Finding a Life Balance

It isn’t about having a 50/50 split on how much time we spend in our work compared to our personal life – it is very much a personal experience and what equates to a good balance for us as individuals.

Maybe there are people out there that are ecstatically happy with life not wanting to improve or change anything at all. To be honest I have been coaching people for many years and not come across one of them! Everyone I have met – no matter how happy or depressed – have all wanted to improve on something – we are built to want more – to grow. Life is something to be enjoyed after all. So let’s work out how to live to the full and maximise the positive impact that we can have on other people and the world.

This article isn’t about opening a ‘can of worms’. It isn’t necessary to completely change everything to bring in a different level of happiness and balance – being realistic, most of us don’t have the time or the inclination to do that anyway! Most of us just need to make some tweaks here and there – get back a little bit more control – a bit more balance and then we can find a new level of energy and motivation and tackle whatever comes our way.

Many of us don’t have the luxury of completely changing everything in our lives anyway – let’s face it – we have commitments to others, a living to make, things that somehow we have ended up being responsible for.

Here’s the positive thing – wherever you are in your life right now – you can use that as a positive platform for moving forward.

Everyone I seem to talk to lately comments about how time seems to go so quickly. How on earth did we get to be this age already! How can it possibly be early 2013 when only last week it was the summer holidays!

Sometimes it might feel like you are going through life on a skate -board – far too quickly and completely out of control!

It’s all about meeting your essential needs…

So – Essential Needs? What on earth is that all about?

Based on latest psychology and psychological thinking and research, our Essential Needs© are the fundamental emotional needs that have to be met. They need to be met with a level of personal satisfaction in order for us to feel happy and fulfilled. When they are not met, things can feel out of balance. And that is when we don’t feel quite right. And that is when we can start looking around for the cause and randomly project the blame out on to something or someone else! And that isn’t a great place to be. The truth of the matter is that there may be an element of those things in there leading to our dissatisfaction but that isn’t always the case – and it isn’t the whole story. When more than two or three of these Essential Needs are in levels of dissatisfaction, that is when we start to tumble downwards and feel low – even stressed or depressed.

Understanding your needs and how to get them met puts you in the driving seat.

So the fundamentals to us as human beings are that we have certain needs and they must be met and satisfied. Here they are:

• We need to feel safe – in our home, our work place, our environment, with the people around us – free from bullying and harassment and other people trying to control us.

• We need to feel in control – this isn’t about controlling others, but about feeling in control of ourselves and what is going on in our lives. Feeling grounded and having a grip on reality!

• Having a connection to others – there are a few things here – we need intimacy and love in our lives. We also need the connection out to a wider circle of friends, our family – a wider community. Being able to have respectful communications with others is key and being respected in those interactions is vital.

• Having privacy – time to integrate all that has gone on for us in the day. Time for ourselves – to enjoy – to relax. Taking time out for ourselves allows us to build up our energy levels and inner resilience.

• Having a sense of status and feeling valued – not about what level job we do – but about being acknowledged for what we do and the contribution that we make out there in the world and to others.

• Feeling competent and achieving things is vital to boost our sense of self-esteem. Wandering aimlessly as a cloud is for another time – this is about getting things done and feeling good about it!

• Having mental stimulation and challenge – allowing creativity into being – working our brain. It is like a muscle after all – so use it or lose it!

So if those are the things we need to feel satisfied with, how do we go about it? And how on earth do you work out how you feel right now! The trick to this is looking at how your needs are being met across all areas of your life.

In that, you need to look at ALL areas of your life:

• Your work / career
• Finances
• Physical fitness
• Health and nutrition
• Family
• Friends
• Significant other / romance
• Social
• Personal growth
• Spiritual development / religion
• Your physical environment

There is a full Life Balance Audit© that you can do but here’s a simple and quick way of understanding how satisfied you are with each area of your life and with each of your Essential Needs©. For each one, rank your level of satisfaction from 0 to 10 (where 10 is as good as it gets).

How you get your needs met in each of the areas of your life will mean different things to different people – we all live in our own reality after all! For example for one person – finance and personal space may not mean anything – whereas for someone else, money may be needed to create down time, things for relaxation, the ability to take time out.

For some – spiritual needs and religion may not come into the equation – whereas for others it can be the foundation stone for finding peace and for ensuring a connection to a wider community. All things mean different things to different people.

The shinny bright stuff…

Don’t worry about what your scores have come out at – what is an 8 to one person can be a 3 to someone else – they represent where you are right now. And if they are all low – that is a perfect place to start and for things to improve! I have had many clients that start off with low scores – some have even said they find it a ‘bit depressing’ to see it all laid bare in front of them. But just understand that, that is how things are right now and things will shift. And I am going to show you how.

So before you start looking at what you want to improve, let’s concentrate on the things that are working well. Often when we notice what we want to be different we can place all of our focus of attention on to those things and completely forget about the other things or people in our lives that are contributing to what is currently going well. By the time we turn our attention back to the positives – things, circumstances or people around us, things might have changed and our levels of satisfaction can have dropped. People that we were close to might feel ignored for example and relationships can cool.

So the key to this is to make sure that you maintain the things that are working well whilst you also work on improving the things that aren’t going so well.

So on the basis that it isn’t a good idea to ignore those things – first keep a focus on the positives.

Look at your Essential Needs and the areas of your life that you have scored the highest. Make some notes for yourself on why you have rated your scores this way. Even if you feel your scores are all lower than you would like, take some time to look at the highest ones and think of the positives within them. There will always be something there – and you can find it!

Ask yourself the following questions:

• What makes it good?
• What are the actions, communications, people that make them good?
• How does it make you feel
• What is important about it?

There is always a way of making things great – and sometimes even better!

So make sure you keep those things in your life positive – maybe even make some notes on how you can make them even better. If there are people in your life that contribute to your contentment or happiness in certain ways – let them know! Often we can take it for granted and assume that people know that we value them – here’s the deal – it never did anyone any harm to let someone know how much they are valued! Deep down we all like to hear it said out loud.

The nitty gritty!

Now you have looked at the positive things – and let all those people around you know how much you appreciate them – lets get down to the nitty gritty.

In order for us to feel motivated we need to have a clear vision of what our future looks like – what we want to get out of life. Let’s be honest – without knowing your destination – how can you possibly work out the route map of how to get there!

So now we are going to concentrate on two things. What you want out of life and how you are going to get there – whilst also making sure you get your Essential Needs met.

Let’s start with what you want your life to look like. Here’s a few things to think about:

• On a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is the best it gets, how satisfied do you feel with life overall?

• Make a few notes as to why you have rated it that way – no need to write your own version of ‘war and peace’ – just a few notes so you capture how you feel overall. It is important to get this bit down.

Now consider the areas of life that you have scored the lowest. Consider each one separately and make yourself some notes on why you have scored it this way.

Now ask yourself the following:

• What do I want this part of my life to look like?
• How do I want to feel that is different from now?
• What would have to change for this to improve?
• What am I going to do to make a difference
• When am I going to do it by
• Is there anyone that I need help from?
• What is the potential impact on others if I make this change?

It is important to consider the last question – as whilst it isn’t a reason for not doing things – it is important to make sure that our actions are not intentionally causing difficulties or harm to others.

It is also vital for you to understand that other people might not be supportive of the changes that you want to make – here’s the difficult bit – some people have a vested interest in us staying the same. Because as you change – it will undoubtedly effect other people in your life – and they may not like it. Turkey’s don’t vote for Christmas after all!

So whilst it isn’t a reason to not go ahead – it is important to know what you might encounter along the way.

When you have considered the areas of your life that you want to improve on, next consider your Essential Needs and what changes you want to make there.

Consider any specific goals that you might want to add that will boost your satisfaction levels.

Review all of the goals that you have written out and make sure that none of them are having an adverse effect on getting your Essential Needs met – make sure whatever you are planning to do and the goals that you have in place – are not going to adversely effect your satisfaction levels with your Essential Needs!

A good balance is when we feel satisfied with how much time to spend in each area. When we feel out of balance is when time spent in one area adversely impacts on the other. And an adverse impact can include not having time to do things with loved ones, due to pressures in work, or feeling guilty for being in work when friends and family have expectations for us to be spending time with them instead.

It is all about how satisfied you feel – if you are happy and enjoying the time you spend in work and the time you have for personal activities – Great!

If you don’t feel happy….take time to work out why and then do something positive to make a difference – bring more happiness and balance into your life.

You get one chance at everyday – so make the most of it!


Janice Haddon has over 25 years’ experience in strategic and operational Human Resources and management consultancy. Working across a range of sectors and with start-ups to top 20 companies, Janice is a qualified coach and has a passion for integrating performance, personal positivity and wellbeing into the work place. A Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development with a BSc (Hons) in Psychology, an MA in Psychotherapy and an MBA from Henley Management College, Janice is also a Master Practitioner in NLP, a Cognitive Hypnotherapist, Psychotherapy Counsellor and runs a number of businesses including Morgan Redwood.