By Christopher M. Lee, CFP®
I don’t know about you, but it always seems like the month of December flies by. Thanksgiving comes and then before you know it Christmas is here and you turn around and it’s New Year’s Eve. Life sure gets busy and it moves quickly. As I am now in my early 40’s, I am seeing how quickly the days, months, and years go by. Country music star Kenny Chesney sums it up in a song, singing “don’t blink, life moves faster than you think…”
Since this is the time of year when we often reflect on the previous year and make resolutions/ goals and possibly try to find balance in our life for the upcoming year, I feel the timing of this article is a good fit. Often in the articles that Chris Beale and I write, we refer to the phrase “life goals”. In this article I’m going to talk about those life goals and how to create or refine them – and how to find balance in your life. The first step, before creating those life goals is to take an inventory of where you are today. When life is busy, it's all too easy to find yourself off balance, not paying enough attention to important areas of your life. While you need to have drive and focus, taking this too far can lead to frustration and intense stress.
One of the tools that I have used for a while is called the “Wheel of Life”. The Wheel of Life is powerful because it gives you a vivid visual representation of the way your life is currently, compared with the way you'd ideally like it to be. It is called the "Wheel of Life" because each area of your life is mapped on a circle, like the spoke of a wheel. An example of how this works is below. You simply identify where you currently are on the scale, with 10 being the highest level of satisfaction (on the left):
Once this has been completed, you can draw it on a “wheel” to see how it looks and if it is balanced by the example above (on the right). Please note that a balanced life does not mean getting 5 in each life area: some areas need more attention and focus than others at any time. And inevitably you will need to make choices and compromises, as your time and energy are not in unlimited supply.
So the question is, what would the ideal level of attention be for you in each life area? Plot the "ideal" scores around your life wheel too. Now you have a visual representation of your current life balance and your ideal life balance. What are the gaps? These are the areas of your life that need attention.
Once you have identified the areas that need attention, it's time to plan the actions needed to work on regaining balance. Starting with the neglected areas, what things do you need to start doing to regain balance? Then, make a commitment to these actions by writing them down on a worksheet, which will get you prepared for setting your life goals.
The next step in setting personal goals is to consider what you want to achieve in your lifetime (or at least, by a significant and distant age in the future). Setting lifetime goals gives you the overall perspective that shapes all other aspects of your decision making. To give a broad, balanced coverage of all important areas in your life, try to set goals in some of the following categories (or in other categories of your own, where these are important to you):
- Career – What level do you want to reach in your career, or what do you want to achieve?
- Financial – How much do you want to earn, by what stage? How is this related to your career goals?
- Education – Is there any knowledge you want to acquire in particular? What information and skills will you need to have in order to achieve other goals?
- Family –How do you want to be seen by a partner or by members of your extended family?
- Artistic – Do you want to achieve any artistic goals?
- Attitude – Is any part of your mindset holding you back? Is there any part of the way that you behave that upsets you? (If so, set a goal to improve your behavior or find a solution to the problem.)
- Physical – Are there any athletic goals or workout routines that you want to achieve? What steps are you going to take to achieve this?
- Pleasure – How do you want to enjoy yourself?
- Public Service – Do you want to make the world a better place? If so, how?
After you have thought about this and have created your "big picture" of what you want to do with your life, then you break these down into the smaller and smaller targets that you must hit to reach your life goals. This is why you first start the process of setting goals by looking at your life goals. Then, work down to the things that you can do in, the next ten years, five years, then next year, next month, next week, and today, to start moving towards them.