A Focus on Purpose & Priorities Produces A Balanced Feeling

"There is no such thing as a perfect balance But what is....is constantly making little tweaks to stay in a healthy place." Crystal Paine

A friend contacted me recently asking if I had a one-page handout on work-life balance that she could give to her staff. Her request is the impetus for this month's newsletter.

My first reaction whenever I hear work-life balance is slight trepidation. As a stand alone goal, it can just add to the guilt women already experience in relation to their "work" lives. While they are madly trying to keep everything copasetic, their inner critic starts harping at them for not being more "balanced."

The illusion that life can be balanced is just that - an illusion. I propose that a reasonable feeling of balance or harmony, will consistently be produced when we become intentional about living on purpose and staying true to our priorities.

The importance of knowing your life purpose is bandied about a lot these days - especially in the coaching world. It can feel a bit overbearing but it doesn't need to. Being clear about your life purpose is like having an inner compass. We can take a look at it whenever we feel lost or overwhelmed. We can use it as a checkpoint, by asking ourselves "How does this fit with my purpose?" or "What is the role of this activity in my life right now?"

Knowing the greater purpose you hold for your life helps define why you are doing something, particularly when it comes to taking on large projects or goals. To create the life we want, it's advisable to be aware of why we are spending our energy on something. This is not to justify our actions, but rather to be more intentional about them. Living with purpose will bring you more ease. Choices will become more clear. Decisions will be made with less effort. With that comes a more balanced feeling.

There are many great exercises to help you create your personal life purpose statement. Stephen Covey calls it creating your mission statement. In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, he suggests imagining you are attending your own funeral. Four speakers, each from a different dimension of your life - family, vocation,community, friends - describe their experience of knowing you. What would you want them to say about you? He invites you to reflect on the essence of their messages to formulate your mission statement.

Marcia Bench, in her book Career Coaching: An Insider's Guide, suggests a processof reflective questions to lead to writing your life purpose statement, such as "What do you love to do in your spare time?" "What cause inspires you to action?"or "What things would your life be incomplete without?" She calls the first half of your life purpose statement the "essence" and suggests that this part stays relatively unchanged over your lifetime.

An example is "to be a healer in the world." The second part of the statement which she calls the "expression" of your purpose, is how you express your essence. She also says that the "expression" of your life purpose may change as your life circumstances change. Using her concept, an example purpose statement may read "My life's purpose is to help women find their power (essence) through supporting their discovery of an authentic vocation (expression).

In the above example, it would seem plausible that if the way I express the essence of my purpose needs to change based on my life circumstances, and when that change is driven by my priorities at that particular life stage, then ideally, this should contribute to me living in harmony or feeling more balanced about my life. 

A priority is something to which we pay special attention. Our priorities change as we move through the stages of life. My priorities in my 20's, single and no dependents, were very different from when I was in my 40's, raising two teenage boys plus chasing success in the corporate world. At this stage of my life, neither of those priorities exist. My sons are raising their own sons.

Consider these important ways of being:

* Have a FOCUS for your life (knowing what you want; why you're doing things),
* Establishing good BOUNDARIES (saying "NO" to things that don't fit your current priorities),
* Demonstrating COMPETENCY (modeling behavior that shows you are in charge of your life),
* Feeling a sense of BALANCE (the best formula for feeling balanced is living on purpose and being true to your priorities).

I wish you the most "balanced" year ever in 2011!