Is your life out of balance?
The start of a new year is the perfect time to address areas of your life you'd like to change. Tina Coombes explains how a simple exercise can help you make changes you can stick to.
We are all at different stages of our parenting lives. Whether you're preparing to welcome a baby into your world, you're a new parent grappling with getting out of the house once a day, or you have a posse of toddlers causing mayhem in your once-calm home, your life as a parent is in a constant state of flux. The end of the year is typically a time to reflect on what's past and make plans for the future, and to really think about how you would like different aspects of your life to be going forward. But most of us would agree that New Year's resolutions rarely last longer than the leftover turkey, let alone to the end of January. Instead of feeling negative about another year's worth of broken promises to yourself, think about it this way: If you never set New Year's resolutions, nothing would change or improve, so how would you ever reach a balance in your life?"
That's where the Wheel of Life can be a very powerful tool for plotting your current levels of personal fulfilment and happiness. The wheel of life is an exercise used by leading life coaches to ascertain how balanced a client's life is. It also turns the spotlight on which areas require attention in order to create increased levels of fulfilment.
Do you feel like your life is sometimes beyond your control? Has your toddler drained you of all your energy, resulting in a serious lack of me-time for yourself? Does working from home with a newborn really offer you the fuliflment you hoped it would? More than likely you're feeling the strain of trying to balance too many competing priorities. Balance is the type of thing that people often feel sounds good in theory, but is hard to apply in real life. This isn't true! You can achieve your own version of balance, which will work for your life and your family.
The wheel of life exercise won't promise to make you the best parent in the world, but it can help you to identify aspects of your life that you need to adjust to gain balance. It might be as simple as choosing to attend one less baby activity session in exchange for a class at your local gym, which leads to a fresher, healthier parent.
Ignoring the need for balance can be a costly mistake. Burnout, lack of focus, and loss of vitality become the price we pay, as well as strain not only to our relationship with our children, but also those we have with our partner, friends, and family. We all know parents who appear well-rounded and balanced in their lives. These are characteristics which we usually correlate to success. But you, too, can achieve more success in your life.
The first step is to determine which areas of your life need your attention. For a new mother, it might be personal growth (rates very low) or health (the last thing you can do when you have a baby is get to the gym). The wheel of life is a simple assessment which can help you do this. The centre point represents zero, meaning you are not satisfied at all. The outer point represents 10, which means you couldn't be happier, more fulfilled or satisfied.
After plotting your points, connect them. By connecting the dots, you will have a visual representation of what your life currently looks like. If your life were in balance, the dots would form a circle, which would indicate that you're lucky enough to be coasting along on a smooth ride through life. While most of us will have a slightly bumpier ride, whatever your shape ends up looking like, please try not to judge it. it is neither good nor bad; it just is what it is! By accepting and acknowledging where you are in your life, you have the opportunity to make changes.
We are all unique, and there is no good reason to be unhappy with a part of your life that you have the power to change. The wheel of life consists of eight areas, covering all the different aspects of your life; while we are all individual, it is important to know that you are certainly not alone, as many families face similar challenges day to day. The key is to understand that while our problems might be similar, we all have unique solutions to these issues that can work for your family, but not necessarily with another family.
Many women today spend a huge amount of energy building careers before having children, and whatever anyone might say about those wonderful fuzzy mothering moments, it takes time to adjust to living without a job or a career. This is how I've heard one mother refer to the loss of her career: "I used to run a very successful team and now look at me... Washing and ironing the family clothes. Career! What career?"
When we start having children, many families worry about money, and it's rarely because we have too much of the stuff. Questions concerning families include: "How are we going to adjust to one salary? Can we manage with one of us not returning work? Daycare is so expensive; all my pay is going into caring for my children. What other options do I have?"
Health is frequently the forgotten aspect of a mother's life, and without setting a clear goal, it is easy to become complacent and the kilos just keep creeping on. "When am i going to get more energy since the birth of my son? How can I drop this extra 10kg? I used to go to the gym all the time before I had my children!"
For those facing issues relating to children and family, it can simply be not having the time to be with them: "I don't feel like I see my children enough, and when I do see them, I'm rushing around trying to get them to bed. My toddler is driving me crazy; he won't eat anything healthy."
Our relationships, especially with our significant others, should not be underestimated either. "We never seem to go out now. I can't remember the last time we had a moment to ourselves. I'm so tired at the end of the day; all I want to do is curl up and go to sleep."
At different stages of motherhood, "me-time and personal growth" can vary so greatly, from enjoying the simplest pleasure of meeting a friend for coffee with your children, to starting a university course: "I rarely get time to myself. I am always running around after everyone else." It is vital to find time for yourself and that means allowing yourself time to do things that fulfil you.
Getting the balance right is critical, and that means we need to have recreational time resulting in fun, carefree moments: "I barely see my best friend now that I have started a family. The last time I went to the cinema, they were showing the first Harry Potter movie!"
Our physical environment also needs to be balanced for our own well-being: "The house is a mess and there is never enough time in the day to get it cleaned. The children's toys are everywhere... When did they start running the house?"
Wheel of life exercise
The wheel of life exercise is a simple tool to quickly diagnose the areas of your life that are in need of some TLC. Remember, the very centre of the wheel represents zero, which means you are completely dissatisfied, and the outside circle represents 10, meaning that you are completely fulfilled. The example at the bottom will show you what your wheel might look like.
Once you have completed your wheel of life exercise, here are some steps you can take to move yourself forward.
Step One: Identify which aspects of your life have the biggest gaps between where you are and where you want to be. Limit yourself to no more than three aspects. Select those you would like to work on, and make a personal commitment to doing what it takes to manifest what you want.
Step Two: Focus on each aspect individually. Ask yourself the following questions, and write down the answers:
1. Think about the aspect and picture it in your mind's eye,. Go forward in time to when the issue is as you want it to be. Describe what it looks like.
2. Ask yourself what would have to be different in this aspect of your life in order to create the fulfilment you are looking for.
3. Think about what stands in the way of your getting what you want (a situation, another person, myself, etc). How can I solve this, so I can achieve this?
Step Three: Once you have identified what you want, set a goal to create it.
Step Four: Now start making small steps forward to reach your goal.
We all deserve lives that are rich with balance and fulfilment. Start by finding time to reflect on your current life, and to define the life you can work towards.
Tina is a Life Coach running her own practice based in Auckland. Alta Performance is dedicated to helping mothers across New Zealand achieve their Peak Performance. On becoming a mother, Tina discovered a woman will never be more challenged, stressed or fortunate (generally all at the same time!) as when she's a mum, and never will she need a helping hand, a cheerleader, a friend, or a coach more.
AS FEATURED IN ISSUE 8 OF OHbaby! MAGAZINE. CHECK OUT OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE BELOW