Like the proverbial saying, putting all your eggs in one basket, many of us focus on just one thing -- usually our career -- and ignore the other aspects of our lives. Even in my own life I have found that it's easy to just delve into my work or training, maintaining a very single-minded focus that can be an advantage for what I'm doing at the present moment but at a disadvantage to the rest of my life.
You do want to be "in the zone" and focus your attention on what you're currently doing. But problems occur when you only focus and do one thing all the time. That creates an imbalance that affects all areas of your life. Those areas, which I believe are essential to a balanced life are career, relationships, health, spiritual, financial and well-being. You want all these areas to be in harmony with each other, and your core beliefs, so you live a life that's authentic to you.
A quick exercise to bring these areas in sync: Ask yourself these four questions across all six key areas of your life. You'll discover which areas are unbalanced so you can bring them -- and yourself -- back into balance.
What are your goals? For each area, write down what you really want. Putting your goals in writing is the first step in success. Be as specific as possible, do you want to learn a new skill to be eligible for a promotion or do you want a new job by the New Year? Putting your goals in writing focuses your intention on achieving your goal, and holds you accountable. I did this with a group of children and their parents in my leadership class over the course of a year, and the results were amazing -- from better grades to improved diets, everyone reached (or were well on the way to reaching) their goals.
Where are you? Notice which areas are currently out of alignment. Maybe your career is on track, but your relationship with your spouse could use some nurturing. Brainstorm ways you can better align future actions to meet your goals. Starting a new ritual with your spouse, such as a weekly date night or meeting for lunch one day during the workweek, may be all it takes to reconnect. Even catching up throughout your workday with texts can bring you closer. You can never communicate enough.
What can you do now? I'm sure you've heard the Lao-tzu quote, "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." By taking even the smallest of steps you will be one step closer to reaching your goal. Start where you are, and take action. If you feel disconnected from your faith, perhaps you can devote a few minutes each morning to read inspirational stories, meditate, or pray. If you want to better manage your finances, schedule some time on your calendar this week to create a budget. What about your sense of well being? Is there something you can do right now, in this moment, that will make you a happier person? Calling a childhood friend, writing a thank-you note, petting your dog.
What can you do later? Not every goal is a short-term one, and not every step you take is going to yield immediate results. Think about it, making healthy changes such as quitting smoking or losing weight, are not going to be one-and-done tips or tricks. They may be long journeys with setbacks and you'll need different strategies to continue moving forward.
One thing to remember: there will be times when one area needs more attention than another, but you can't neglect one completely. They work as a whole to keep you balanced, happy, and living an authentic life.