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Well-Being: Visualizing Life’s Journey

Where Are Our Choices Leading Us in Life?

Let’s face it, 80% of life is showing up, according to Woody Allen. There’s no question that letting your life play out – showing up – is the course of least resistance. Even when you sense dissonance or recognize dissatisfaction with your life, too often you accept things as they are. In fact, you almost always have a choice to delve deeper within to ask questions that are essential to your well-being, such as what you are doing, what you are not getting around to and how you are spending your time.

The larger questions of who we are and why we are here can be examined, in part, through a more thoughtful review of how you spend your time. These questions help you to refine your intentions about whether what you are doing is leading you to your most fulfilling life. In small and large ways, your choices determine your destiny.

One of the ways to gain awareness about your life and the choices you make in your life is by reflecting on your values; that is, what matters most in your life? How you can achieve greater satisfaction by deploying your most precious resource: your time?

How intentional are you about how you spend your time? If you are like most people, you are pulled in many directions by the choices you make and the demands that others have on your time. You can apply some of the same degree of intention to the other areas of your life as well. Setting life goals, making wise selections, identifying gaps and recognizing when you need guidance – these principles apply when you direct your focus to enhancing enjoyment, facilitating meaningful change and living a more fulfilling life.

What is the grand vision – the Panorama for your life? Panorama means the expansive view that exceeds the gaze, forcing the viewer to turn his or her head in order to take everything in.

Keeping an Eye on the Vision for Your Life

What is the vision you have for your life? Do you have one? Even when you feel you have a clear path, day-to-day priorities get in the way. The press of obligations, responsibilities and tasks may take a toll on your well-being and distract you from what you want most in your life. The misalignment between the life you are living and what you truly want can have greater repercussions than you realize.

Even in the best of times, the reality of life balance is far from perfect. How often do we check progress on our life goals, interests and where our time goes? Others may assume that successful people are right on course or that they don’t need help to achieve fulfillment. More likely, what accompanies success is a longer list of expectations: you may struggle to balance competing demands on your time; you race to get it all done; you long for a meaningful community and crave more time to deepen your personal relationships.

Everyone needs help from time to time. There are no exceptions.

Periods of crisis or unusual opportunity might throw off the balance in your life. You may have experienced a natural imbalance as you have encountered transitions, stress and conflict, health, financial, family issues and more. But, even in the normal course of our busy lives, the universal tendency is to focus on the trees and not the forest; that is, putting each day’s calendar and task requirements ahead of the big picture. It’s understandable that the big picture takes a backseat to the necessary and timely obligations in your life.

To regain the panoramic view, there are resources that can help you pan the camera’s lens to view the full picture of your values, time and intentions. Keeping the expansive view in mind, you can drill down to explore and compare your values and intentions by using a tool called the Life Wheel.

Using the Life Wheel

What would you like to do with your life? It can be tempting to let yourself become distracted from your goals and lose track of what you truly want. Everyday life events intervene: raising productive kids, managing an out-of-control calendar, caring for elders, juggling work pressures, dealing with health events or handling the expectations of others. The Life Wheel is one tool that helps you to examine how you balance all the competing areas of your life, gauge your satisfaction and assess the current state of balance in your life. The Life Wheel is a great way to visualize your life’s journey. The wheel covers ten important areas of life for examination and discernment: nonpaid work; paid work; lifelong learning and development; community; family/relationships; leisure/travel; finances/legal issues; health/fitness; spirituality; housing/lifestyle. By taking time to reflect on your life this way, you can see where you want to focus your energy in the future.

Assessing Satisfaction

Place today’s date in the top corner of the Life Wheel to represent a current-moment snapshot of your feelings. Take in each area of the life wheel. Are these the meaningful categories in your experience? If not, make modifications to make the life wheel to fit with your values and experience.

Be honest and open about how you are doing, how satisfied you are, in each area of your life. Consider each area on the Life Wheel – work, travel, health/fitness – and get down to evaluating each area. How important is, for example, leisure and travel time, to your happiness and well-being? Does it bring you joy? Does it bring you stress or claim your joy? Notice your feelings and awareness as you reflect on the exercise.

What Do You Value Most?

What is distracting you from what you truly want? Is it worth sacrificing what you truly love and the life you have in mind?

Consider where you commit your time in relation to each area of the Life Wheel. Next, use the categories to rate what you value most on a scale of 1-10. Keep in mind how you feel about each area. If you have too many “9s” and “10s” what are you saying about the importance of each value?

  1. Time— Assign yourself a rating of 1-10 for how much of your time (or energy, if energy is more fitting) is dedicated to each. For example, if you dedicate a “9” to paid work and finances and to community you assign an “8”, go ahead, even if you assign the same number to multiple categories. Keep in mind, you can redefine these categories in order to include the activities you find most relevant to your life.If zero were at the center and 10 were at the outer edge, place the number in the proportionate spot it belongs, between the center and outer edge, based on your score. A “5” would go halfway between the center and outer edge. Now, draw a line to connect the dots you assigned to your “energies” until you have a complete circle.
  2. Value— Next, evaluate how much you value each of the areas of your life; that is, how important they are to you. Follow the same instruction as you place your 1-10 scores for Value. Once again, place the number in the proportionate spot it belongs, between center and outer edge, based on your score. Now connect the dots you have assigned to your “value” until you have made a complete circle.

You should end up with two circles, one that defines how you spend your time and the other defines the importance or value you place on each area. If each circle were a wheel, how bumpy a ride would you be in for? Where are the greatest gaps between what you value most and where your energy is being spent? See if you can recognize where you are out of balance.

Mind the gaps. It’s not unusual to find that there are gaps between where we dedicate most of our time and what we love and value most in our lives. These gaps are revealing; they allow us to recognize healthy and unhealthy alignments.

Defining the Life Wheel: The Life Wheel is an exercise designer to examine life as a whole and individual parts that form an overall view of your life balance. (c) LederMark Communications and Coaching

Spinning Wheels

Meredith and Mike of Muncie, Indiana, had each been rising fast in their careers. With their three children, they moved to Chicago last year, where Meredith now leads a product development effort for a food company. Mike found a business development opportunity in Chicago at the Indiana company where he’s worked for years.

The children, Ellie, 11; Barb, 9; and Sean 7; are settling into their schools well and embracing soccer and Scouts.

Everyone seems very happy but something feels off to Meredith. Meredith admits to her financial advisor, Gwen, that they are grateful for the higher income they earn, but they are both working harder and see their children only briefly at night. They can only rarely slip out to watch their sports games. They miss being able to call on local family to babysit or go shopping.

Gwen guided Meredith through the Life Wheel. Now she could see the shift that had occurred in their lives. With this awareness, she and Mike could sit down and decide what would make for ideal balance and weigh intentional changes in time allocation to enhance their well-being in their new lifestyle.

This example is hypothetical and is provided for informational purposes only.

What Does It Mean to Have an Unbalanced Wheel?

An unbalanced Life Wheel can equate to unfulfilled goals and dreams, deferred progress and unhealthy practices. Fortunately, the current state is temporary. Frequent review of your life wheel means greater “goal tending” and life tending for richer fulfillment and priority setting.

When you are aware of imbalances, you can make choices in order to enhance your life satisfaction. You could show your Life Wheel to the people you are closest to, allowing them to understand your discovery and work with you to support changes. For example, your spouse may initiate a long-deferred trip for the two of you or make the appointment for your annual physical.

You can shift to more intentional balance in life by reflecting on what you value most and exploring the possibility of shifting your focus and your time to pursue a different alignment.

Gaining Intention

How can you make decisions in an ever-shifting world that honor the right balance for you and your life? Become aware of how you can shape your choices. You can impact not only your own well-being by knowing yourself and fulfilling your destiny, but also encourage your clients to pursue the same process of awareness and self-exploration.

Reflect on what truly matters to you and allow yourself to examine the tradeoffs between reality and possibility in your life. Use the Life Wheel to help you gain insight, hit reset, and focus on what you truly want and need. Encourage clients to do the same. It can help you guide new conversations with them, foster greater trust and deeper connections.

This material was co-authored by Bill Coppel, Managing Director and Chief Client Growth Officer at First Clearing, and Gerri Leder, President of LederMark Communications & Coaching, a communications and consulting firm in the financial advice business. It has been prepared and distributed solely for information purposes. CAR 0819-03944

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