The #1 Key to Work-Life Balance, According to a Life Coach

Cute little baby playing on the floor by her working mother. Young mother with a baby and a dog, sitting on the floor and working. High angle of view.

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Work-life balance has become one of the most common topics people have asked about lately. I think this is because so much of our lives has been in flux the past year, and many people (perhaps you included) are finally getting the opportunity to get back in control.

For example, some people are going back into the office, while others have transitioned to working full-time from home. Many people experienced significant life changes during the shutdowns, while others are eager to reestablish their old routines and rediscover their rhythm from months ago. Clearly, it's a dilemma that’s showing up for almost everyone and in a lot of different ways.

However, there’s one big problem with pursuing work-life balance that you should know: “Work-life balance” does not exist. In this day and age, the idea is nothing more than a myth! 

There are many reasons why I believe this is an obsolete idea. First, there are far too many variables in our lives that are constantly changing. Our priorities adjust daily, our professional objectives shift from week to week, and our social lives fluctuate depending on the time of the year. For example, our lives are pretty different on a random Wednesday in April compared to Thanksgiving weekend. We are not robots, and we can’t expect to counterbalance every single demand of life like machines instantly.

Second, we are closer to our work than ever before because of technology. Perhaps it was much more realistic to have a work-life balance around 30 years ago, but times have changed. The internet is an endless stream of information and a direct pathway for customers, colleagues, and employers to contact us at any time. Simply put, the line between our home and workplace is blurred.

Third, we must realize that pure “balance” does not actually do much good for us. The idea that life should always be easy and entirely painless is far from the truth.

Sometimes we need to be uncomfortable to understand our needs better. Sometimes we need to face adversity to grow out of unhealthy situations. Sometimes we need to make mistakes to understand the value of our time better. 

All things considered, expecting true “balance” for more than a moment is unrealistic at best.

So, if pursuing a constantly balanced work-life dynamic is impractical, what can we do?

I thought about this question a lot when I wrote my first New York Times best-selling book, “Best Self.” While we can’t expect to control every moment of our lives, we can assess and address specific aspects of our well-being. So, I created a simple tool called SPHERES to self-evaluate what areas of your life need work and attention.

SPHERES is an acronym that represents the seven unique areas of your life:

  • Social life
  • Personal life
  • Health
  • Education
  • Relationships
  • Employment
  • Spiritual Development

As a life coach, I always have my clients complete a brief self-assessment when we start working together to better understand what areas we should be focusing on.

To help you identify which areas of your life we can improve, rate each area accordingly. Please take a moment to think about your answers before responding:

  1. Rate your SOCIAL life on a scale of 1–5. A "1” would mean your social life needs a lot of help, while a “5” would mean that you feel your social life is perfect. Make sure to consider the quality and quantity of your social interactions.
  2. Rate your PERSONAL life on a scale of 1-5. A “1” would mean you feel unwell and are in desperate need of action, while a “5” would mean that you have great self-confidence and frequently practice self-care. Make sure you consider how often you practice self-care and evaluate the tone of your internal dialogue
  3. Rate your physical HEALTH on a scale of 1-5. A “1” would mean that you are facing health challenges and need immediate improvement. A “5” would mean you are taking fantastic care of your health and have little to no room for improvement. Make sure to consider how you feel physically and the behaviors that help or hurt your overall health.
  4. Rate your EDUCATIONAL life on a scale of 1-5. A “1” would mean this area of your life is highly lacking, while a “5” would mean you are intellectually fulfilled. Make sure to consider how often you learn about yourself and how your learning is influencing your personal development.
  5. Rate your RELATIONSHIPS on a scale of 1-5. A “1” would mean your relationships are suffering, while a “5” would mean you are highly functional and supportive. Make sure to consider your relationships with friends, family members, and romantic partners.
  6. Rate your EMPLOYMENT life on a scale of 1-5. A “1” would mean you do not feel remotely satisfied with your job, while a “5” would mean you are very happy with your current work. Make sure to consider how your work influences your mental health and how well your job helps your life financially.
  7. Rate your SPIRITUAL life on a scale of 1-5. A “1” would mean you feel disconnected entirely from your spirituality, while a “5” would mean your spiritual life is thriving. Make sure to consider how you’re using your spiritual life to support your pursuits and how rewarding your spiritual life feels for you.

If you completed the quiz, you just took a step towards living a happier, healthier, and more authentic life. If you responded to any of the questions with a “1” or “2,” it’s time to get into the driver’s seat immediately.

Any area of your life that you’re struggling with now has the potential to weigh down all the other parts of your life later. So, ask yourself, what actions can I take today to improve my life immediately?

The next time you’re seeking “balance” in your life, focus on what you can do in the here and now. Shift yourself into action mode and start doing what you can to address the area that needs attention.

Remember, we are always evolving as humans, and our world is always changing. That means there is virtually always going to be at least one area of your life that needs attention. If you’re ever feeling stuck and don’t know where to start, you can bookmark this quiz and revisit it at any time. 

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