Is balance real or just a unicorn? And is there really a life hack to obtain it? There’s a $3.7 trillion dollar wellness industry out there telling us that we can find balance in a self-care ritual like a massage or a bath bomb, but what happens? We listen to the message…we take the bath, and then the next day are our lives changed? Usually not…usually we find ourselves getting right back on the same hamster wheel we were on yesterday, rushing around, adding more to our to-do lists, but perhaps now smelling cleaner than before.
Balance can seem impossible, especially if you have a full life with kids, family, pets, jobs, and whatever else. When we finally have a minute to ourselves, it’s easy to find ourselves on our phones, laptops, answering emails, texts or scrolling into oblivion. I call this the temporary gratification of a non-existent self. It’s us trying to give ourselves some “me-time,” yet in that time we typically self-sabotage ourselves from the things that would actually bring us joy. We give way to mindless entertainment that isn’t feeding us on the deeper level that we actually need.
This deeper level is actually where you will find the balance you are looking for. It’s about overall, “well-being,” and it isn’t just your physical health. It includes your mental, emotional, and spiritual sides as well. When we are out of balance, we can find ourselves burnt to a crisp, in a constant state of stress and overwhelm. When we are there, balance can seem impossible because we are in survival mode. I’m here to remind you that you are a whole person and as a whole person, you are capable of finding balance, but first, you need to find out where you are starting from.
The life hack I have for today’s post is to give you a start on discovering where you are out of balance, so you can figure out what you need and make a plan on how to bring more balance into your life. I present to you “The Wheel of Balance.” Let’s dive in…
The Wheel of Balance stems from a Japanese concept called Ikigai. The concept of Ikigai is based on a motivating force that gives a person a sense of purpose. When our lives are out of balance, and we feel the tension, stress, or at its worst, burnout, it’s hard to tell if we are standing or upside down. Anytime we feel a negative emotion in our mind or body, it is a message that should not be ignored. Yet, without mindful awareness, it’s easy to ignore these important messages and push on, hustle more, sleep less, and face the inevitable consequences. When you begin to listen to the messages your mind and body are sending, I promise your life will begin to change in the direction of balance. These messages are saying something loud and clear! Listen.
The feeling of “balance” or “fulfillment” is just that, it’s a feeling. Despite all the money and time, people put out into products and solutions to find balance, it’s usually that temporary relief I described earlier. We tend to look for distractions like scrolling on social, ignoring ourselves, believing it will help us to find balance in our lives…even when our mind and body are screaming for help and sending us messages loud and clear. Even if you aren’t sure if you are out of balance, it can be a good thing to use the Wheel of Balance as a life hack from time to time just to check in with yourself.
The Wheel of Balance is a visual tool, so I will encourage you to download it now from the bottom or top of this page to look at it first before reading further so you understand the bigger picture…
Wheel of Balance Points
The Wheel of Balance includes 8 distinct points that represent various areas of our lives. These areas are fluid and transitional, meaning that may vary by the season of life, where you live, micro-culture, upbringing, societal norms, etc. Although the origin stems from Ikigai, you will find different versions of this wheel from various sources. The version of the wheel you will find here is based on the 8 points that I have found resonate most with my clients.
These balance points are as follows…
Hobbies: Remember those? If you are like most working adults, especially if you have kids, you may not remember what these are, but they are important. Hobbies are the things that you like to do for fun, yes fun! Whatever these are, they bring you joy and speak to your inner child. Close your eyes and think of something you have liked to do or want to do…are you smiling? If you are smiling that’s a positive sign you are on the right track here.
Personal Development: Personal development and hobbies can sometimes overlap, however, the distinct difference here is the “development,” piece. Reading is an example of an overlap, where reading may be a hobby, but at times you may read a self-help book and that could double dip into personal development. Personal development is a time when you are learning, growing, or expanding in some way. It can be mental/emotional, physical, etc. There is a conscious understanding that you are evolving as a person in some way. I have a client whose personal development was improving their level of gratitude for others, so they set a goal to do something nice for someone once a week like open a door, or send a “thinking of you” text in order to grow personally in this area. Other clients take classes, work on their mindset, or consider coaching their personal development.
Finances: This one is usually easier to understand, but has some individual variations to how we look at it. It doesn’t mean rich or poor, more about how balanced you feel financially. Most times, with clients, we are talking about stability and budgeting here. It’s what “finances” mean to you specifically in where you are in life. If you are a younger person and are worried about retirement, you may rate this lower, but I could see someone else the same age who rates their finances higher just because they aren’t thinking about retirement at all.
Relationships: This is your sense of support, connection to others, and sense of community outside of a romantic partnership. It’s simply how connected you feel to others in your life overall. So if you are feeling more on the lonely side, this may be lower, but could also be lower if you feel overwhelmed about balancing many relationships at once. One person can have many different relationships in their life, think generally here. Do you feel connected to others, supported, part of a group, etc.?
Spirituality: For some clients, spirituality means religion and for others, it’s feeling connected to something bigger than themselves whether it be energy, the universe, or whatever else. This is what spirituality means to you in your life. Do you feel connected to something bigger? Do you find spirituality in nature? At church? In a specific doctrine? Maybe you want to feel connected to something, but currently do not so this would be rated lower. Or maybe you have faith in yourself and that’s what spirituality means to you, so you rate this higher.
Romance: If you have a romantic partnership that is satisfying and healthy (Want to know if your relationship is healthy? Read this post) then you will probably rate this higher. Or maybe there’s something missing or lost and it may be lower. Perhaps you aren’t in an exclusive relationship and that’s ok with you because your needs are being met and so this is rated high as well. Just because you are single and happy doesn’t mean this needs to be a 0 or 1. Romance comes in many flavors. I’m not going to discriminate on what you want or need romance to look like in your life.
Career: Your career isn’t a single track, as it once was thought of…where someone enters 1 field and stays in that same job throughout their entire career. A career can consist of multiple jobs and different roles over the course of your working life. Maybe you just did a career change and that was a big deal, so you would rate higher. This would be different than where you were before the change where you may have been unhappy and felt stuck and would’ve rated your career much lower. Again, don’t think necessarily about where you want to be here, think more about how content you are where you are. There’s always room to grow.
Family: The family part of the wheel is what family means to you. Some clients think of this as an overall view of their entire family including extended family and friends that they consider family. Others only consider their immediate family here and save extended family for “relationships.” Once you define who is in your family circle, when you go to rate, think of your overall support and the nature of your family experience. Despite differences, is your family there for one another in times of need? Are they completely dysfunctional? Is it hot or cold depending on the current drama?
Now that you understand what each point means, you are ready to go ahead and rate them…
Rating Each Point
As you’ll see from your download, the wheel of balance looks like a target with 8 distinct points around the outer circle. I will first explain each line in the target that you will see is numbered from 0 in the center working out to 5 on the outer circle. Then you’ll make a little dot on the corresponding number/line that speaks to where your balance falls in that particular area in the state of your life today. Once you’ve gone through each area, you will then connect the lines. Here’s an example from an actual client…
0-There is no balance in that area of life. It’s literally empty, non-existent. You don’t even think about it.
1-There is no balance in the area, but it crosses your mind from time to time.
2-There’s a small smidgen of balance here, but it’s pretty rare if it actually happens.
3-You think about this area of your life, have an awareness it is out of balance, and try to make it happen here and there.
4-You are actively working to bring balance to this area of your life and know what you need to do to make it happen when you need it.
5-This area is perfectly aligned. You feel fulfilled here and prioritize this area when you need it with complete awareness.
Complete Your Wheel
Once you made your dots, you can go ahead and connect them like the image above. If you have a circle of sorts, theoretically your wheel will spin and that’s what you want. It means your life is in a relative balance. If your wheel alignment looks more like my client’s above, then you know to work on the inverted points to push them more outward. I recommend thinking through what each number means. Let’s say you are at a 1 for hobbies and your overall wheel would spin at a 3…What would it take to get to a 2 ? or a 3? It’s important to know where you want to be and also how you will get there.
If you know what you need more of and go for it, you will begin to feel the difference in your life.
Find your Balance
You can have it all, but it’s rare for it to happen at the same time, throughout your entire lifespan. If you’re a mom with multiple children under 10, it’s probably unrealistic to find the balance you desire in all areas of the wheel without the right support in this season of life. If you are newly mid-life with grown children, you may find yourself just starting to connect with the parts of the wheel that were not long ago ranked lower.
Remember that if you change nothing, nothing will change.
Some of us can have it all and at the same time, but for others, that may not happen. Life is complicated, multi-faceted, and ever-changing. No matter what your balance turns out to be here, please live your life from a place of happiness and hope.
If you would like me to review your wheel of balance with you to help in your reflection, please request an appointment here.
Want some more tools for introspection and reflection? Learn how to go on a Vision Quest here or learn how to Create a Meaningful Vision Board here.