it? But it can really help to see our activities in a diagram like that because it’s hard to take stock of things sometimes, especially when we’re so busy with this or that. I remember when I first did it a bunch of years ago–I was amazed, and that’s why it has stuck with me for so long. Thanks for stopping by and the kind words! Looking forward to more videos too :)

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